Jackson County Commissioners are working on the final stages to begin construction of phase one (a 1.5 mile tract) of a Greenway for county residents. The Greenway is planned to be a piece of land that stretches along the Tuckaseegee River in Cullowhee and will be available for pedestrians and bicyclists. If funding allows, construction of phase one of the Tuckasegee River Greenway could be completed as early as late fall.
According to Jackson County Planning Director Gerald Green, the initial Greenway master plans were prepared by Equinox Environmental working in conjunction with the County Recreation and Parks Department and the Greenway Committee. After soliciting bids for the project, the detailed construction plans were prepared by the local company, Stillwell Engineering.
Green noted that the planning for the Greenway first began in 2008, and over the last three years the county has been able to either purchase or work out use agreements with property owners who would be affected by the construction of the greenway system.
Greenway systems in surrounding counties were used as examples by the Greenway Committee, including Franklin’s. “Many of those involved in the planning of Jackson County’s greenway system have mentioned Franklin’s greenway as an example,” said Green. “Having lived in Asheville for 20 years before moving to Jackson County, I use the Asheville/Buncombe County greenways as a model.”
The cost for construction of phase one of the Tuckasegee Greenway is estimated to be approximately $400,000. “This cost does not include the land acquisition costs,” explained Green. “The construction project will be funded with budgeted County general revenue funds, grants (application submitted), and (we hope) private donations.”
Because a portion of the greenway property is anticipated to be adjacent to Western Carolina University, Green noted that the university has provided an easement for a section of the greenway across their property and has worked with the county in providing assistance in the planning of the greenway. “Given the tight budget for educational institutions and the challenges in spending University money on property not owned by the University, the potential for a joint effort is limited,” said Green. “But WCU is cooperating in every way they can.”
Although the master plans are complete, and Phase one is nearly ready to begin, funding is playing a major factor in the project getting off the ground. The county is still waiting on several grants to to be approved.