Cutting to the chase: What’s going on with tree removal in the River Arts District?

MAKING SPACE: Residents using Lyman Street and Riverside Drive over the next few months will notice work crews clearing trees and realigning utilities in preparation for construction affliated with the RADTIP project next Spring. Photo by Max Hunt

Residents commuting down Lyman Street and Riverside Drive have most likely noticed some serious changes to the tree line around 12 Bones. Work crews have been busy removing trees from the area, a project that is expected to continue through the fall.

“I’ve been out of office almost 15 years, and I’ve gotten several calls from friends asking me what’s going on,” says former Asheville mayor and tree commission member Leni Sitnick, who says that she was “shocked, not only the number of trees, but the size of the trees being removed” when she drove down to see the work at the corner of Lyman St. and Riverside Drive. “I don’t know whether this tree removal was done for the underground work that’s going to be done, or for the greenway. There has been very little publicity about this.”

For those wondring the same thing, the tree removal is part of the preliminary utility realignment and right of way clearing for the massive River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project, or RADTIP, the city will launch in earnest next spring, according to the city’s online RADTIP Project updates page.

Riverside Drive will be realigned across the Twelve Bones property, which was acquired via eminent domain earlier this year. A traffic circle will replace the current-day blind curves on Lyman Street. In addition, widened bike lanes, sidewalks and a greenway along the eastern edge of the French Broad will be added to facilitate a more efficient traffic pattern and multimodal options for pedestrians and cyclists.

“Tree clearing is occurring along Riverside Drive and Lyman St. in preparation for Duke Energy and other utility relocation,” say city officials with the Riverfront Redevelopment Office in a update sent out by email Friday evening. Trees within a 50 foot radius of Duke’s power lines as well as those considered “dangerous” to utility infrastructure will be removed.

WASH AWAY BLUES: To ensure that the east bank of the French Broad River remains stable during tree removal and construction along Lyman St. and Riverside Dr., Duke Energy work crews will leave the root structures from cut trees and shrubbery in place until new trees can be planted later on in the process. Photo by Max Hunt
WASH AWAY BLUES: To ensure that the east bank of the French Broad River remains stable during tree removal and construction along Lyman St. and Riverside Dr., Duke Energy work crews will leave the root structures from cut trees and shrubbery in place until new trees can be planted later on in the process. Photo by Max Hunt

“The City’s arborist and Duke’s contractors and arborists have worked closely together to ensure only the necessary trees are removed,” the city’s official announcement continues. “Every effort has been made to save as many trees as possible in this process.” New trees will be replanted at a later stage of construction, which the city estimates will go on from Spring 2017 through 2020.

But Sitnick and other citizens worry that extensive tree removal along the riverbank could exascerbate erosion issues and damage the ecosystem there. “While I understand the need for improvement projects, especially for infrastructure, and while I’m fully in support of greenways, bikeways and byways,” Sitnick says, “the destruction of these old, heavily rooted trees along the riverbank looks to me like an erosion problem waiting to happen.”

Xpress recently took a look at stream bank erosion in Western North Carolina, some of the contributing factors to it and ways to prevent or mitigate damage. [See “Slip, sliding away: WNC creek banks imperiled by erosion,” Aug. 20, 2016, Xpress]

In response to such concerns, city staff say that Duke is not performing any land disturbing activities, and is leaving roots of trees and shrubs that have been cut down in place to stabilize the riverbank until new trees are planted. In the meantime, the city has invited residents to take wood cut from the area for personal use on a first come, first serve basis. Cut wood will be piled at the corner of Lyman St. and Riverside Dr. and available for pick-up by residents.

The Riverfront Redevelopment Office encourages concerned citizens or those with questions to visit www.ashevillenc.gov/river for more information on work schedules and road closures, or to sign up for email updates here. The city is also in the process of working with a local designer to develop construction communication signage and a resource kit for businesses and artists the RAD, and invites RAD stakeholders to attend the River Arts District Artists meeting on Tuesday, September 20 from 4 p.m. until 5 p.m. at Odyssey Ceramics to meet the designer and ask questions.

Despite these outreach efforts, Sitnick and others feel that more could be done to spread the word about what’s being cut down around the RAD, and why. “Not everybody reads the Citizen Times, not everybody goes to a computer,” Sitnick notes. “People ride by and they’re shocked.”

Outside of the tree removal work currently underway, Duke Energy work crews will also be fencing off portions of Riverside Drive and Lyman Street besides the river between now and March 2017 to allow for staging areas for construction efforts. According to the city’s website, lane closures on Lyman Street and Riverside Drive can be expected periodically throughout the process, and parking at city land will be subject to limitations during this time.

Xpress will detail and explore the various aspects of RADTIP and other impending River Arts District infrastructure projects next week in its September 14 issue. We will also be taking a larger look at the city’s tree removal policies and some residents’ calls for stricter oversight in the next couple weeks. Stay tuned for more information.

