The design for a key link that will help create the longest continuous stretch of greenway in Asheville has been finalized. The roughly 1-mile section will run through the New Belgium Brewing Co. site in the River Arts District and connect with existing greenway segments.
“It’s pretty exciting, because this part of the greenway is kind of an anchor for the entire system,” says landscape architect David Tuch of Equinox , the consulting firm charged with designing the French Broad River Greenway Westbank Extension.
Four other greenway projects are currently in the planning stage, notes Joey Robison of the city’s planning and multimodal transportation team.
“Construction of these projects will take place from 2016-19,” she explains. “When completed, the French Broad River greenway system, including those in the River Arts District, will have 11 miles of continuous greenways. The completion of Beaucatcher Greenway will provide another 1.5 miles. This combined greenway network, the ‘River to Ridge,’ will connect the River Arts District to the South Slope neighborhood, downtown and Beaucatcher Mountain.”
Beginning at a soon-to-be-constructed Craven Street trailhead, the greenway will extend through the New Belgium site and link to a section to be built on land recently donated by Duke Energy. From there, says Tuch, it will link with other sections connecting French Broad River Park, Carrier Park and on to Hominy Creek, creating “our longest [continuous] section of greenway in the entire city of Asheville. This location is going to be pretty significant, in terms of the overall feel and connectivity of the greenway.”
An award-winning partnership
The city and the brewery won a national partnership award from American Trails, after Equinox nominated them, for their collaboration on this greenway segment. The award was announced at the International Trails Symposium in Portland, Ore., last month. “Overall, it was a very thoughtful process by both the city and New Belgium,” says Tuch.
Equinox is also designing the Craven Street trailhead for the city.
“It’s going to hopefully include some sort of shade structure, a nice gathering space. There’s going to be wayfinding and interpretive signage, a parking area, a bike repair station, some seating,” he reports. “We’re designing that space to be kind of a node for the whole greenway system.”
The need for multiple retaining walls as well as shoreline restoration drove up the price of this particular greenway segment, notes Tuch, who also had a hand in developing Asheville’s comprehensive Greenway Master Plan. The city, he says, requested some changes to the initial design, such as grading a certain area to avoid installing another costly retaining wall.
“The greenway starts from Craven Street and drops down along the French Broad River, where we have a nice, wide trail,” says Tuch. “We’ve designed in some overlooks — little bump-out areas where you can get a nice view of the river and actually have a bench.”
At its narrowest, the path will be 10 feet wide, and it will be fully handicapped-accessible from the Craven Street trailhead. “We think this is going to be a very widely used greenway,” he predicts.
“We’re creating a connector up to Haywood Road, so all the people from West Asheville will be able to access it.” Due to the topography, the roughly 600-foot connector will be suitable for pedestrians and bicyclists but won’t meet Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines, Tuch explains.
A multipurpose network
“Asheville residents have consistently identified greenways as an important amenity,” notes Robison. The greenway network, she says, will provide “a safe, enjoyable and efficient transportation option for bicyclists and pedestrians that also helps citizens be more active and decrease their overall carbon footprint. By connecting neighborhoods to grocery stores, jobs and schools, more commuters can choose nonmotorized transportation and help alleviate traffic issues.”
Cathy Ball, executive director of planning and multimodal transportation, adds: “Greenways serve so many purposes for residents — they are a place to meet friends and teach your children how to ride a bike. They provide an alternative route to get to work, and they promote health and wellness. It is so exciting to be a part of implementing the community vision.”
New Belgium, which was instrumental in developing this section, strongly supports multimodal transportation, says Susanne Hackett, the brewery’s community and media relations specialist.
“We believe in diverse modes of transportation, and safe and accessible public pathways for pedestrians and bicyclists,” she says. “In addition to improved safety and quality of life, these pathways improve economic vitality for communities.”
For these reasons, she continues, the company recently took a public stand opposing House Bill 44, a proposed state law that would restrict local governments’ ability to install bike lanes. “Right now there is legislation on the table that threatens our local communities’ ability to make their own choices for bicycle infrastructure and threatens partnerships like the ones we’ve been able to make,” says Hackett.
Meanwhile, New Belgium is also partnering with Highland Brewing Co., she says, to produce the Footpath Belgian Session Ale. Slated for a Friday, June 26 release, it will be sold exclusively at Highland for a limited time, with $2 of every pint sold going to the nonprofit Friends of Connect Buncombe. The partnership is part of the Brewing for Greenways initiative, which aims to raise awareness, support Connect Buncombe and help fund development of the county’s Greenways and Trails Master Plan.
The money for this and future greenways will come from a combination of taxes, grants and corporate partnerships, says Stephanie Monson Dahl, director of the city’s Riverfront Redevelopment Office. “Taxpayers,” she notes, “will see a near dollar-for-dollar match toward the cost of the greenway projects.”
City to showcase its greenway dreams
The city of Asheville’s Riverfront Redevelopment Office will host a public gathering and meeting, Grilling on Greenways from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, June 27, at the Carrier Park pavilion. The session will showcase the city’s five greenway projects that are currently being designed and prepared for construction: the Clingman Forest Greenway, the Townbranch Greenway, the Beaucatcher Greenway, the French Broad River Westbank’s Greenway (two segments) and the French Broad River Eastbank Greenway.
“We want the public to have the opportunity to understand what kind of connected greenway system is about to happen. We’ll be seeking public input at this event on both the French Broad River West Greenway and the Beaucatcher Greenway,” Lucy Crown, greenways coordinator, said.
The public is welcome to attend the June 27 drop-in session. Hot dogs and other refreshments will be served.