On Saturday, May 22, over 200 people marched Tunnel Road’s “Goat Trail” in a demonstration intended to rally city leaders to build more sidewalks in east Asheville. The march highlighted a mile-long stretch of worn grass and rocky paths along the road where many veterans walk each day between the Veterans Restoration Quarters and the VA Medical Center.
Chanting “we need sidewalks” as they marched, the group was led by several veterans who said their daily walk between the ABCCM quarters and the hospital isn’t safe.
“I don’t like walking on the trail because it’s too narrow and there’s rocks. You could slip in the creek or the road,” said Darryl Sparrow, who moved to the quarters from Bryson City six months ago. “Hopefully it won’t take someone getting hurt or killed before they do something. I’ve had close calls myself.”
Billy Hopkins, who also lives at the quarters, agreed.
“The grass is slippery, and there’s snakes,” he said. “It’s a safety issue. The DOT needs to give it a close look.”
Getting the NC DOT to give the road a closer look is also the hope of organizers from local homeowners associations, who have been lobbying city officials to make building sidewalks in the area a higher priority. At their “Sidewalk Summit” in April, the Sidewalks for Safety group released studies showing that east Asheville has only 7 percent of the city’s sidewalks, while north Asheville has 42 percent, West Asheville has 28 percent, and south Asheville has 23 percent.
“28805 has always been the red hen compared to West Asheville and north Asheville,” said Sona Merlin, an east Asheville resident and member the of Bull Mountain Home Owners Association. “But we’re hip here in the 805 too, and it’s inspiring to see this many people out here. I hope this helps east Asheville have a sense of community.”
Sparrow also said he was inspired by the turnout, noting that new sidewalks wouldn’t just benefit veterans. “This is something for the whole community—all the neighborhoods around here could use more sidewalks.”
For further background on the march and to see a video of the “Goat Trail,” check out Xpress’ May 21 blog post.
Here’s a photo gallery:
Photos by Jake Frankel