Letters to the editor

Make French Broad bridge a work of art

Kudos to Pam Myers for wondering, “Can the [new I-26 Connector] bridge over the French Broad be designed as a work of art? Let’s find out” [Xpress, June 28, “Beyond the urban trail”].

The answer is yes. If you want something to cherish and identify as our own — instead of another piece of “Anywhere Interstate USA” — then participate in the DOT’s I-26 Design Forum July 21-22. The bridge — which will be public property — can also be a piece of the Urban Trail as a place for people, not just trucks and cars. The doubtful reader thinks: “I thought it was illegal for pedestrians and cyclists to use interstates.”

Check out www.wilsonbridge.com. [The Wilson Bridge is] an interstate bridge over the Potomac River with a separate, protected lane for cyclists and pedestrians — providing a link to recreational parks on both sides of the river. How did they get it? Simple. The city asked for it. Imagine being able to play at the indoor-soccer facility and cycling over the French Broad to access Riverside Drive.

Now that’s a challenge that should become a reality for the Public Art Board. Connecting people to the French Broad via a public work of art would be an outstanding contribution to the civic infrastructure. The time to act is now.

— Kris Wilson
Black Mountain

Remember the price of liberty

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and were tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed — and they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners — men of means, well-educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence, knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton Nelson Jr.

At the battle of Yorktown, the British Gen. Cornwallis had taken over the Thomas Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged Gen. George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.

John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year, he lived in forests and caves — returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later, he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.

Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall, straight and unwavering, they pledged: “For the support of this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” They gave you and me a free and independent America. Modern, “revised” history books never told you a lot about what happened in the Revolutionary War. We didn’t fight just the British. We were British subjects at that time, and we fought our own government!

Some of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn’t. [I hope you took] a few minutes while enjoying your Fourth of July holiday [to] silently thank these patriots. It’s not much to ask for the price they paid. Remember: Freedom is never free! … It’s time we get the word out that patriotism is not a sin — and that the Fourth of July has more to it than beer, picnics and baseball games.

–Col. (Dr.) Jim Hayes, USAF (retired)
Submitted by Ana Jo O’Brien
Tryon

Demand an end to dumb development!

We cannot go on believing that “progress” is progress as we have always understood it. We cannot go on believing that “development,” our dumb brand of growth, develops anything but death in the long run — death of nature and community. We cannot go on believing that the pursuit of money and things is the same as the pursuit of happiness, and that it is more important than the environment, our community, families and spiritual lives.

We have to learn to say “no.” A very good and seemingly obvious place to start is to refuse the entrance of any super Wal-Marts into the area, as well as superhighways such as the I-26 Connector — as proposed by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

These projects are being forced on us by people who have no sense. These are people who know that we have severe air pollution here, and their bright idea is to rush through an enormous highway before anyone can stop them. (Local citizens are trying to impact the design at a forum in July, but it remains to be seen if DOT will accept an innovative, attractive design — with pedestrian access, bike paths and a boulevard — over their plodding, elephantine one.)

Tell me: Does it not defy common sense that a city on the verge of being declared a non-attainment area should consider building an eight- or 10-lane highway? If we build this highway, and then are declared a non-attainment area because our air pollution is so bad, exactly whom are we pulling one over on? Just dumb us, that’s who.

As for the super Wal-Mart, we did not invite it here. [Developers] have just decided this for us, and it will take money and energy to keep them out. They don’t know our unique downtown character and don’t care if they drain it dry; they only know Asheville as a place on a map that needs to be conquered by [one of] the largest corporation[s] on earth.

Their actions show that the people planning these projects are more concerned with their petty careers, and making a buck, than they are about protecting humans and other life from eventual environmental catastrophe. Surely that shows a lack of sense. They are people so disconnected from reality that they must think that a super Wal-Mart on a gorgeous piece of land by a river — or an eight- or 10-lane highway blazing through a small town — is a benign presence, or just business-as-usual, or maybe even a real neat idea.

