Public Input Wanted On Future Trail Connections Between The Blue Ridge Parkway And Asheville

A public input process this month will assess sentiment for potential future greenway connections between the Blue Ridge Parkway and Buncombe County greenways and trails near Asheville, North Carolina. The process is intended to find the most optimum locations for possible connections and is part of the planning process of the Greenways and Trails Master Plan for the county.

The Parkway is partnering in the process with Buncombe County's Parks, Greenways and Recreation Services (BCPGRS).

The Parkway said in a release that "increased use and resultant resource damage and safety concerns have created the need for the Blue Ridge Parkway to undertake the Asheville Comprehensive Access and Trail Study."

The partnership is part of a larger Parkway-specific scoping project for the increasingly busy Asheville Corridor, where suburbanization and recreational use are on the rise on and adjacent to the Parkway with resulting "social" trails and informal access points.

"Park staff have inventoried the parking locations, Mountains-to-Sea Trail access, unauthorized trails, and safety issues from Craven Gap (MP 380) to the ramp at Brevard Road/191 (MP 395)," Parkway officials said in a release. "The goal of this study is to identify the trailheads, access, and parking locations that will be designated as official public access, as well as which areas may be closed to facilitate rehabilitation of resources or for safety concerns.

'Once the appropriate access and parking locations have been identified, we will look specifically at each site and begin planning improvements that are developed sustainably to meet the National Park Service mission of protecting natural and cultural resources, providing quality visitor experiences, and improving the safety of our visitors."

The Blue Ridge Parkway's scoping process will be conducted in conjunction with the county's public meetings to gather public input for the County's Greenways Master Plan.

Parkway staff will be at the meetings with more information regarding the trailhead analysis. All the meetings, on May 14th, 15th, 21st and 22nd, will be held from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m., and will be open house to permit participants to arrive and leave at will.

The National Park Service will be accepting public comments May 14 through June 1.

"During the 36-day review period, only written comments will be accepted," Parkway officials said. "Comments can be submitted via comment forms at the public meetings, or via the park's planning website. Comments must be submitted or be postmarked by midnight on June 1, 2012, to be considered."

The meetings will held on these dates in these locations:

* May 14th—Weaverville Town Hall—30 South Main Street, Weaverville, NC 28787

*May 15th—Skyland Fire Department, 9 Miller Road, Skyland, NC 28776

* May 21st—AB Tech, Enka Campus, Haynes Conference Center, 1459 Sand Hill Road, Candler, NC 28715

* May 22nd—NC Department of Cultural Resources, 176 Riceville Road, Asheville, NC 28805