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Regional planners OK three greenway studies

The French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization has formally approved grants to study three greenway segments in Henderson County.
The board of the MPO, which sets priorities for transportation work in Western North Carolina, voted in its regular meeting in August to add the three projects to the 2017-18 work plan.
Henderson County won a $50,000 grant to study an extension the Oklawaha Greenway from Berkeley Mills Park to Westfeldt Park on the French Broad River at N.C. 280 and a $70,000 grant to study an Oklawaha Greenway segment from Jackson Park to Blue Ridge Community College. The Village of Flat Rock received a $40,000 grant to study a bike-pedestrian path from the Carl Sandburg Home to the Park at Flat Rock. Advocates for a countywide network of greenways envision a 45-mile triangle that would extend from Flat Rock to Westfeldt Park to Pisgah Forest to Hendersonville.
One potential leg, a greenway along N.C. 280 separated from vehicle traffic, is being studied by the town of Mills River and Transylvania County. The Friends of Ecusta Trail advocates railbanking the out-of-service Hendersonville-to-Brevard track for a 20-mile rail-to-trail path.
In the next step, Flat Rock and Henderson County must approve contracts for the grants then invite consultants to carry out the studies, MPO Director Lyuba Zuyeva said.
The MPO is aware of the various proposed segments of a countywide greenway project and of a similar network in Asheville.
“From the MPO standpoint, we are aware of those master plans,” Zuyeva said. “We are aware but at the same time it’s up to local jurisdictions to pursue those projects. They’re likely to score better (on funding applications) if they are going to connect to other greenways.”
She cautioned that this early phase of study is unlikely to produce a specific path for new greenways.
“This is a broader study to look at potential alignments,” she said. “I don’t expect they will have a final specific alignment. Chances are there will be several alternatives.”
Federal and state funding for greenway construction generally requires a 20 percent local match. Greenway advocates are looking at raising money not only from the towns and Henderson County but from corporations and individual donors.