WE welcome your EXCITEMENT, comments, concerns, AND QUESTIONS ABOUT
CONNECTING BUNCOMBE COUNTY WITH GREENWAYS.
What is a Greenway?
Buncombe County Greenways are open pathways safely connecting our parks, schools and communities. Greenways and trails are designated for bicycling, walking and similar uses along corridors that connect natural areas, parks, cultural attractions, neighborhoods, schools, community destinations and commercial areas. Greenways are greener, kinder, smarter, safer and healthier ways to connect cities and towns across the county.
What are the benefits of investing in greenways?
Greenways connect our communities in many ways.
KINDER: Connect with Community + Cultural Heritage + Access
Greenways connect people with places via trails and pathways, providing a higher quality of life, healthier environment and more livable communities. Expanding existing and establishing new recreation and transportation greenways connects people to each other and our cultural and natural heritage. Corridors linking areas of farmland and open space help to preserve the rural landscape and way of life. Rails to Trails: Trails and Greenways for Livable Communities
Greenways provide free access for all citizens and visitors to use greenways and trails. A connected greenways and trails system will provide quick and affordable opportunities for recreation, physical activities and connecting to nature and wellbeing. Greenways provide a social justice element that other methods of land preservation do not.
GREENER: Connect with Money through Jobs, Tourism + Economic Development
The economic benefits of greenway development are well-documented by several studies completed along developed systems. A 2002 survey by the National Association of Realtors and National Association of Home Builders rates trails as the second most important community amenity out of a list of 18 choices. In addition, greenway systems attract businesses seeking places with a high quality of life. Greenways spur job growth in construction, maintenance, tourism-related opportunities, and local businesses.
Tourism and recreation-related revenues from trails and greenways include: recreation rentals and sales (bicycles, kayaks, canoes, campsites), recreation services (shuttle buses and tours), tours to places of historic and cultural interest, restaurants, breweries and lodging. Rails to Trails: Economic Benefits of Trails and Greenways
SMARTER: Connect with Transportation Independence + Sustainability
Greenways decrease our fuel costs and use of natural resources by providing non-motorized transportation options, such as walking and biking. Two-thirds of all car trips made in the U.S. are for a distance of five miles or less. Surveys by the Federal Highway Administration show that Americans are willing to walk as far as two miles to a destination and bicycle as far as five miles. A complete trail network, as part of the local transportation system, will enable residents to commute to where they want to go with a more sustainable and affordable manner. Rails to Trails: Trails and Greenways for Livable Communities
SAFER: Connect with Safer Transportation + Improved Traffic
Statistically speaking, the most dangerous thing you can do in Buncombe County is drive a car. Greenways provide improvements to our built environment making biking and walking safer. Creating engineered improvements to our streets as well as off road facilities for walkers and wheelers reduces automobile crashes. Even if you do not want to enjoy travelling in ways other than your car, you will still reap benefits of greenways with less traffic congestion and safer driving environments.
The Asheville/Buncombe area is fortunate to have a growing number of bike safety instructors certified by the League of Certified Instructors. Known as LCI instructors, these instructors assist people to learn how to ride their bikes safely in traffic. This is important component to our greenway master plan. We believe it is as important to provide the opportunity to ride confidently to the greenway as it is to enjoy the greenway experience.
HEALTHIER: Connect with Health + Recreation
Americans spend nearly 2 trillion dollars per year on health costs. Nearly 2/3 of Americans suffer from diseases that are preventable with increased physical activity. Providing recreational opportunities in the form of trails lead to better health, fitness and overall wellness. Greenways provide safe, inviting space for physical activity and allow people to turn their daily commutes into daily exercise, building healthy habits by planning healthy communities. Many studies have concluded that there are also economic benefits associated with being physically fit: lower medical costs and fewer insurance claims, increased job productivity, decreased absenteeism, decreased depression, lower levels of job turnover, and prevention of disabilities. Rails to Trails: Health and Wellness Benefits of Trails & Greenways
What other cities have greenway systems and how did they affect their local economies?
Buncombe County has some catching up to do. Hundreds of cities around the world are benefitting from greenway systems and many have been developing their greenways for decades. Perhaps you visited the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville, SC, or the Virginia Creeper Trail in Eastern Tennessee and Virginia. You might have visited the Caroline Thread Trail in any of the 14 counties that it weaves through in central NC. You may have heard of the Rails to Trails efforts in Pennsylvania and other states. Greenways and trails are a proven boost to local economies, improved environment and better quality of life. Here are a few examples:
- The Outer Banks, NC: Bicycling is estimated to have an annual economic impact of $60 million and 1,407 jobs supported from the 40,800 visitors for whom bicycling was an important reason for choosing to vacation in the area. The annual return on bicycle facility development in the Outer Banks is approximately nine times higher than the initial investment.
