Woodfin is set to celebrate the new Silver-Line Park, a multimillion-dollar project under development that marks the first major milestone in the ambitious and highly anticipated effort to transform recreation and access to the French Broad River through the town.
The $3.2 million, 5-acre Silver-Line Park, slated for a grand opening celebration at 4 p.m. April 21 at 1054 Riverside Drive, is the first big stop for the larger Woodfin Greenway/Blueway and The city’s Whitewater Wave, officials said.
“I’m absolutely thrilled with how the park has come about, from managing the storm water to providing this amazing place for the kids to play along the river which is much safer,” said said Luke Williams, project and facilities manager for Woodfin, hired in September. for the role dedicated to finishing the project.
The project includes 5 miles of greenway along the French Broad River and Beaverdam Creek, with access to Silver-Line Park and the expanded Riverside Park and in-stream Whitewater Wave.
“This very first step and element of this concrete project for humble little Woodfin is a huge deal,” said Eric Hardy, former Woodfin Town Administrator and now Special Projects Consultant for the town.
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Hardy noted the contribution of funders and community members who helped the project get to this point, as well as that of Jason Young, a former city administrator who died in 2020 and who he says championed the project at the Woodfin Town Hall.
Williams noted that a pirate ship playground in Silver-Line Park will be named the SS Jason Young in his honor.
It’s also scheduled for the grand opening of speakers on when the project started, where it is and where it’s going, he said, with visuals around the park telling the story, as well as hot dogs and drinks.
“One thing that’s so exciting about bringing this park and the rest of the project online is that it simply embodies RiverLink’s mission of environmental and economic vitality on the French Broad River,” said Lisa. Raleigh, managing director of RiverLink, who partnered with Woodfin on the project.
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The park includes a section of greenway, a station and platform for the Craggy Rail Line, a playground, pavilion, picnic area, river access, boat ramp water and more.
Both Williams and Hardy noted that the park sits in a bend in the river, providing more than the normal 180-degree view one would expect on the banks of the French Broad.
An 8-foot berm along the river was also removed, he said, opening up that view, Hardy said.
“The bend in the river where this particular park is is incredibly beautiful, and now you can see it up close and personal,” he said.
Raleigh highlighted the new river access point, calling it beautifully and thoughtfully designed, and noting the park’s environmental design, with flooding, access and water quality in mind.
“The non-sexy part is the storm sewer upgrades,” Hardy said, noting that when Tropical Storm Fred swept through the area in August, Silver-Line Park was not flooded.
A planned toilet installation in the existing building at the site is still in progress, Williams said.
“Right now we’re looking at all the different options we have and trying to get a sense of what the commissioners want, to see what their tolerance is for the dollars spent,” he said, noting that the officials met with restaurant owners and outfitters to gauge interest. “We try to go through the range of all the different options that we can offer.”
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The biggest challenge is that the building sits in the floodplain, which limits what can be built there, Williams said, giving the example of public restrooms with a large open pavilion.
The Riverside Park expansion and other parts of the larger project do take priority, however, he said, but that doesn’t mean they will have to be completed before the city returns to the Silver- Line.
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With Silver-Line ready for its debut, attention turns to the rest of the project.
“We’re 60% in the design stage,” Williams said of Riverside Park. “After that, we really start moving into regulatory agency review.”
He said the plan is still to complete the design by the end of the summer with construction beginning in 2023 and a potential grand opening for Riverside Park and the whitewater wave in 2024, although that may change depending on weather conditions and the duration of the authorization phase.
Part of that design is also modeling in Prague, Czech Republic, which will put the finishing touches on the design of the Whitewater Wave, Williams said, calling it the fun part of the design.
“You can’t get that much in a model where you actually have to see water running over it to make minor adjustments to rock and rock locations,” he said.
There are only a few facilities in the world that have the capability to build and test design elements in features like this, Williams said.
That tuning is scheduled for July or August, Williams said, and is set to air on Facebook Live, citing “very strong interest from the paddling community to be a part of it and watch it.”
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When design and permitting are complete, officials expect a construction schedule of 12 to 18 months, Hardy said.
The Army Corps of Engineers is the primary regulatory body, Williams said, though the city still needs approvals from Buncombe County, FEMA and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.
The greenway expansion is in the 25% design phase, he said, with the aim of offering both the Beaverdam Creek and French Broad sections as a single project.
“I think ambition is really the thing,” Hardy said. “I think for the tiny little Woodfin, the little engine that could really reclaim what has been maligned and neglected for so long down the river, this project marks that turning point for Woodfin.”
Woodfin, estimated at nearly 8,000 people according to 2020 U.S. Census estimates, grew by more than 1,800 people between 2010 and 2020.
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The river is a vital source of all the good that comes to the area, he said, and Woodfin has much of the riverfront, a responsibility the city takes very seriously.
“All the steps come together,” Williams said. “Everything is really on track.”
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One remaining hurdle is securing final funding, which Williams says has increased due to more-than-expected excavation work that will need to be done, and inflation, half of which he attributed to normal escalation. and the other half to cost increases related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In total, the price is more than $23 million, Hardy said, compared to previous estimates of around $18 million through 2018.
Of that total, he said the city still has about $6.5 million to raise, which will need to be in place before requests for proposals are issued for construction of Riverside Park and Whitewater Wave.
Some of the funding the project has received to date includes a $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for the greenway portion, $2.25 million from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, and $1.1 million. dollars from Buncombe County, as well as a $4.5 million bond. endorsed by Woodfin voters in 2017 and other private grants and donations.
The various aspects of the project: multimodal infrastructure, environmental remediation, climate resilience and outdoor recreation, all offer funding opportunities, Raleigh said.
“The nature of the project has lent itself to many strong federal and state funding sources to date, which will continue to be part of the landscape in the future, as well as a few more private foundations and ultimately donors. individuals,” she said.
Hardy said he stayed with the city because he thinks the project will come to fruition, and Raleigh is optimistic the remaining funding can be secured.
“We’re thrilled,” Raleigh said. “We have a lot of momentum and we definitely see the financial way.”
Derek Lacey covers environment, growth and development for the Asheville Citizen Times. Reach him at [email protected] or 828-417-4842 and find him on Twitter @DerekAVL.