The Path to the Future: An Update on the French Broad River Greenway
By Garret K. Woodward
In an effort to provide connectivity within Asheville, the French Broad River Greenway has become a welcome sight along the riverbanks in front of New Belgium Brewing, an ever-growing social hub in the city.
It’s another piece of the puzzle of endless miles being laid out in a citywide push for the multi-million-dollar greenway project that Asheville has doggedly pursued for decades.
“Greenways are beginning to be viewed by the public as they should be—corridors that provide non-vehicular transportation options which limit the amount of interface with vehicles, creating a safer, more pleasant experience for the user,” said Fred Grogan, land planner and landscape architect for Equinox, a consulting, planning and design firm for business sustainability in Asheville.
The French Broad River Greenway (FBRG) is a a 2.83-mile multi-use path that connects the French Broad River Park, New Belgium Brewing, Carrier Park, and beyond. Grogan sees the FBRG as something of intrinsic and societal value for residents and visitors who find themselves on it.
“I was recently in a nearby city and visited a greenway that is experiencing firsthand the results that have been foretold for years,” Grogan said. “[Which is] enhancement of a neglected natural area, implementation of a greenway within that enhancement area, and subsequent businesses/housing following immediately behind—and in some cases helping fund these efforts—which are reaping the benefits of utilizing and marketing the public greenway and open spaces as an amenity.”
Designing the half-mile portion between New Belgium Brewing and the French Broad River, Equinox looked at “minimization and avoidance of impacts to natural systems” in its plan for the surrounding wetlands and nearby Penland Creek.
“The City of Asheville plans to connect the gap of a mile that would connect the existing French Broad Greenway,” Grogan said. “Just the half-mile French Broad Greenway along New Belgium was under design for several years due to the complexity of the site as a brownfield and numerous utility considerations.”
In terms of green and eco-friendly approaches, Grogan sees the FBRG as something that will ease housing issues within Asheville, as well as offer sustainable amenities and landscapes that provide more than just an access point for bordering neighborhoods and those simply looking to wander the metro-area on foot or bicycle.
“It is also a reality that greenways serve as economic-development drivers by providing tourists and residents accessibility to public spaces to recreate and commute,” Grogan noted. “Greenways are essentially linear parks. Moreover, they protect open space, which has been proven to increase values of property as they are considered amenities. Combined with already rising cost of living, there is a responsibility to consider integrating affordable/workforce housing into greenway planning, and then ensuring that this land use maintains direct access to our public green space.”
In terms of social impact amid the green initiatives, Grogan looks at the FBRG and other similar city projects as key components to aid in the sustainability and solution to long-time traffic concerns in Asheville and surrounding communities.
“Traffic reduction is a major consideration of why folks should care,” Grogan emphasized. “Likely without need of explanation, increased visitation in the peak seasons around Western North Carolina leads to increased traffic volumes. When we begin to realize greenways provide means to relieving traffic congestion in our area, greenways—along with other means of alternative transportation — become an obligation.”
For more information on the greenways in Asheville, visit www.ashevillenc.gov/departments/transport/greenways.htm. For more about Equinox, go to www.equinoxenvironmental.com.
You can also view this article as it was originally published on page 54 of the 2017-18 edition of the directory.