The Gem in Our Own Backyard: Exploring the Emerald Necklace

Photos by: GarlandBurks Marketing


Has the “beaten path” of crowded roads and traffic lights started to get to you? Good News: There is an easy way to get off the beaten path without leaving town. The Emerald Necklace is a greenway and trail network with a footprint in Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville. When complete, it will run 13 miles and connect to multiple local parks and commercial centers. With just two sections left to complete the loop, this local gem is ready and waiting for you to take a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life – no plane ticket or road trip required. 

“The Cornelius greenway system connects people from where they live to where they work, recreate and congregate,” said Cornelius Parks and Recreation Director Troy Fitzsimmons, who reports that the project is 77% complete.

Link By Link

Greenways are all about connections – between neighborhoods, parks and businesses. As it turns out, building a greenway is no different. It’s all about connecting various sources of support with a vision and then turning it into a reality. Link by link, the Emerald Necklace has grown in length thanks to support from the Towns of Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville, the NC Department of Transportation, Mecklenburg County and the Carolina Thread Trail. 

Cornelius Commissioner and Mayor Pro Tem Scott Higgins reports that an important planned greenway section and linear park in the Smithville to J.V. Washam Elementary School sector is back on track to be built, thanks to renewed funding and county support. A planned multi-use path across Westmoreland Bridge over Interstate 77 is also in the works, as well as a connector greenway between the Northern Regional Recreation Center and the Caldwell Station Creek Greenway.

“These greenway additions will be extremely valuable for those users that now find commuting across town problematic,” said Higgins.

A Way To Unwind

We know the many physical and emotional benefits of being active and getting outside in green spaces, but it’s not always easy to carve out enough time for a camping trip or even a day hike. Greenway systems like the Emerald Necklace are literally in our own backyard, making it much easier to build a refreshing bike ride or midday walk into our busy schedules. 

Plus, the Emerald Necklace winds its way around several havens for foodies, craft beer aficionados and boutique fans. Now you can easily get to your favorite spots and feel great about how you got there. 

Eat, Play, Shop

The Emerald Necklace is open to walkers, runners and cyclists (including electric bikes). Commercial centers that are currently connected include Antiquity Shopping Center and Magnolia Plaza in Cornelius and Birkdale Village in Huntersville. Downtown Davidson is easily accessible from the Emerald Necklace, as well as Birkdale Landing and Northcross Shopping Center in Huntersville. 

The small business community in our Lake Norman towns is just as much of a gem as the Emerald Necklace. Whether you’re looking for the perfect ensemble at a local boutique, craving some fresh sashimi or ready to catch the latest movie on the big screen, you can do it all while enjoying the Emerald Necklace along the way.

For a map of the Emerald Necklace, visit or get a paper map at the Cornelius Office of Parks and Recreation, 21445 Catawba Avenue or the Lake Norman Visitors Center, 19900 West Catawba Avenue, Suite 102 in Cornelius.

Grace Kennedy is co-owner of Pedego Electric Bikes Lake Norman, providing e-bike rentals near the Emerald Necklace. Details at or 704.997.5051.


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