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County set to OK boat ramp on French Broad

ETOWAH — Canoers, kayakers and other boaters could get access to the French Broad River at U.S. 64 in Etowah under a collaboration of Henderson County, the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

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Henderson County commissioners can green-light the project on Wednesday by endorsing a recommendation from Parks and Recreation Director Tim Hopkin to accept ownership of a 1.7-acre parcel of land on the north side of U.S. 64 across from Cummings Road, just east of the highway bridge that crosses the river. The county would also agree to take over management of the site.
Two years ago the county "began to collaboratively work with public and private entities to identify and develop recreational access to the
French Broad River in Henderson County," a memo to the Board of Commissioners said. "Emphasis for the formation of the FBR Access Collaborative Group came from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's interest to draw attention to outdoor activities such as boating access and greenway trails" along the French Broad.
The group targeted land next to the bridge where it crosses the French Broad River. The riverside piece of land for the boat ramp is part of a 344-tract along the river protected by a conservation easement through the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy.

"We acquired the 1.7-acre parcel along the river from Super Sod with the intention of turning it over to the county," said Kieran Roe, executive director of the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. "We have been working with Tim Hopkin at the staff level and it's our understanding that the commissioners are likely to approve that land conveyance on Wednesday morning but I'll be there just in case they have any questions."

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has committed to building the river access park, starting next summer. A drawing shows a roadway down to the river, eight parking spaces and a concrete boat launch. The site is seven miles west of Hendersonville and 13 miles east of Brevard.

The group advocating greater river access also is also looking at land for a boat ramp north of U.S. 64. One possibility is at the Mills River Town Park. The Mills River Town Board is discussing whether to move ahead with that project. The county offers French Broad River access at Blantyre and at Westfeldt Park off Fanning Bridge Road, which leads to the Sierra Nevada brewery. Sierra Nevada officials have said their longer-term land development plans for their riverside land is access so kayakers and canoeist could tie up and visit the brewery.