When I start talking about the Hominy Creek Greenway in the heart of the city’s west side I have a tough time containing my glee. Though small in size (just fourteen acres) it’s big in meaning. Acquired by the city in 2011 – the beloved parkland is a testimony to what a group of dedicated citizens can accomplish.
In 2006 My neighbor Doug “Brotherhug” Barlow spearheaded a grassroots effort to conserve the land when he moved to Asheville from Atlanta. Then, the overgrown corridor and right-of-way for an underground sewage line was overgrown, trashy and dangerous. Even still, Barlow saw beyond that and envisioned a thriving, wild, and much needed community green space.
Many others agreed. His effort to conserve and purchase the tract was enthusiastically backed by neighbors, non-profit organizations and local government. The wave of support (and funding) is a sign of the times; it’s a by-product of a growing and forceful movement in Asheville to create more pockets of connected urban greenspace. That may seem a superfluous goal since our city is surrounded by over a million acres of public forest. Yet for a town that places such a premium on quality of life, recreation, and the environment some argue that we’ve lagged behind other urban areas in the amount of greenways and natural parkland.
Fair enough, but there may be a good reason for the shortcoming.
In the decades following World War II, policymakers figured there was little reason for recreational resources since the town was flanked by a heap of opportunities in the national forests, and state and national park land. City Hall was also shackled by the highest per capita debt of any other city in the nation when the thundering economic boom of the 1920s crumbled — bolting a fiscal ball and chain that city leaders didn’t shake until the mid 1970s.
The result was an underdeveloped local park and greenway system and little to no vision to expand it.
Fast forward a few decades and behold the Hominy Creek Greenway. The once derelict corridor of green space now filled with users – pet owner, cyclists, swimmers, families – is a pillar of the West Asheville and it’s hard to imagine my neighborhood without it. That’s a great testament to our people, leaders and the kind of institutions that make Asheville such a great place to live and visit. And not just for the parkland around, but for the green space within.