The Friends of Greenville Greenways (FROGGS), founded in 2004, initially began as part of the Greenville Greenways Committee (GGC). The GGC was created in the 1980s by former city planner Libby Anderson to create a city-wide greenway plan. Chairs of the GGC included Barney Kane, Vincent Bellis (still a member of the FROGGS board today), Jon Day, and Charles Farley.
In 1985, City Council held a hearing at which citizens requested development of a greenway to facilitate bicycle traffic between student apartments and campus, to provide a space for outdoor exercise, and to preserve forest habitat in the city. Following the hearing, a sum between $30,000 and $50,000 was budgeted to hire a contractor to prepare a greenway master plan for the city. It was at this stage that Greenways Inc., the leading greenway planning firm in the country, was hired to design the plan.
In 1991 the staff of Greenways Inc. proposed the first Master Plan, which included a greenway support group composed of citizens to advocate for greenway improvements. Greenways Inc. also suggested the catchy name ‘FROGGS (Friends of Greenville Greenways).’ The GGC requested that one individual in the planning department be designated as greenways coordinator. This job would entail finding potential grant or other funding sources and preparing grant proposals in a timely fashion in order to meet grant deadlines and to provide quality proposals.
Bellis recalls, “We further requested that three of the Greenway segments defined in the 1991 Greenway Master Plan be worked up as proposals. One high cost (millions of dollars), one medium cost ($100,000) and one low cost (under $50,000). If this were done, Greenville would always have a proposal ready to meet any deadline, for any size grant offering. Prior to this the planning department would begin the grant proposal process only after the grants were offered. In the past, we had never been able to meet deadlines with quality proposals.”
The first Greenway, Green Mill Run, which connects Green Springs Park on Fifth Street with Elm Street Park and baseball field on South Elm Street, was completed in 1995. When greenways were first constructed, Greenway planning was a joint effort of the Greenville Public Works Department (city engineers) and the Planning Department. Greenville Recreation and Parks later become involved after the initial stages of greenway planning had been completed.
By 2001, the 1991 Greenway Master Plan had become outdated. New city leadership, in the form of a city manager and new City Council, agreed that a master plan revision was needed. A revision was also needed because Greenville had grown significantly during the 1990s. New residents and new students at ECU, many from cities with excellent greenways and bikeways, expressed a strong desire for such facilities in Greenville. “These folks have been the greenways’ most avid users and supporters,” says Bellis, and as a result, the City Council in 2002 funded an update to the Greenway Master plan, which was completed in 2004.
In 2003, FROGGS founder Jill Twark joined the GGC and, taking up the city planners’ suggestion to found a nonprofit organization like that recommended in the Master Plan, stepped up, gathered a group of avid greenway supporters, and proposed the idea of a FROGGS organization. The City of Greenville had designated planning responsibilities as part of the job description of planning department staff members. Nonetheless, Twark organized public events and lobbied city officials to advocate for greenways to be constructed according to the 2004 Master Plan. FROGGS grew rapidly under her leadership and several new segments were added to the greenway system. Upon completion of the first Tar River Greenway segment in 2008, the city Planning Department took over greenway planning and operations, and the GGC was disbanded.
FROGGS continues to work to promote and elevate the quality of life for all citizens by maintaining existing greenways, planning expansions, and encouraging local communities and businesses to join in their advocacy for viable, environmentally conscious recreation and transportation opportunities.
Edited from an interview with Vincent Bellis by Cecilia Lindsay. Email interview. Greenville, April 4, 2013.