It has come to my attention that the McKibben Group is interested in purchasing several city-owned pieces of property around the Basilica of St. Lawrence in order to construct a high-rise hotel.
The church itself has offered to purchase the property in order to avoid this construction, which is preferable to the alternative, but perhaps is not the best use of the space. The best use of the space would be to create a public green space for all to enjoy.
Green spaces in urban areas have numerous positive impacts, not only on the environment, but also on the residents and visitors. A green space planted with native trees, shrubs and plants will contribute to the health of our beautiful city. Green spaces reduce heat buildup from the paved surfaces. In a study published by the University of Washington, tests in a mall parking lot in Huntsville, Ala., showed a 31-degree difference between shaded and un-shaded areas.
They also reduce nitrate leaching from the soil into the water supply and reduce surface-water runoff, keeping phosphorus and other pollutants out of our waterways. Greenways remove smoke, dust and other pollutants from the air. One tree can remove 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually, equaling 11,000 miles of car emissions.
These are just a few of the environmental impacts an urban green space would have on the city of Asheville. Studies have also documented the impacts of urban green spaces on the health of the residents as well. A study published by the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research found the greater amounts of green space within one kilometer — or 0.6 miles — of people's homes was related to small reductions in the risks of health problems like heart disease, diabetes, chronic neck and back pain, asthma and migraine. The strongest connection was seen with depression and anxiety. Among people who lived in areas with 90 percent green space, just over 2 percent had been diagnosed with depression, compared with just over 3 percent of those living in areas with 10 percent green space.
Asheville should consider using this opportunity to create an urban green space for its residents. An urban green space will provide innumerable positive impacts for the people who live here, as well as the ones who visit, while another hotel will not.
— Rachel Tanksely-Russell