Read the Riverfront Redevelopment Office’s official email update from Friday, September 9 below:

NEW UPDATES FOR ON THE GROUND ACTIVITY*

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

TREE CLEARING

September 2016: Tree clearing is occurring along Riverside Drive and Lyman St. in preparation for Duke Energy and other utility relocation. Some of this wood may be useful for firewood or art. This wood is stored at the corner of Haywood and Riverside Dr. and is free and available for pick up right now on a first come first serve basis. Please see more information and the rules below.

CREATION OF LAYDOWN YARDS / STAGING FOR DUKE ENERGY

Duke Energy is setting up their construction staging areas and is fencing off sections along Lyman and Riverside Drive. They are fencing Lyman Street between Amboy Road and 12 Bones and will also be fencing off sections along Riverside Drive for their construction staging areas. This is scheduled to continue until March 2017. Expect lane closures in the area. All of these details can be found at www.ashevillenc.gov/river on the Construction and Closures map.  

PSNC GAS LINE RELOCATION

PSNC is scheduled to continue their work through September 16th. This will also lead to lane closures on Riverside Dr. from 12 Bones to the rail road trestle bridge.

FLAGS

You may have noticed there are several stakes with flags on various properties within the project area. White flags are for right of way, blue flags show the floodplain and orange and yellow flags are utility markers. If you have specific questions about these impacts on your property please call the Riverfront Office.

14 RIVERSIDE DRIVE

Construction on the City owned property across from Curve Studios is scheduled to start in September. 14 Riverside Drive will provide visitor information for the RAD and have public parking and public restrooms when construction is complete.

RIVERSIDE DRIVE RIVER ACCESS

River Access along Riverside Drive is scheduled for construction in winter 2016. In partnership with the Wildlife Resource Commission, the City will be upgrading and adjusting the river access at Jean Webb Park, and installing a new boat ramp further down Riverside by the Craven Street Bridge (Smith Bridge). This boat ramp will allow for canoes, kayaks and small fishing boats to safely access the French Broad River.

OTHER CONSTRUCTION

Other construction that is not a part of this project is occurring along Lyman Street. MSD is installing new lines on Lyman. This work is outside of the City’s project area and is private infrastructure development work for Foundation Studios.

CONSTRUCTION COMMUNICATION

The City has contracted a local designer to help create construction communication signage and a resource kit for businesses and artists the RAD. These resources will be used throughout RADTIP construction which will last from 2017-2020. We want your input! Please join us at the RADA meeting on Tuesday, September 20th at Odyssey Ceramics from 4-5pm. Jenny Fares, the designer, and the City will present the options and collect feedback so that a design can be selected.

  • March 2017: Construction is scheduled to begin on RADTIP and will continue through 2020.

*These schedules are subject to change to get the work done! We appreciate your patience as there are many moving parts.

REMINDERS

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Camping And Homeless Populations:

Due to preconstruction activities in the area camping is no longer safe. There are several emergency shelter and support services to assist anyone camping in the area effected by displacement. City Resource Officers are currently providing this information to campers in the area. All of the resources available are listed on the Resources tab on www.ashevillenc.gov/river. If you see someone camping in the area please contact Asheville Police Department at (828) 252-1110. If you need information on additional community services, contact 211.

Tree Removal And Free Wood:

The City of Asheville is working closely with Duke Energy and their contractors to remove trees in the effected utility relocation areas. Removed trees include trees within the 50 foot radius of Duke Energy’s power lines and trees considered, “danger trees.” These are trees that could potentially fall on a powerline during a storm. The City’s arborist and Duke’s contractors and arborists have worked closely together to ensure only the necessary trees are removed. Every effort has been made to save as many trees as possible in this process. Trees will be replanted in later stages of construction.

Erosion Control:

Duke is not performing any land disturbing activities (i.e. removing the roots of the trees and shrubs that are being cut down). Keeping these roots in place helps to stabilize the riverbank.

Please note the following rules for picking up the free wood:

  • No use of wood cutting tools or splitters of any kind are permitted on-site except by Duke Energy or their contractors.
  • All wood shall be loaded and hauled off-site by individuals.
  • No wood or other materials shall be brought on-site by individuals other than Duke Energy or their contractors. 
  • No climbing shall be permitted on the lumber stored at these locations. 
  • Children are not permitted at these stored lumber sites.    

Individuals loading, hauling, and transporting the wood materials do so at their own risk and agree to indemnify and hold harmless the City of Asheville, Duke Energy, and their contractors for all damage or loss that may arise in association with said activities. Transportation, Access And Parking:

Parking on City property will be significantly reduced starting in August 2016 due to preconstruction activities. Please help keep bikers safe by not parking in designated bike lanes. Expect delays from road and lane closures during this time. You can view a preconstruction parking and river access map and a road closure map at www.ashevillenc.gov/river. 