- Damascus, VA: At the Virginia Creeper Trail, a 34-mile trail in southwestern Virginia, locals and non-locals spend approximately $2.5 million annually related to their recreation visits. Of this amount, non-local visitors spend about $1.2 million directly in the Washington and Grayson County economies.
- Morgantown, WV: The 45-mile Mon River trail system is credited by the Convention and Visitors Bureau for revitalizing an entire district of the city, with a reported $200 million in private investment as a direct result of the trail.
- Tallahassee, FL: The Florida Department of Environmental Protection Office of Greenways & Trails estimate an economic benefit of $2.2 million annually from the 16-mile St. Marks Trail.
Who is planning the county-wide greenway?
Buncombe County Parks, Greenways and Recreation Services (BCPGRS) is currently undertaking a Greenway Master Plan Update in partnership with the municipalities within Buncombe County, the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization and The Blue Ridge Parkway. The Buncombe County Greenways and Trails Commission, with staff assistance from the BCPGRS, is currently in the process of launching the Connect Buncombe Public Outreach and Involvement campaign.
The Greenways and Trails Master Plan began in June 2011. A team of consultants including Kostelec Planning [LINK: http://www.kostelecplanning.com/], Equinox Environmental [LINK: http://www.equinoxenvironmental.com/] , Weber Landscape Architecture [LINK: http://www.maryweberdesign.com/], and NFocus have recently completed the initial stages of the planning process: analysis of existing plans, GIS data collection and verification, and gathering input from community and stakeholder meetings. They are currently in the planning and design phase of the preliminary draft of the plan. A series of intermediate public meetings to present the draft plan will occur at a yet to be determined date in the spring of 2012. After these intermediate public meetings, there will also be a final presentation to the public for comment before it will be submitted to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners for review in the early summer of 2012.
The Connect Buncombe Outreach and Involvement campaign began in January 2012 and will be active until the adoption of the Greenways and Trails Master Plan. At that time, Connect Buncombe will become the Friends group for the Buncombe County greenways and Trails program. The mission of the Buncombe County Greenways and Trails Commission is: “To support and promote the development of an environmentally friendly system of connected trails and greenways to improve health, alternative travel, economic development, and recreation in coordination with towns, cities, communities, businesses, non-profit organizations and adjacent counties.”
Where will the greenways be located?
With input from regional organizations, businesses and citizens, the greenways will be built along corridors determined by greenway experts as the most feasible and useful. The municipalities of Black Mountain, Asheville, Woodfin and Weaverville are already invested in creating city and town-wide greenways, serving as the foundation of the county-wide greenway system. The Buncombe County Greenways & Trails Commission has identified the top two priority areas for county-wide greenway development.
These are as follows:
- Connecting Asheville to Black Mountain along the Swannanoa River/US 70
- Connecting Asheville to Madison County along the French Broad River/NC 251
If I live near the greenway, how will my property value be affected?
Based on statistics from other cities with greenways, it is likely the property values may increase. Here are some real life examples from other cities:
- Apex, NC: The Shepard’s Vineyard housing development added $5,000 to the price of 40 homes adjacent to the regional greenway---and those homes were still the first to sell.
- Front Royal, VA: A developer who donated a 50-foot-wide, seven-mile-long easement along a popular trail sold all 50 parcels bordering the trail in only four months.
- Salem, OR: Land adjacent to a greenbelt was found to be worth about $1,200 an acre more than land only 1000 feet away.
- Oakland, CA: A three-mile greenbelt around Lake Merritt, near the city center, was found to add $41 million to surrounding property values.
- Seattle, WA: Homes bordering the 12-mile Burke-Gilman trail sold for 6% more than other houses of comparable size.
- Brown County, WI: Lots adjacent to the Mountain Bay Trail sold faster for an average of 9% more than similar property not located next to the trail.
- Dayton, OH: Five percent of the selling price of homes near the Cox Arboretum and park was attributable to the proximity of that open space.
What is the timeframe for completion of the county-wide greenway system?
The greenway will be built mile-by-mile over a period of many years. During the Greenway Master Plan Update, Connect Buncombe will be public comment regarding potential greenway locations. These suggestions will be incorporated into the draft Greenway Master Plan Update which will be taken to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners in the summer of 2012. After the adoption of the plan, Connect Buncombe will continue to bring partners, and the greater community, together to make greenways happen for Buncombe County.
How can I get involved?
There are lots of ways. Take a look!