8/17/2011 - Asheville may join list of Blue Ridge Parkway overlook sights
by Mark Barrett - Asheville Citizen Times
You can never have too many good views of the beautiful mountains and towns of Western North Carolina!!
ASHEVILLE -- Motorists taking in mountain views from the Blue Ridge Parkway may one day get a better look at downtown Asheville as well.
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 Tuesday to ask parkway managers to establish an overlook on the scenic highway that would offer visitors a view of downtown. The board's resolution says the overlook would be an asset to the county and would draw visitors to downtown.
Phil Francis, parkway superintendent, said at the commissioners' meeting that he favors the idea even though budget cuts have made it more difficult for the parkway to maintain the overlooks it has already.
"It's an exciting idea," he said. "It's certainly something that will be enjoyed by thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people."
It won't happen overnight. Parkway officials will consider the issue as part of a study of connections between the parkway and trails in the Asheville area that will probably begin next year and take about two years, Francis said.
A parkway overlook around Milepost 380 offers views of Haw Creek and other parts of East Asheville, but downtown is not visible. The next 14 miles of the road to the south are a green corridor lined with trees, and there are no overlooks until after the road crosses the French Broad River near Brevard Road.
A spot more than a mile south of that point appears to be the only place on the road where a downtown view is practical, Francis said.
The parkway is known for its views of mountains, lush forests and countryside, not of buildings, but Francis said it does have an overlook designed to give people a good view of Roanoke, Va., "so there is a precedent."
He said it is too soon to say how much an overlook might cost or how it would be paid for, but soliciting donations or seeking a federal appropriation are among the options.
The parkway has reduced the number of maintenance workers by a third because of budget cuts, Francis said. Keeping trees cut back at existing overlooks "is a real challenge for our maintenance staff," he said.
Francis said the study of connections to the parkway in the Asheville area is prompted in part by heavy use of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which closely parallels the parkway around the city.
Trail users' vehicles created unofficial parking lots on the road, and the parkway wants to figure out better ways to accommodate them, he said.
Also Tuesday, commissioners added language to a resolution setting up a Nov. 8 referendum on a quarter-cent sales tax increase to fund building projects at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. The resolution now says the tax would expire in 17 years.