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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Greenway plan would get county in the game

Years from now, it might be possible for a bicyclist to complete a perimeter ride around Henderson County — pedaling from the Carl Sandburg home to Flat Rock Park, Jackson Park, Berkeley Mills Park, Westfeldt Park (optional stop at Sierra Nevada for a pint), Brevard and Hendersonville, via the Ecusta Trail.

If that ever happens, maybe the bicyclist will be old enough to remember 2019, the year the Board of Commissioners endorsed the Greenway Master Plan. (Commissioners are expected to take up the plan by the summer of 2019.)
“Today, the County is planning for the future with realistic and achievable goals like improving the quality of life, protecting the County's natural, cultural, historic, and scenic resources, providing safe and accessible recreation, and creating alternative transportation opportunities,” the Greenway Master Plan Committee says in the executive summary of its new report.
The drafting of lines on a map and lofty goals is not by itself a reason to celebrate, of course. We’ve been here before, 20 years ago, when the Apple Country Greenways Commission created a map what was more ambitious than this new plan.
“I bet you it had well over 200 to 250 miles of trails,” Chris Burns, the chair of the Greenway Master Plan Committee, told the Lightning for a story in the Nov. 7 issue. “We have condensed that to about 70 miles.”
The walking, jogging, skating and bicycling community has reason to feel optimistic this time around that the stars are aligned. Note the phrase “realistic and achievable” to describe the goal. Hear John Mitchell, the county’s business development director, take pains to declare — over and over — that land acquisition will always be through voluntary agreements, not condemnation. (A bugaboo that helped kill the Apple Country plan.)
Twenty years ago, we did not have socially minded, outdoorsy companies like Sierra Nevada, whose founder ran a bicycle shop before he bought up used dairy tanks to start a brewery. We did not have a state DOT policy — Complete Streets — that calls for road projects to accommodate not just cars but folks who are walking, running, pedaling and pushing baby strollers. Twenty years ago, we did not have the Oklawaha Greenway or the Swamp Rabbit Trail to show, in a small way and bigger way, what a greenway can do for a community. Nor did we have the Friends of Ecusta Trail, Friends of Oklawaha Trail and other credible organizations working strongly for the countywide plan, which connects those trails with other parks and destinations.
Last week, the Henderson County Planning Board unanimously recommended that the county commissioners adopt the greenway plan, following the endorsement of the Parks and Recreation Board (which created the greenway committee), the Board of Health and the Environmental Advisory Committee.
We’ve got a long road ahead of us, when it comes to finalizing routes and raising money. But without a master plan, we don’t get to play. With a master plan, Henderson County is the game. Here’s hoping that years from now we’ll mark 2018-19 as a watershed moment that ignited enthusiasm and action for our greenway network.