Greenlight for Greenway

By Allison Richmond | Mar 17, 2017
Photo by: Allison Richmond If Waynesville's Greenway system is expanded, residents and visitors will be able to enjoy over three miles of continuous trail like this running through town.

A long-held dream for the town of Waynesville may soon be able to move forward with across-the-board support from Waynesville’s aldermen.

Hailed as an economic development boost and a quality of life improvement, greenways are fast becoming popular additions to communities all over North Carolina and across the country, and town leaders seem eager to get started on Waynesville’s version.

During a recent board retreat, Director of Development Services Elizabeth Teague presented a recently-completed Greenway Feasibility Study, which reveals several areas of interest for a route that would connect cyclists and walkers from the Waynesville Rec Center to Hazelwood.

The plan calls for a greenway corridor that would roughly follow the path of Richland Creek through town, connecting recreation, shopping and residential areas with a safe, multi-use pathway.

When completed, the path would extend about 3 ½ miles through the heart of town. Places of interest such as the Waynesville Rec Center, Recreation Park, Frog Level Historic District, Waynesville Middle School and Hazelwood Park would be easily accessible from the greenway.

The feasibility study looked at key factors to the successful location of such a path. Included in its considerations are the potential path’s proximity to Richland Creek and flood zones.

Any path built near the creek would need to be outside the floodway to avoid extensive restrictions and permitting requirements.

There also is the matter of the active Blue Ridge Southern Railroad line running through the area to consider. Permission to run a greenway on, or near railroad property would first need to be approved.

Cooperation of private land owners along the proposed route would also need to be considered. During the board retreat, Teague noted that several landowners along the potential path have been approached about the idea and seemed interested in the prospect.

The feasibility study includes detailed maps of the greenway’s proposed path with areas of opportunity and possible constraint.

Working its way from the Recreation Center to its eventual terminus near the Walmart Shopping Center in West Waynesville, the path of the greenway presents numerous challenges and opportunities along the way.

In the first section from the Recreation Center to Buffalo Lane, the biggest challenge appears to be the navigation of the Russ Avenue bridge over Richland Creek. The greenway would need to cross under Russ Avenue.

Currently, there’s not much room to do so, but when the bridge is replaced during the Russ Avenue upgrade, there is an opportunity to include space for the greenway at that time.

Beyond Russ Avenue, where the path could run along Buffalo Avenue, there is support from landowners for the proposed route.

The greenway could then make an almost straight shot down Boundary Street, running in front of the Old Armory Recreation Center, providing a convenient access point.

Further down, as the trail heads through Frog Level Historic District, the path runs into several conflicts as it will need to wind through existing commercial and rail areas.

Beyond Frog Level, the proposed greenway could again follow the course of Richland Creek, running through residential areas with connectors to Waynesville Middle School, Hickory Hollow Apartments and other points of interest.

In this area, planned work to reroute Brown Avenue and the Boyd Avenue intersection may provide an opportunity to include greenway space or connectors.

Hazelwood Park provides an opportunity for parking and a trailhead, in which users could depart from to walk or ride through the heart of Hazelwood along Westwood Circle to shopping and dining in the Hazelwood downtown district.

From Hazelwood Avenue to Railroad Street, alignment could get a little tricky. There are several options in this area, including running the greenway behind Giles Chemical’s and Southern Concrete’s property or running it along Railroad Avenue itself.

Running it on Railroad Avenue, though, would require users to share the road, making the path less safe and enjoyable. The preferred plan is to run through a wetland area behind the commercial properties, which would require elevating the greenway on a boardwalk, providing space for wildlife viewing and interpretative signage.

The final sections of the greenway route would run either behind or in front of Walmart. Using existing right-of-ways, the greenway could run between Richland Creek and U.S. 74, arriving at a point just south of Walmart.

An alternative would be to run it alongside Richland Street behind the Sheriff’s Offices and Ingles, where it would cross a bridge and connect with the Walmart Parking lot.

Depending on the final route chosen, the trail would terminate at a trail head on the north side near Michaels or the south side near Best Buy near Hyatt Creek Road.

Teague noted in her presentation that at several areas of the proposed greenway could begin work almost immediately if approved. These sections include areas from Hazelwood Park to Boyd Avenue and from the Rec Center to Frog Level Historic District.

During its regularly scheduled meeting following the retreat, the board of aldermen reviewed their top priorities which arose from the retreat and identified the greenway project as one they could all agree would be beneficial to residents and visitors alike.

Many cited economic development, improved amenity access, and crime reduction as possible positive influences the greenway could have on Waynesville.