Park and river access points at Jean Webb Park and RiverLink will remain open through summer 2016.

September 9th: RiverMusic moves to Carrier Park

October 7th: RiverMusic moves to Carrier Park

Click for more information on RiverLink Festivals.

Businesses In The Area:

The Riverfront Office is working with RADA and RADBA and other area business owners to create a Business Kit with resources to help you.

The City has contracted a local designer to help create construction communication signage and a resource kit for businesses and artists the RAD. These resources will be used throughout RADTIP construction which will last from 2017-2020.

More Information

For maps, schedules and more information visit www.ashevillenc.gov/river. If you have specific questions about how this project impacts you, your business or your property please contact us. You can reach Stephanie Monson Dahl at the Riverfront Office at (828) 232-4502.

Sign up to get email notifications.

 

Thank you,

The Riverfront Redevelopment Office

A Division of Community and Economic Development

For The City of Asheville

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About Max Hunt
Max Hunt grew up in South (New) Jersey and graduated from Warren Wilson College in 2011. History nerd; art geek; connoisseur of swimming holes, hot peppers, and plaid clothing. Follow me @J_MaxHunt

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12 thoughts on “Cutting to the chase: What’s going on with tree removal in the River Arts District?

  1. Big Al

    Trees that are so beloved by the Left are being removed to facilitate the construction of traffic circles that are so beloved by the Left.

    Yet I am sure the Left will find a way to blame this all on Republicans in Raleigh.

      • Peter Robbins

        I didn’t even know we were supposed to love traffic circles. Teach me to be late for orientation.

        • bsummers

          I’m not sure either – I think it may be because they’re handy for Satan-invoking rituals or something. Maybe the Large-Al-type-device will tell us why.

          • Big Al

            Nothing so complicated. Several years ago I remarked on how the traffic circle adjacent to the Clingman bridge had forced a local steel company to relocate out of Asheville as their trucks and trailers could not negotiate it to reach the best highway access. This occurred at a time when the working classes of Asheville were constantly decrying the lack of jobs.

            I received a long and stern lecture about how stop signs delays and the resulting idling of engines were responsible for global warming. What Asheville needs, I was told, were MORE traffic circles, not fewer.

            So now they got what they wanted, but at the expense of both jobs and trees. Not to mention the forced relocation of arguably the most famous restaurant in Asheville by Eminent Domain, which is EVIL when Republicans do it.

            Classic green-washing. Enjoy!

    • boatrocker

      What a jerky thing to say (paraphrasing) “If you like trees and breathing, you’re a commie”.
      I “blame” unapologetic greed and over development right here in town.

  2. Jason

    I love being stopped 4 different times on my way to class and another 4 on my way home!!! Thank you Asheville!

  3. Interesting story: “The City is busy decimating the trees along the French Broad River as we publish this article. Say goodbye to your lovely 100 year old trees before it’s too late (like Monday). Read this article to learn why not having a Master Street Tree Plan is ruining your French Broad..”
    http://bit.ly/2c5LQdU

    I remember when clearcutting was a bad thing.

    Hanrahan notes ‘tree slaughter’ on site of new Health Adventure
    http://bit.ly/2c43ZZx

    Ashvegas reader: Health Adventure’s chopping of trees ‘gut-wrenching experience’
    http://bit.ly/2cNhShB

    Trees come down at Health Adventure site, rankling neighbors
    http://bit.ly/2cCdc9O

  4. Don

    well, now that we’ve heard from ALL the beloved MtnX trolls -and so informed and informative they are- let’s lament the stupidity of letting Duke Power dictate the right-of-way parameters here…. cutting large trees on the RIVERBANK side of Riverdside Drive is/was just plain DUMB….. that’s what held and holds the bank there. And so, sigh… it never ends…. sigh again.

    • The Real World

      Hey, I didn’t comment and I’m a Mtn X troll. Are you discriminating against lesser trolls?

      My statement is, “Ya, Duke Power can be quite aggressive with those chain saws….as the once beautiful big oak in my front yard will attest.”
      (crossing fingers that it grows back nicely)

  5. Kairi Gainsborough

    It’s sad to see so many large trees go, but it sounds like it is necessary to make the roads more efficient and safe. I’m glad to hear that the contractors are working with arborists to save as many trees as they can and even plan to plant new ones when the construction is done. I understand the feeling because I need to have two old trees removed from my yard to save the foundation of my home. I should also plan on replacing with new trees when it is done! http://www.chudytreeservice.com

  6. Aaron Bath

    Hopefully they transplanted those trees! It would have been such a waste if they didn’t! Let’s try and work together to preserve mother nature! I hope they do a good job of preserving those trees if they plan to make good of replanting those trees. http://assurancetrees.com.au

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