GreenWays and Means

Courtney Miller

One of the eco-friendly components of my cleaning business is that, whenever possible, I ride my bike with an attached trailer filled with products and supplies. The majority of my clients live outside of Asheville, so I end up driving often (I offset the miles with a company called TerraPass); but I have the opportunity to ride my bike about once a week. Moving up to Beaverdam Road a few months ago, however, has made that effort far more difficult.

I’ll spare you the details of my brushes with death. For now, I’d like to talk about the sliver of optimism afforded last week by Buncombe County’s unanimous approval of 102 miles of greenways connecting parts of the county. The Greenway Master Plan was developed over the past year as a collaborative project between the Blue Ridge Parkway, French Broad River MPO, Buncombe County Parks and Rec, and municipalities within the county, called ConnectBuncombe. The greenway system is surprisingly comprehensive, including corridors connecting East and West Asheville, Reems Creek and Weaverville, Fairview and Asheville, and following the county’s length of the French Broad River.

[Click the image below to see the Master Plan map.]

According to the map, a Beaverdam greenway has been proposed but because it’s classified as a long-term project and not offered priority status, I probably won’t get the benefit of using it. The system is projected to take 10-20 years to complete, at a minimum cost of $39.3 million.

The benefits of an extensive greenway system should appeal to all political stripes – improved traffic conditions, increased property values, economic development, recreational opportunities, and of course, sustainability. Personally, I would love the option to ride my bike through town without the necessity of interfacing with Asheville’s lovely vehicular-pride cohort.

Despite the unanimous board decision, a few vocal opponents exist – most notably Asheville Tea Party front-woman Jane Bilello, who, consistent with typical Tea Party logic, argues that the greenway project is actually a government conspiracy to seize private property. The commissioners assured the public that no property would be used without permission from the property owner.

Clearly, funding is the project’s next big hurdle. New Belgium Brewing made news by offering to donate $50,000 to the project, leaving $39.25 million left to raise. The planning committee suggested securing environmental grants to fund the project. And some of the county commissioners expressed interest in a bond referendum – placing the question of acquiring a low-interest loan to a county-wide ballot vote.

Now, the county is seeking public feedback. To submit yours or to view FAQs, click here.