Where should the green go?

Many of the proposed new greenways (in orange) link to existing greenways (green) as well as parks, schools and other natural areas.

Buncombe County government wants your input on where to locate new greenways.

The county’s Parks, Greenways and Recreation Services Department is hosting a round of upcoming public meetings as part of the ongoing process to draft a Greenways and Trails Master Plan. During the May sessions, planners will present a draft list of priority areas they’ve identified over the course of nearly four years of studies and previous public and stakeholder meetings. Several of the proposed greenways follow waterways such as the Swannanoa and French Broad rivers.

Buncombe’s parks and greenways planner, Lucy Crown, notes that the drafts represent an effort coordinated with municipal governments like the cities of Asheville and Black Mountain that already have greenways.

“We’re trying to connect the plans that are already there,” she explains. “Sometimes that’s in unincorporated areas and sometimes it’s within incorporated areas that just don’t have the staff to work on it on their own.”

The idea with the upcoming meetings, Crown says, is to gather another round of public input to incorporate into the master plan, which the planners hope to complete and present to the Board of Commissioners sometime in August.

The ultimate goal, adds Dwayne Stutzman, chair of the Buncombe County Trails and Greenways Commission, is for “people to be able to utilize a connected system of trails, greenways, sidewalks — all systems working together.”

He defines a greenway broadly, as “a linear corridor that has implications of movement.” And he asserts that a good, connected greenway system in Buncombe would provide much more than just recreational opportunities.

“It’s not some fancy rich people’s toy-type situation. … This is a public service,”  Stutzman says. “We want this to be alternative transportation. We want people who choose not to drive a car to be able to utilize it. We want people who can’t afford a car to be able to utilize it. We want to connect to transit stops so people can do multimodal transportation.”

The master-plan process has been bolstered in recent months by marketing push to rally public support for greenways. However, even supporters acknowledge that big obstacles lie ahead before much implementation can take place. Although several commissioners — as well as nonprofit and business leaders — have publicly supported the planning process, it remains to be seen how much public or private funding can be raised for the initiative during these tough economic times.

Still, Crown and others are pushing forward, bolstered by the fact that, up to this point, “the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” she reports.

Weigh in

The meetings will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the following locations:

• May 14: Weaverville Town Hall, 30 South Main St., Weaverville.
• May 15: Skyland Fire Department, 9 Miller Road, Skyland.
• May 21: A-B Tech’s Enka campus, 1459 Sand Hill Road, Candler.
• May 22: N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, 176 Riceville Road, Asheville.

About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning journalist who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

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