CLAYTON — About a 20-minute walk from the parking area on O’Neil Street, Sam’s Branch Greenway winds through tall trees and opens up to a flat area decorated with butterfly benches, bike racks and a totem pole.
The public art project was formally dedicated on Sunday at a ceremony open to the public at 3 p.m.
Georges Le Chevallier, a Garner-based artist, just put the finishing touches on his project.
“People are always on the go, and then they come out here and they are on the move.
“And this is a place for them to slow down and pay attention to the surroundings and listen to the quiet,” said Le Chevallier.
The two benches are in an open grassy area next to the greenway, a 1.25-mile-long trail.
The trail is popular among bikers because of its flat terrain, and a biker could stay on the path all the way to Raleigh because it connects to the Mountains-to-Sea trail.
The distance from the trail entrance on O’Neil Street to the butterfly garden makes it a treat for visitors, and it is a convenient spot to take a break after walking or biking about a mile.
Along with the sitting area, there are also 40 butterflies that decorate a wooden fence near the butterfly garden. The butterflies were hand-painted by students at Clayton High and Clayton Middle Schools.
The bench designs were inspired by a species of butterfly that can be found in the state, the Question Mark butterfly. Visitors can look closely at the back of the benches and find the question marks.
The totem pole was inspired by Native American art. The butterflies on the totem pole are modeled after stained glass, with black borders that make the bright colors stand out.
The benches have been coated with an anti-graffiti covering so they can’t be defaced.
Le Chevallier said he hopes the butterflies will be inspiring to people.
“When a child sees a butterfly, it’s an event,” said Le Chevallier.
The public art project cost the town $15,000 and is the first project of its kind.
Larry Bailey, director of Clayton Parks and Recreation, said he’s excited that this could bring more people to the greenway.
Sam’s Branch Greenway was finished last summer, making it the first greenway in town. However, the town wanted to wait to dedicate it formally until the art project was complete.
“Sam’s Branch” is the name of a stream that runs by the trail.
“Eventually we’d like to put a tunnel over O’Neil Street and have the trail run to Legend Park, then to Municipal Park,” said Bailey. That would connect the park to downtown.
For bikers who ride the length of the trail from Raleigh to Clayton, it would mean bringing those riders downtown, where they could get a meal and support local businesses.
Besides the winding O’Neil Street, there is no other way to get to downtown from the greenway.
Bailey said it takes about 20 minutes to walk on the trail to the space where the butterfly art is.