Letter writer: Beaucatcher Greenway construction poses runoff problems

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The new economy, as represented by its exemplars Uber and Airbnb, seems to have adopted the late Justice Scalia’s refrain, “Deal with it,” as its motto.

Consider the owner of a property on a ridgeline who wants to (illegally) rent his house through Airbnb. Clearly, the rent he could charge would be higher after he has hired a couple of likely lads with a truck and some saws to (illegally) remove trees that were blocking his view of the sunset.

The resulting mudslides start small — maybe the mud ends up covering the floor of a garage 300 feet down the hill and a quarter of a mile away. But they grow as each storm weakens the remaining soil on the hill. Eventually, of course, the hill ends up in the Gulf of Mexico, and our renter’s demands that “someone” protect his property go unanswered.

Too far-fetched for you? Go look at the river after the next rainstorm.

At the last City Council meeting, we heard a variant of the same sad story — a newly built house as the cause of runoff that flooded an existing basement.

Human nature means that there will always be cases like those. But would Council adopt policies with the same effects? Surely, Asheville is better than that.

According to a recent discussion, Asheville has a sidewalk deficit of roughly 90 miles. By the time that’s dealt with, the city will have replaced something like 50 acres of topsoil with impermeable concrete — during a storm that dropped an inch of rain that could result in an extra 2 million or so gallons of water that would once have soaked into the ground to feed trees and vegetation diverted into drains or uncontrolled runoff.

On a much smaller scale, the construction of Beaucatcher Greenway is apparently to involve the destruction of 85 mature trees and the construction of a couple of miles of impermeable concrete and asphalt trails on steep and unstable slopes.

Asheville isn’t ours to destroy like that; we hold it and its beauty in trust for our children and grandchildren. Choosing to cut down mature trees and convert land into impermeable surfaces is an abuse of that trust —especially when obvious alternatives exist.

— Geoff Kemmish


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17 thoughts on “Letter writer: Beaucatcher Greenway construction poses runoff problems

  1. Sharon Sumrall

    As a homeowner on Beaucatcher, I am dismayed, distressed and appalled at the lack of insight/foresight re: the Beaucatcher Greenway. Mr Kemmish is entirely correct on his observations regarding water runoff take a walk around and look at the deep gashes of rocks and soil that slide down the mountain. The lack of monitoring of how much land is being cleared by new construction or even remodeling is evident everywhere. Taking a walk Sunday I noticed a large parcel of land was cleared of most trees and a for sale sign put up. I observed soil running from this clearing as it was raining. I will call the City and find out if a demolition permit was pulled and who authorized so many trees to be removed. It seems like it is up to the conscious home owners to keep an eye out to preserve our mountain. We can have a Greenway and new homes but to clear land and build without any consideration of the trees and wildlife that live here is heartbreaking. I am told that there are actual guidelines I personally don’t see them being honored.

  2. ThorntonRealty

    And as I understand it, this greenway will cost considerably more per foot than other shovel ready greenways in town. And it does not connect to other greenways. Have to give this one a thumbs down. Email your Asheville city council and staff.

  3. jan kubiniec

    Wow. I’ve been watching that mountain for over 30 years. It cannot handle the types of growth they have planned. The east slope of the White Fawn Reservoir Rd just failed …the city rebuilt it, but there is only so much rebuilding one can do with that mountain. The metamorphic (foliated) rock is famous for its instability. That’s why it defied development through three boomtown eras.

  4. Yep

    City should also pause and consider that it will be creating a natural criminal activity center, like Durham NC has through
    their dangerous city. SO MANY attacks and murders have happened on Durham’s city ‘trail’ the past few years, with 7 people
    shot there since March 1!!! This will attract the same elements. Be forewarned.

  5. Nutter: “The greenway is the tool with which we can take lengthening strides to preserve this precious forested land and plant new trees.”

    Cecil Bothwell: “While I support eventual construction of the Beaucatcher greenway, I would note that the timing of its construction has nothing to do with preserving the land. It is already under control of the City. Nor will it protect the surrounding private land, in fact it could have deleterious effects. The biggest issue at hand is cost and whether this very expensive project is the best current use for tax dollars, versus the other greenway projects. The latest “ballpark” estimate is $3.5 million for the 1.5 mile paved path – and that doesn’t include the cost of the two planned parks which the pavement will connect. (I have asked City Staff to provide more accurate figures in coming weeks.) The project includes extremely expensive retaining walls at the Helen’s Bridge end of the project which will require extensive removal of trees on a very steep slope – which removal is certain to negatively affect stormwater runoff. My feeling is that before we move forward with a project approved before anyone now on Council took office, we at least need to have a thorough public discussion of greenway priorities. There is no particular hurry to protect land that is already protected.”

  6. clayton moore

    Back in the 1920’s and 1930’s the Zealandia folks would ride their jalopies and buggies over to Seely’s castle on Sunset Mtn for tea and scones. A good time was had by all.

    • clayton moore

      Now, the mountain is chopped in half and only the birds and drones can traverse the I 240 gap.

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