11/28/2012 - Greenway planned near downtown Asheville
by Mark Barrett - Asheville Citizen Times
ASHEVILLE -- A greenway stretching along the crest and western slope of Beaucatcher Mountain could be completed within two years following action by City Council.
On Tuesday, Council approved 6-0 a $310,000 contract with a Raleigh firm to design the greenway, which will provide views of downtown and mountains to the west.
The northern end of the paved greenway path would be near a historic stone bridge over Beaumont Street located a little south of the Interstate 240 cut. It would run south about 1.3 miles to Memorial Stadium and spur trails would lead to Mountainside Park and White Fawn Reservoir.
Parks Director Roderick Simmons told council the city should be able to do the entire job for no more than the $1.2 million already set aside for the project in the city's 2011-12 budget, but that his department is also seeking grant funds.
Some of the city's greenways get heavy use, but city government has been strapped at times to find the money to expand its greenway network.
There may still be a hitch in getting Beaucatcher Greenway built. Some homeowners in the area dispute the city's right to use what City Attorney Bob Oast describes as an unopened right-of-way for the path.
Oast told council Tuesday that the city's ability to build on right-of-way is clear, but that homeowners had hired an attorney.
Simmons and Al Kopf, head of planning for the Parks and Recreation Department, describe the greenway route as a relatively level wooded pathway that was apparently graded for logging or another use decades ago.
"You won't believe you're downtown," Simmons said. "It's hard to believe we have that much forest so close to downtown."
"You feel like you're walking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park but you can see downtown," Kopf said.
In the late 1990s, city government considered tearing down the bridge near the planned greenway's northern terminus because stones and other debris were falling onto Beaumont Street.
Some residents persuaded the city to relent, and city government acquired the bridge in a land swap in 2009.
It's known as Zealandia Bridge, after the historic mansion nearby, or Helen's Bridge and was described in Thomas Wolfe's novel "Look Homeward, Angel." According to a local ghost story, a woman named Helen hanged herself from the bridge after the death of her daughter.
Simmons said it will take the Raleigh-based engineering and landscape architecture company called Stewart about 10 months to design the greenway and construction would take another 10 months.
City Council accepted a grant from the state in 2009 to buy land east of Memorial Stadium and atop Beaucatcher that is now 30-acre Beaucatcher Overlook Park, which the greenway will pass through. The terms of the grant require that the greenway be developed no later than 2014.
Mayor Terry Bellamy was absent Tuesday due to illness.
On other issues, council voted:
o To rezone 13.6 acres near the corner of Airport Road and Hendersonville Road from commercial to residential use.
The action will allow mobile homes to be returned to the property, which is the easternmost portion of Wellington Community Estates, a mobile home park. It had been zoned for commercial use when the city annexed it in 2009 at the request of the owner.
o To spend $60,000 to hire the Raleigh office of a regional law firm to represent the city's interests before the state General Assembly.