Asheville has 4.5 miles of developed greenways and is working toward a 15-mile system.
Size: 12 acres
Possible length of greenway: 2/3 of a mile
Connections: To the north, Sand Hill Road at the corner of Narbeth Road. To the south, the intersection of Hominy Creek and Shelburne Roads.
ASHEVILLE — For an urban neighborhood, Doug Barlow found a rare thing when he moved to his West Asheville home four years ago.
Just across Sand Hill Road, a narrow, wooded stretch of property running along Hominy Creek offered him a scenic trek to Carrier Park, the city’s most popular recreation spot.
“I walked down here, and I saw that beautiful creek and the woods and thought this needs to be a greenway,” Barlow said.
Taking a cue from land preservation he had done in Atlanta, the 64-year-old Barlow and his neighbors tried to convince government officials and others to buy the 12 acres from private owners
With a $300,000 price tag, the effort failed to win City Council approval in 2007. But thanks to years of work by volunteers and a drop in property values, Asheville has bought the land $139,000.
The move preserves a historic and unusual piece of property, supporters say, and serves as another link for the area’s growing greenway system.
City and Buncombe County taxpayers each paid $55,756. Private donors gave $27,878. Barlow himself chipped in $500, plus around $2,000 that wasn’t counted, he said, for the original survey and other costs over the four years.
A major fear until recently was that someone interested in developing the land would outbid the city, Barlow said.
“I’ve been holding my breath for so long on this thing,” he said.
Those involved with the property soon learned its historic nature. Stone ruins show the spot of a dam built by Edwin Carrier, for whom the park is named.
An investor from Pennsylvania, Carrier dammed the creek to provide power to his resort at Sulphur Springs near what is now Malvern Hills.
It also powered a street car that went to a racetrack near the site of the current park and into the city.
The dam eventually failed and Carrier went bankrupt. The land, largely in floodplain, went to other owners. A sewer line was built along it, and over the years, a few walkers and cyclists turned it into a regular route.
Residents cited greenways in a city survey as their biggest priority when it comes to parks and recreation. But land suitable for the linear parks can be hard to come by.
The Hominy Creek land holds added value in that it provides an easily traveled connection from central West Asheville to other greenways.
From Haywood Road, walkers and cyclists can go down Sand Hill, turn into the property and after 2/3 of a mile come out at Hominy Creek Road.
The road ends at Hominy Creek Park and connects to the existing Hominy Creek Greenway that runs to Carrier Park.
The greenway from Carrier goes on to the French Broad River Park and Dog Park. Crossing the French Broad River from the park is a bike lane that runs along Lyman Street to the River Arts District.
Other routes are often busy with cars or have steep hills, said Charlie Clogston, treasurer for the nonprofit Blue Ridge Bicycle Club
“This is a good place for families to ride away from cars,” Clogston said.
The club has made health a major focus and wants to encourage cycling among children, especially those at risk of obesity.
For that reason, the Buncombe-based group was the lead agency in raising private funds and got a deed restriction for the property specifying that it should always be a public park.
It will likely be years until the city will be able to pay for paving and other improvements, meanwhile people will likely continue to blaze their own path, said Marc Hunt, chairman of the Asheville Greenway Commission
As for the bigger picture, Hunt said the Hominy Creek property could eventually link a greenway system to the Buncombe County Sports Park in Candler and on into Enka.
“It could be a pretty remarkable connection,” he said.
Along with being a corridor for commuters and others, the property is an unusual piece of forest in the city, Barlow said.
Barlow said he hopes schools will take advantage of its proximity to teach students about plants and animals.
Along with a wide range of trees — including poplars, locusts and black walnuts, people have spotted pileated woodpeckers, hawks, foxes and deer.
Barlow said he’s run across turkeys and believes there’s a coyote den nearby.
“I’ve seen all sorts of critters down there,” he said.