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'A dream come true': Commissioners unanimously endorse greenway plan

One county commissioner called the potential for countywide greenways "a dream come true" to enhance quality of life and serve children. Another marveled at the broad support across business, education and recreation. A third described a countywide greenway network as potentially as important a development as Jackson Park and Blue Ridge Community College.


The Henderson County Board of Commissioners expressed enthusiastic support for a countywide greenway plan developed and completed last year by a master plan committee and then voted unanimously to adopt the plan, sparking a standing ovation from a crowd of greenway proponents.

The Greenway Committee had taken a deliberative and cautious approach to the plan, reducing the lines on a map from 175 miles to 71 miles, going for realistic over idealistic and making sure it incorporated "mountain values" into the plan. Among the major selling points the commissioners bought was that any land acquisition would be on a voluntary basis, not through eminent domain.

The plan recommends three major greenways — one running along the French Broad River, extensions of the existing Oklawaha Greenway to the north and south, and the Ecusta Trail, along the railroad bed from Hendersonville to Brevard. Beyond that, the plan envisions "destination trails" connecting Edneyville, Mills River and Flat Rock to the primary trails. Surveys by the greenway committee showed that 93 percent of respondents supported the network of walking and bicycling paths.

Chris Burns, who chaired the greenway committee, said the county commissioners "wanted to see something realistic and achievable," something that could be done "in small bites." "And most importantly, you wanted it incorporate our mountain values and make it voluntary and that was done."

"A 30-year plan is certainly an ambitious plan as it should be," County Commission Chair Grady Hawkins said. "To me it looks like a great plan."

Commissioners said the support for the plan was impressive.

“You got so many different groups, everybody on board with it," said Michae Edney. "I think that’s great. I think we’ve got to jump on it and keep moving forward.”

Lapsley echoed that.
“I would say that I’m extremely pleased at the participation that the committee was able to generate and involvement," he said. "To me that’s the key to success of any plan. You’ve gathered community support.”
As chair of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, Lapsley said, he is aware of the funding opportunities for communities that pursue greenway funding. Henderson County has lagged behind other communities in the region in drawing money from that fund. A critical factor in winning grants, the greenway committee said, is having a greenway master plan.
“There is a separate pot of money that DOT sets aside for pedestrian and bicycle projects," Lapsley said. "Should this board adopt this plan, it’s the key document for our community to solicit financial support from DOT and it’s significant support. It’s not 5 cents on the dollar.”

Commissioner Charlie Messer reminded the audience that he's been serving on the county Recreation Advisory Committee for 19 years and that bicycle and walking trails had been in discussed for many years.

“With everybody moving into Henderson County and Hendersonville, the quality of life has definitely gone downhill and now I think it’s on the way up,” he said. “This is a dream come true that we can do things to help our county and our kids and the quality of life will go up. I would like to congratulate you guys, the people of Henderson County, that have worked on this. We’re going to move on this and try to get as much established as we can. Let’s move on it."

This is a developing story. See this week's Hendersonville Lightning for more coverage.