Recently I had an intensely nostalgic moment. Do you remember your first time riding a bike without training wheels? Back in my day, I remember sitting on my banana-seater with no helmet on while my father pushed me off of what at the time seemed to be a mountain. I don’t remember if it was the first try, but I do remember the feeling of freedom when I was able to steady the bike and make a few pedal cranks. It was if a new world had opened up for me. I could explore further and get around much faster than before. I was reminded of how that felt when my oldest daughter successfully achieved this rite of passage. She was giggling and wheeing as she disappeared around a gradual bend of greenway.
I was a proud father that she was pulling it off, proud that she was learning to ride on a greenway, and even more proud that it was a greenway that I had the privilege of being involved in the design. The Flat Creek Greenway in Black Mountain is a prime example of a highly utilized community amenity. It seems there are people using it every time I look down the corridor from the Primary school. On nice afternoons, there are almost always cars parked in the school parking area, loading and unloading bikes after school hours. These observations have reaffirmed what I have known for some time: Folks need greenways, especially folks that live in the hills. My family lives in the country on a gravel road with a gravel driveway. I have many friends with young children that live in the same setting. While we prefer the remoteness and natural setting and my children spend a great deal of time exploring in the woods, living in such an idyllic place does come with its inherent challenges. The kids can’t just go outside and bicycle, much less learn how to ride. So, upon seeing my daughter ride free that day, it occurred to me that without the greenway safely and conveniently affording her the opportunity, she would have been delayed on one of the simple joys of life.
Greenways serve many functions, but for us and a great number of people in Western North Carolina, our current primary use is letting the children ride. Over the years, I have noticed other families teaching their kids in empty parking lots. This never really appealed to me and, in fact, seemed quite precarious. The prospect of taking my children to a place where the sounds of a stream resound through a shaded area with large old growth trees and no adjacent vehicular traffic is much more alluring. Furthermore, greenways provide the opportunity to educate children and adults alike on the importance of topics like environmental health (stream, forest, animals, and humans), provide an excellent opportunity of connectivity between communities, can be functional as commuter corridors, serve as a natural venue for fitness events and outdoor recreation, and are just a great way for people to get outside and exercise. In fact, this particular section of greenway has served as a tremendous opportunity for participants of the Mount Mitchell Challenge, a footrace from downtown Black Mountain to the highest peak east of the Mississippi and back, if only as a segment off of a dangerous section of street.
My daughter’s eyes and actions said it all. When she got to the end of a straight away, she laid her bike down and ran towards my wife and I laughing hysterically, almost to the point of crying from her excitement.
If you find greenways useful, are interested in finding out more about the greenways, or have ideas or input, please support your local greenway group. Buncombe County is also in the process of finalizing a master plan. For more information, please visit:
Also, an exciting new video has been released by Connect Buncombe, take a moment to view the Greenways, Please! Video
Fred Grogan RLA, Land Planner and Proud Father!