Black Mountain aldermen consider greenway additions

Fred McCormick

Gathered around four tables, many drinking coffee, all five members of the Black Mountain Board of Aldermen and the mayor on March 16 contemplated potential obstacles to the construction of the Riverwalk Greenway, likely the next capital improvement project.

The nearly two-hour workshop was just the first in a series of several that will take place before the board adopts the town’s 2016-17 budget. The meeting provided a preview of the budgetary framework for capital projects over the next five years.

The capital improvement plan provides for improvements such as building construction and acquisitions over $5,000, as opposed to the operating budget which pays for services such as police protection and garbage pickup.

The capital improvement plan provides funding for projects such as the Riverwalk Greenway, projected to cost about $1.8 million to construct.

The town will be responsible for 20 percent of the cost of the project - a significant expense, town manager Matt Settlemyer told the board. The greenway is the town’s largest proposed project, he said.

The Riverwalk Greenway expansion will connect the Flat Creek trail to the Oaks trail that connects Vance Avenue to Veterans Park. But in order for that vision to come to fruition there are obstacles that the town must overcome.

“We got notice from Norfolk Southern and they don’t want us to use the rail trestle (to cross the tracks),” Settlemyer said. “They called that bridge ‘hydraulically obsolete,’ but they did approve for us to basically bore under the railroad 300 feet east of there.”

The town will continue to explore options for connecting the trail at the railroad tracks. The design for the greenway has yet to be completed by Equinox Environmental, the company out of Asheville contracted to carry out the work. But it is likely that the town will commit to the project in the as part of the capital improvement plan over the next five years.

“It seems like we have a direction on the greenways,” Settlemyer said. “We’ll apply for the money and that will give us time to decide how (the aldermen) want to go from there.”