The arrival of spring signals the return of the Black Mountain Greenway Challenge
With the end of March approaching, many signs will trumpet the arrival of spring. Flowers will bloom, ducks will lead lines of ducklings across residential streets and more people head outdoors to enjoy the longer days.
One sure sign of the season’s return to the Swannanoa Valley will occur on Saturday, April 6, when hundreds of runners will get together at Pisgah Brewing Co. for the 12th Annual Black Mountain Greenway Challenge 5K/10K.
The race, which is hosted by Black Mountain Recreation and Parks, Pisgah Brewing Co. and the Greenway Commission, for which it raises funds, returns at 2 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month.
Last year’s Greenway Challenge featured over 200 runners and raised more than $7,000 for the commission, which advises town leaders on the management and development of the greenway system.
The Greenway Challenge is the commission’s largest fundraiser and offers runners and onlookers the opportunity to learn more about the trails through an information booth set up on-site.
The existing system is comprised of seven individual trails, many of which are connected by sidewalk. The master plan calls for all of the trails to eventually be connected by additional trails. The most commonly used trail is Lake Tomahawk Loop, which circles the lake from which it takes its name.
The Greenway Challenge course takes some of the runners around that greenway and through residential neighborhoods on the west side of town. The system is a valuable asset for the town, according to Greenway Commission chairwoman Julie White.
“Residents have repeatedly expressed a desire for the development of a greenway system that connects key elements within the town,” she said. “It is an important part of healthy living. The trails are a practical and effective way to provide opportunities for exercise and movement throughout town.”
Some of the pathways tie in to larger trail systems.
“A main piece of our greenway system is a main component in several regional plans, including the Buncombe County Greenway System and the Fonta Flora State Trail,” White said.
The Greenway Challenge is being directed for the second year by Greenway Commission secretary Amy Landis Parker.
“This year’s course will be the same as it’s been in the past,” she said. “It goes through the beautiful North Fork Valley and the 10K loops around Lake Tomahawk.”
The finish line for both races is at Pisgah Brewing Co. Walkers and service dogs are welcome to participate, Parker added.
"All of the runners receive a t-shirt, pint glass and, if they're over 21, a free beer after the race," she said. "Prizes will be awarded to male and female winners and in each age group."
Runners or volunteers can register for the race at runsignup.com. There is also an option to make a donation. The 5K costs $30 and the price of the 10K is $35 until March 22, when they increase.
The past year has been a busy one for the Greenway Commission, according to White.
Over the past year the Greenway Commission has been working with town staff to update the Greenway Master Plan," she said. "We have continued to work to promote our local greenways and greenways in general. We have worked with an anonymous local donor and local artist Julia Burr to create art work along our greenways."
Burr's public art can be found at the Riverwalk Greenway (behind the former Bi Lo) and on the south side of Veterans Park along the Community Garden Trail.
"Additionally, we have worked in conjunction with other regional greenways groups to support the development of regional greenway systems," White continued. "We also work with other departments in town such as rec and parks and the police department to put on events such as Bike/Walk to School Day."
The board chair also points out that work on a significant addition to the system is happening now.
"The town is currently working on a section of our greenway which will connect the Flat Creek Greenway to the Oaks Trail. This is a complicated section of trail which has been in development for several years," White said. "The town is working with the regional planning organization and the Department of Transportation to build this trail.
"We have finally gotten our contract with DOT approved and are ready to begin work on planning and development of the trail," she continued. "Due to the complexity of the trail and the cost to the town in matching funds it will take several years to see this trail on the ground."