Join us on Thursday, March 9, as Hendersonville Green Drinks welcomes Chris Burns with Friends of the Ecusta Trail to give us a project update and let us know how the public can help make this trail connecting Hendersonville and Brevard a reality.
Chris is a founding board member of Friends of the Ecusta Trail, a proposed rail trail along the inactive 19-mile spur of the Blue Ridge Southern Railroad connecting Hendersonville, Laurel Park and Brevard, NC. In addition to his love and passion for his family and anything “outdoors”, he has been honored to lead many non-profits in Western NC.
Chris is also a partner and head of strategy at Summit Marketing Group in Hendersonville, NC. His career spans over 25 years of experience in corporate and entrepreneurial leadership in the area of strategic brand delivery. His firm specializes in developing and implementing cross-platform communication strategies including traditional, web-based, email and social media platforms.
About Hendersonville Green Drinks
Hendersonville Green Drinks is presented by MountainTrue and the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. Come to Green Drinks to learn more about current environmental issues, have relevant discussions, and meet with like-minded people. This is a monthly event and everyone is welcome. You don’t have to drink at Green Drinks, just come and listen. Black Bear Coffee offers beer, wine, coffee drinks and sodas. A limited food menu will be available.
To ensure the long-term health and success of the economy, citizens, and environment of Asheville and the surrounding area, the final design and construction of the Asheville I-26 Connector should achieve:
- safe travel for interstate and local traffic;
- improved connections between neighborhoods and from neighborhoods to major roads for all modes of local traffic – pedestrian, bike, car and bus;
- minimal destruction of neighborhoods, homes, and businesses and remediation of past highway project impacts on minority and low-wealth communities;
- maximum return of land to Asheville’s tax base for the City’s use and benefit;
- minimal harm to air and water quality; and
- improvements that match the scale and character of Asheville.
For more information on the I-26 ConnectUs project, visit www.i26connectus.org
The Buncombe County board of commissioners and Asheville City Council will consider this resolution related to the I-26 Connector on March 18 (commissioners) and on March 25 (city council).
The Alliance is encouraging community members to attend to learn more and to comment on this critical project and its impact on the region.
The I-26 ConnectUs Project is made up of representatives from the Asheville neighborhoods that stand to be most impacted by the I-26 Connector Project, including West Asheville, Burton Street, and Montford. The group is convened by the Western North Carolina Alliance.
We have been working together since 2009. All participants agree that the unfinished portion of I-26 as it passes through Buncombe County should be completed in a timely way.
The I-26 ConnectUs Project members are unable to support the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (DOT) request for the City of Asheville and Buncombe County to endorse an alternative for Section B of the I-26 Connector Project at this time. We recognize that the new, state level funding prioritization process is underway and that the project may rank higher in that process if the least expensive alternative is analyzed.
However, we believe it is premature to ask the City and County to endorse an alternative prior to the completion of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and a full understanding of the relative impacts and benefits of each alternative. Endorsing the least expensive alternative at this point, even for the limited purpose of prioritization, creates a very real risk that our community will be locked into that alternative in the future even if the EIS reveals another alternative is more beneficial.
If, however, adoption of a resolution in support of the least expensive alternative, Alternative 3C, is the best way to ensure that the project remains viable, we ask that the City and County be mindful of the following issues:
- That Alternative 3C, as currently designed, does not meet the City’s long range plans
- That the resolution is for the limited purposes of prioritization and does not reflect an endorsement of a final alternative, which will be made only after completion of the EIS and public hearings;
- That the EIS should include infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians in all alternatives, consistent with the City of Asheville’s master plans;
- That the City and County work with DOT to create benefits for those communities that stand to be impacted the most by this project;
- That if a final, preferred alternative is selected that does not remove highway traffic from the Jeff Bowen Bridges, that the City and County advocate for a new project that would allow Patton Avenue and the bridges to become a continuous boulevard from West Asheville into downtown; and
- That the City and County continue seeking to work with DOT and the Federal Highway Administration to identify options to reduce the footprint of the project, including utilizing design exceptions and context sensitive design, and conducting a new traffic study.
Commissioners meet at 4:30 p.m. in Commission Chambers, 200 College St., Suite 326, in downtown Asheville. For more information, call the clerk at 250-4105 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
City Council meetings are at 5 p.m. in the Council Chamber, located on the second floor of City Hall, 70 Court Plaza, in downtown Asheville. Contact City Clerk Maggie Burleson at email@example.com if you have questions.
Join us to learn about the latest developments on planning and construction of the Ecusta Trail, as well as potential trail enhancements and connections that could occur in the future. Initial construction of the Ecusta Trail will be bare bones, but there is the potential for many types of amenities that will vastly improve the user experience and involve community collaboration. During this presentation, Mark Tooley (president of The Friends of Ecusta Trail) will discuss some of the ideas that are being discussed for future development of the trail. Studies have found that the more connectivity a trail has to other trails and popular destinations, the more useful and desirable it becomes. Mark will share information about how the Ecusta Trail connects with existing trails or those being planned in the region which will help provide connectivity for an enhanced user experience.
The Friends of Ecusta Trail (FOET) has been in existence for nearly 15 years as an advocacy organization to create a rail trail on the unused rail line between Hendersonville and Brevard. FOET has worked with local governments, private businesses, non-governmental organizations, and non-profits to gain community support for the trail during that time. After Ecusta Rails2Trail LLC. (a subsidiary of Conserving Carolina) purchased the rail line in 2021, FOET has worked with Conserving Carolina to raise private funds to provide required local matching funds for the federal grants that have been received. Those grants that have been awarded, totaling nearly $46 million, will be used to build the entirety of the Ecusta Trail in the next several years.
Mark is a past board member of Conserving Carolina and has been a board member of FOET for nearly 10 years. He has been FOET’s president for the past two years and resides in Transylvania County.
5:30 p.m.: Grab and drink and network with like-minded locals.
6:00 p.m.: Enjoy the presentation and learn something new!
Hendersonville Green Drinks is presented by Conserving Carolina, MountainTrue and Trailside Brewing Co. Come to Green Drinks to learn more about current environmental issues, have relevant discussions, and meet with like-minded people. This is a monthly event and everyone is welcome. You don’t have to drink at Green Drinks, just come and listen. Trailside Brewing Co. offers beer, wine, cider, prosecco and non-alcoholic beverages. A limited food menu will be available.