By Warren Cobb
Community Editor

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west ashley greenwayThe legend for the West Ashley Greenway improvements shows the variety of amenities being examined for the "10-mile linear park"

For nearly a decade, a dedicated group of community activists and bicycle and pedestrian advocates have tried to push local governments to help make the West Ashley Greenway all it can be. In 2008, the City of Charleston commissioned Urban Edge Studio to draw up a master plan for locating amenities and connections with the Greenway and other bikeways in West Ashley. West Of was provided with a copy of those plans last week, which will also be presented at a public information meeting, scheduled for April 15.

The planners started with this simple, but powerful mission statement: create a safer and more beautiful greenway that is a linear park, with a series of nodes that provide diverse recreational and scenic opportunities, while also serving as an alternate transportation connection.
The plans are quite exciting. They call for the trail to be surfaced with asphalt in a 10-foot-wide, multi-use strip. Water fountains and bike racks are located at regular points along the 10-mile wide Greenway, which runs from Albermarle Road to Main Road. Signage will be placed where necessary to point out connections, mile marks, and amenities. There are also plans for a community garden along the section that abuts Byrnes Downs and near the intersection with Dupont Road. The plan also includes some sidewalk connections to sites along the way, such as schools, the Charleston Tennis Center, and the proposed firefighters memorial.

Last week, Charleston City Council voted to apply for grants from two agencies. The first asks for $100,000 with a $25,000 City match from the state parks department's Recreational Trails Program. The second asks for $235,000 with a $47,000 City match from the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments, under the heading of "transportation enhancements".

If approved, the City would seek to begin immediately, with Phase 1 being the 1.25 miles from Folly Road to Coburg Road. Other sections would be phased in as funding becomes available. As of right now, no funding is available for any of the proposed improvements. The total cost of the entire project is estimated to be about $8.4 million for all 10 miles to Main Road. Council should know within two months if those grants come through.

District 8 City Councilman Mike Seekings, an avid cyclist, calls the project "great stuff." "I'm thrilled about it," he says. "The West Ashley Greenway is beautiful, but non-functional. This is good news for West Ashley, and good news for the Greenway."

The surfacing for the Greenway has been the subject of much debate. The City says the surface will most definitely be asphalt. City Parks and Rec. head Matt Compton championed regular old asphalt for several reasons. One of the goals was to minimize maintenance. "Asphalt is the most cost-effective, both in the short and long term," Compton says. "It's easy to put down, easy to maintain, and easy to repair, and it will not significantly increase runoff issues."

Compton also says the trail would only have a 10-foot-wide paved surface down the center of the lane. Wider sections of non-surfaced trail will run along each side, three feet on one side, 10 feet on the other. Much of the Greenway will be on a "no mow" list to stay natural both for scenic and drainage purposes.
The West Ashley Greenway Master Plan will be presented in the cafeteria at St. Andrew's Elementary School on the evening of Thursday, April 15. (Time to be announced.)