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County seeks grant to move flooded trail to higher ground

Flooding often closes the Oklawaha Greenway between Jackson Park and Seventh Avenue. Flooding often closes the Oklawaha Greenway between Jackson Park and Seventh Avenue.

The “duck pond” that inundates the Jackson Park segment of the Oklawaha Greenway could be fixed if the state approves a parks and recreation grant for a realignment.

The Henderson County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday OK'd an application Wednesday for a $216,712 grant from the state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund to pay for a project to realign the trail. Often flooded by the rising waters of Mud Creek, the trail between Jackson Park to Martin Luther King Boulevard is the southern-most segment of the 3-mile greenway, the remainder of which is maintained by the city.
“It floods consistently,” County Manager Steve Wyatt told the commissioners during their April 1 meeting. “The proposal would be to do an engineered fix, to take it above the flood line.”
There are two options, said John Mitchell, the county’s business and community development director. A boardwalk would raise the trail over the lowland but could be vulnerable to damage from floods and storms. “The other is we build it up, which does require a no-rise permit” from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “From my perspective, not being an engineer but just as a taxpayer, the idea of building it up seems better to me just because I’ve got this fear of the water sweeping away” a boardwalk.
The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board ranked the Oklawaha Greenway as the No. 1 priority in park improvements followed by drainage work and walking trail repairs at Etowah Lions Park.
“All those are good projects but I would say the Oklawaha Greenway has been something of an embarrassment,” Commissioner Michael Edney said. “Every time it rains more than two drops they have to close the trail, so that would definitely be my priority.”
Commissioner Charlie Messer, the board’s most consistent advocate for parks and recreation investments, said the county should apply for the PARTF grant, even though the city of Hendersonville plans to apply for one, too. The city is seeking $341,800 to help build the $933,600 Clear Creek Greenway from Berkeley Mills Park — the northern end of the Oklawaha Greenway — to Carolina Village.
“Last year, we chose not to participate in this,” Messer said. “One county’s not going to get two grants. We’ve used it in the past. It’s definitely a lot of money. We voted on a greenway tonight. And I think this would be one way of saying we’re going to step out and fund our parks and our greenways.”
The city has set aside $173,031 as payment for a sewer line easement through Jackson Park several years ago, reducing the county’s share of a potential $217,000 match at $43,682.
Commissioner Bill Lapsley asked whether applying for an amount less than the maximum PARTF grant of $500,000 might help the county’s chances, especially given the fact that the county would be competing with Hendersonville.
“If they’re smaller projects, dollarwise, they’re able to make more people happy,” Wyatt responded. “On the other side, most of the projects I’ve seen are $400 or $500,000 projects.”
“If Hendersonville was going to apply and we apply, if we had a smaller one, they might be inclined to do both,” Lapsley said. “But if we they both want a million dollars they may bump one of us out.”
The deadline for the PARTF application is May 1 and cities and counties expect to hear from the PARTF board around August. County approval of the PARTF application is on the commissioners’ agenda on Wednesday. The city of Hendersonville, moving ahead with its Clear Creek greenway application, held a public input meeting on Tuesday night to receive comments on the proposal.