Those of us who still have sense — who dimly perceive that life isn’t about making money and living in polluted, concrete environments — must be brave enough to stop these sick onslaughts on our world. It won’t be convenient or easy. But if we don’t stop this insane rush to build crap, where will we be in 20 years? What about in 50? Will there ever be a time when we say, “We think we’ve got enough crap now, thank you very much!” At what point will we develop clear vision and self-control?

How many species do we have to drive into extinction before we “get” it? How many mountainsides do we have to lose to vacation cabins, expensive homes, resorts, trailer parks and acid rain? How many wooded glens can be converted into big chain [stores] before we are satiated? How many trees do we have to lose to “forest management” before we lose the forests and have only tree farms? How many streams can we render biologically dead?

What is the limit of acceptable loss? And why do we take these mad gambles?

How many small businesses can we let go of? How many affordable homes can we demolish for “progress”? How much community can we lose — bisected by roads, divided by commerce, and lulled into passivity by our busy lives — before we are nothing more than a collection of disconnected consumers? In 20 years, when our world has been dramatically altered beyond recognition, will we still be human — or something else?

I say that it is time we draw the line. That is, unless we haven’t already lost all sense.

— Gloria Good
Asheville

Bikes and pedestrians deserve consideration in I-26 Connector project

I applaud our city’s efforts for alternative transportation by adding bike lanes on Amboy Road. Oliver Gadja is [paraphrased] as [saying he] hopes that additional lanes can be created in conjunction with other city projects [Xpress, July 28, Notepad, “Asheville likes bikes”]. The I-26 [Connector] project is a great opportunity. Some years ago, our state’s Department of Highways changed their name to Department of Transportation. Apparently, NCDOT’s mission for the I-26 Connector is to lay down pavement. But, with the exception of a small concession for a bike path at the Amboy Road intersection, … their only vision of pavement is for automotive traffic. Bike lanes are another use for pavement.

Folks are worried about the additional congestion and negative impact on our air quality that the I-26 Connector will bring. We will have more congestion, more nasty smog, and more parking nightmares. Part of the solution is simple: Redesign the Smoky Park Bridge and its bookend intersections into a boulevard separate from I-240 traffic, and include facilities for bikes and pedestrians. An improved transportation network in Asheville — that doesn’t treat sidewalks, bike paths and more buses as an “extra” which receives only minimal funding — would be visionary. Bicycle connections should be provided along the entire length of this project!

Otherwise, those folks who think it’s an American birthright to own a car, have an eight-lane interstate to drive on, and a place to park once they arrive in Asheville will insist on paving over Pack Square — to have a place for inert machines instead of beating hearts and thinking minds. Then we’ll be arguing about how the city can pay for yet another parking garage.

— Kim Lane
Asheville

Let the people park!

I’ve worked in downtown Asheville for a little less than three years and have an office in the Flat Iron Building. I constantly hear the frustrations of my customers who are hard-pressed to find decent parking when they visit my office, and I want to make it as convenient as possible for them, so I’ve done my part and parked off the street.

I was parking at Day’s Inn on Patton Avenue and enjoyed my walk to and from the office. When the city raised parking-meter rates from 25 to 75 cents an hour, Day’s Inn followed suit by raising their parking fees from $20 to $35 a month. I was unhappy, but I reminded myself that it was a “mere” 75 percent increase, compared to the meter increase of 140 percent! At the start of July, Day’s Inn raised their rates again — this time to $45 a month, rivaling the city’s parking-deck fees. I know Day’s Inn is a private enterprise and can do as it pleases, but it was nice to have a nearby option that was less expensive than the $45-$55 per month the city charges.

I keep reading that the city wants to encourage downtown merchants to use the decks and not the street parking. If that’s the case, the city should give merchants a financial incentive to use the decks, rather than jack up the deck rates when they raise the meter rates. On the contrary, I think the city should lower the deck rates for merchants who can prove they have downtown offices — and make more parking spaces available for them. My window overlooks the Battery Park deck and all the rarely used parking spaces on the top level. There’s all of four cars up there as I write this, and I hear there’s a long waiting list for monthly parking at that location!

I’m self-employed and I like having a downtown office, but I could easily move my office home and save a substantial amount of money each month. Don’t encourage me to do so. Asheville, let your people park!

— David Lynch
Asheville

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