Greenways get a nudge from Cycle to Farm

Fred McCormick

When Jennifer Billstrom first moved to Black Mountain in 2012, she envisioned a daily routine that involved her riding her bicycle from her doorstep to wherever she needed to go. A short time later, she and her husband David were organizing an event that has now raised nearly $13,000 for local greenways.

The fourth annual Black Mountain Cycle to Farm, a 63-mile loop that allows riders to stop along the way at area farms, made its return this past July. The event featured 221 cyclists from around the country and brought in $5,000 for the Black Mountain Greenway Commission.

“When I was a pretty new resident (in Black Mountain), I went down and visited the Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville (South Carolina),” Billstrom said of her inspiration to link Cycle to Farm with local greenways. “It doesn’t take a big leap to imagine a trail like that here, with Black Mountain acting as Travelers Rest (S.C.) and a greenway running along the (Swannanoa) river all the way to Asheville. When I decided I was going to offer Cycle to Farm, one of the first things I thought about was it being a fundraiser to make that happen.”

A greenway connecting Black Mountain to Asheville remains a long way off. But the money raised by Cycle to Farm each year has been key to the growth of the popular trail systems, according to greenway commission chair Julie White.

White said that funds from events like Cycle to Farm and the annual Greenway Challenge held in the spring are particularly helpful when it comes to the work that is needed to prepare for future expansion of the system.

Money from the 2014 Cycle to Farm allowed the commission to pay a local consultant to work on future expansion of Black Mountain’s Riverwalk Greenway.

Support for the event over the years has been crucial to its success. According to Billstrom, 30 of the 91 volunteers for this year’s Cycle to Farm were from Black Mountain.

“We really could not do Cycle to Farm without the volunteers,” she said. “The support from them tells us we’re doing the right thing”

The idea to connect farms through a cycling tour came to Billstrom as she was while riding on sections of what is the current loop for Cycle to Farm. She envisioned a tour that would allow cyclists to stop and rest while sampling local fare.

“They (the farms) love it,” Billstrom said. “They basically have a tailgate market at their farms, and they don’t have to drive anywhere..”