French Broad River MPO to field public comments on proposed trail network

Notice from French Broad River MPO:

Our region is in the midst of a surge of interest in providing a safe place for people to walk and bike. Many of our communities have undertaken bicycle and pedestrian plans and we are seeing an uptick in bicycle and pedestrian projects moving into design and construction. As we start to see the build-out of our local bicycle and pedestrian networks, regional connections and routes of regional significance are beginning to be considered. The French Broad River MPO has been working with local governments and community stakeholders in the region over the last year to develop a plan for a regional trail network, the Hellbender Regional Trail. This plan knits together the various bicycle, pedestrian, and greenway plans developed locally in Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Madison, and Transylvania counties to illustrate existing and planned trails that may someday connect to form a regional network for bicycle and pedestrian travel.

Unlike highway and roads, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure is primarily the responsibility of the various local governments in our region so the Hellbender Regional Trail Plan does not intend to usurp local brands or mandate designs, but intends to make the various sections of our planned and existing network greater than the sum of its parts through increased coordination and partnerships. This plan focuses on regional connections, but does not deprioritize more locally-focused infrastructure. It is primarily focused on multi-use paths (paved trails, greenways, rail-to-trails, sidepaths, etc.) but may include some sections with on-street and other connections where constraints may require exceptions to a typical off-road path. This is also a long-range plan. At more than 150 miles, the full build-out of this network would reflect a nearly ten-fold increase in the miles of multi-use paths in the region- a task that will likely take a considerable amount of time at current funding levels. At this point, we would like to invite the public to comment on the Draft Hellbender Regional Trail Plan that reflects the work of our work group and stakeholders as well as the countless hours put into developing the local plans in our region on which the Hellbender Regional Trail Plan is based.

The Draft Hellbender Regional Trail Plan is available on the MPO’s website ( and comments may be sent in by Friday, August 21 via the google doc form available on the website or by emailing MPO staff will also be holding an online workshop, planned for Friday, July 24th– more details will be made available on the MPO website soon. This item is planned to go before the MPO Board at its August meeting.

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