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French Broad could connect new greenways

Bryan Jeffords enjoys fishing for muskie on the French Broad. Bryan Jeffords enjoys fishing for muskie on the French Broad.

MILLS RIVER — The French Broad River is one of the best bodies of water to fish for muskie, which is what Bryan Jeffords tried to do on a recent Sunday.

He motored his flat-bottomed fishing boat from Westfeldt Park in Mills River all the way to Brevard trying to catch one. Winter's the best time to fish for muskie and Sunday was a bright sunny day. But two days of rain before that had made the French Broad muddy and left Jeffords empty handed. The biggest muskie he ever caught was 54 inches. Jeffords, an Arvin Meritor worker who lives in Arden, had not heard that his favorite put-in ramp, at the county-owned Westfeldt Park, might soon be getting more crowded, and not just with fishing boats.
Canoes and kayaks are expected to splash into the French Broad when Sierra Nevada opens later this year.
The brewing company helped convene interested parties to develop greenways and promote greater use of the French Broad River. Sierra Nevada has plans to build a restaurant and tasting room at its brewery. Jeffords said that's fine with him.
"I'm not much of a drinker but I would check it out," he said.
He's in the neighborhood anyway fishing. From the river, he could see the red crane stretching skyward on a bluff high above the French Broad.
Henderson County's participation in a $50,000 grant for a walking trail at county-owned Westfeldt Park sputtered ahead last month in a 3-2 vote after two commissioners questioned whether the grant obligated the county to unknown costs in the future and whether park spending countywide was running out of control.
Commissioners Grady Hawkins and Larry Young voted no when the state sent back the application on a second pass. Henderson County officials sent a resolution to Raleigh that omitted language that potentially obligates the county to future costs. The state said rejected the county's version. Hawkins objected to a part of the state Division of Water Resources resolution that commits the county to "full obligation for payment of the balance of project costs."
Hawkins and Young also argued that the county may be reaching the point of having enough parks.
Young pointed out that the county board itself is already spending money on Jackson Park improvements, a new Tuxedo park, Dana Community Park improvements and the Hendersonville Christian School property while the Village of Flat Rock is considering a $2.5 million park investment, Mills River and Fletcher are expanding their parks and the Henderson County Soccer Association is building a new soccer complex.
"It seems like parks have got a big show going on as to who can build the most parks," Young said. "When is enough enough? That's the question I have."
The Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy is applying for $250,000 in state grant money to construct a 1,300-foot greenway trail at Westfeldt Park on the French Broad River. The Westfeldt Park greenway is part of a larger trail plan that Sierra Nevada and river advocates have begun to form.
The Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy is applying for state grants of $50,000 and $200,000 to cover the cost. County officials said they don't expect the county will have to contribute money.
Commissioner Tommy Thompson also objected to the language in the resolution. "I hate being held hostage at any time," he said.
Chairman Charlie Messer and Commissioner Michael Edney argued for adopting the resolution on the grounds that the project is part of a partnership with Sierra Nevada that helps promote the French Broad.
"This is the type of thing that got Sierra Nevada here," Edney said. The county's industry recruiting organization, the Partnership for Economic Development, has been promoting recreation and the outdoors as an asset and it has helped sell the area, Edney said.
Thompson joined Messer and Edney in voting for the resolution.