Buncombe Greenways — a Path to Better Living

People who live near a greenway path know the joy of walking along the greenway.

While some people run on a greenway trail, others might bike, stroll hand-in-hand with another person, walk a dog or spend time with family enjoying nature. The benefits of greenways go beyond the simple pleasures of being outdoors to a more active lifestyle — and its many health benefits. Greenways also provide a non-motorized method to get to work, land conservation and economic development along the trails.

The people at Connect Buncombe have been working diligently to open new greenways and connect the existing segments.

The nonprofit was formed in 2011 to create awareness of the goodness greenways bring, with the mission: “to encourage and support the implementation of the Greenways and Trails Master Plan and the construction of greenways throughout Buncombe County, through public awareness, community education and fundraising activities.”
Connect Buncombe supports all of Buncombe County.

“Our goal is to see a system of connected trails for public usage to foster tourism, economic development, health, recreation, and diverse and safe transportation options,” said Marcia Bromberg, board president of Connect Buncombe. “Importantly, we want to connect with our community, its cultural heritage, and beauty of Buncombe County.”

Greenways are popular and already well-used by the community.

“This is an investment in the community,” Bromberg said. “Greenways are so accessible. They’re free — and safe.”

A study by the National Association of Realtors found that ‘proximity to a greenway’ ranks as the second-most-important community amenity sought by homebuyers.

“As soon as you put in a segment of the greenway, people appear,” Bromberg said. “Instantly, you see people walking dogs, parents with jogging strollers for young children and bikes. It’s heartening to see.”

A good place to start experiencing a greenway in Asheville is to park on the lot at the corner of Craven Street and Emma Road, just north of New Belgium Brewing. There, visitors will find an open space designed by Asheville Design Center and displays depicting stories about the history of the French Broad River in Asheville. A large display map outlines the plans for the greenways project.

Right now, about six miles of greenways exist in Buncombe County, and in the next three-four years, if all goes according to plan, there will be 15 miles of greenway for the public to enjoy.
As part of the River Arts District Transportation Improvement Project (RADTIP), there will be more pedestrian and bicycle connectivity, improved river access points and eventually, a greenway on the east side of the French Broad River.

“By the way, greenways are an ‘incubator’ for business,” Bromberg said.
Not only are there tourism-related businesses that spring up along greenways, but also, many types of local businesses benefit being near a greenway.

In April 2017, a 2/3-mile stretch of the French Broad River Greenway was dedicated — from the corner of Craven Street and Emma Road, on the west bank of the river alongside New Belgium Brewing to the River Link Bridge. There are steps leading from the greenway up to the New Belgium campus and Liquid Center Tasting Room, for those who develop a thirst.

“The greenway is a driver for businesses to choose Asheville as a location,” said Susanne Hackett, former communications specialist at New Belgium Brewing Asheville, which donated land for the greenway easement and raised funds through “Brewing for Greenways” promotions.

Highland Brewing Company has been one of the leaders in greenways fundraising through brewery-sponsored events, which have raised $30,000 in the past four years for the East Asheville Greenway feasibility study.

To build a greenway, a complex plan entailing multiple steps starts with interested citizens — then goes on to feasibility studies, creating a master plan, county approval, funding (through municipal bonds, which citizens vote to pass, and grants) and, finally, construction.
“We are beginning to see the spine of the Buncombe Greenway,” Bromberg said. “We want the segments connected.”

Not all the segments need to be paved, Bromberg pointed out. Along the French Broad River Greenway, the ‘missing link’ on the west side of the river, between the River Link Bridge and the dog park in Carrier Park, will likely be finished in a natural surface of which is compressed gravel.

People use the greenways all year-round — even in winter. Bromberg urges people to use the recently completed Hominy Creek Greenway section to see a historic area in Asheville they may not have experienced. The Hominy Creek Greenway is a trail along the old trolley track that connected the Sulphur Springs Hotel to the Southern Railway train depot in Asheville. The old North Carolina Highway 191 bridge is visible, especially in winter, as is the Sulphur Springs pagoda site.

“Greenways are often the gateway to get into more hiking,” said Bromberg, who leads winter hike groups through the Carolina Mountain Club.

While each greenway has its own name, Connect Buncombe would like to see the full system branded as the Buncombe Turnpike Trail Network.

Bromberg is available to speak about the greenways project to civic and church groups. Email info@weconnectbuncombe.org to request a speaker or for more information.
If you like greenways and want more of them in the community, here’s how you can help:

• Contact your county commissioners and tell them you value greenways.
Write to them and let them know that greenways are something that you, as a resident, want to see completed.

• Join as a Friend of Connect Buncombe, or donate to the nonprofit to help it fulfill its mission of a county-wide greenway system.

“And, most importantly, get out on a greenway to walk, run, bike, skate — recreate,” Bromberg said. “Bring a friend or family member and share in the joy of the great outdoors in our beautiful mountains.”

For information, visit www.connectbuncombe.org.

By Carol Viau