John Boyle, Asheville Citizen Times Published 5:00 a.m. ET Oct. 2, 2019
Today’s batch of burning questions, my smart-aleck answers and the real deal:
Question: I live near Augusta Barnett Park in West Asheville, which used to be a beautifully shaded, well-used park. But starting on Labor Day weekend, a construction crew has been on site, basically just moving dirt around. They’re apparently building a new playground, but the sign on site says it won’t be ready until probably March or April of 2020. They also took out three mature trees, which is just ridiculous because now you’ll have a bunch of kids and parents using a park in sweltering sun. Why would they take trees out in this case? Also, why does it take seven months to build a park on a site that can’t be more than about 100 feet by 75 feet? Also, what is the cost of the project? And why was this park chosen in particular, when we already had a nice park?
My answer: I imagine renaming it “Sweltering Sun Park” would cut down on crowding.
Real answer: So first, a little background from city of Asheville spokeswoman Polly McDaniel.
“The Augusta Barnett Park playground project is one of three included in the city of Asheville bond playgrounds projects,” McDaniel said. “These projects are intended to replace outdated playgrounds that have not been updated in many years and to increase park safety and usage.”
The hot building and construction markets play a role in the timetable.
“With the current construction climate, short construction schedules are priced at a premium,” McDaniel said. “City staff seek to balance affordability with constructability when implementing new projects and are hopeful that this project will be completed sooner than next spring.”
I’m not sure “constructability” is a real word, but I get what she’s saying — the ability to get ‘er done.
McDaniel also acknowledged this is a small site but said that too contributes to the longer timetable.
The contractor is B. Allen Construction Inc., based in Candler. On site Tuesday, one worker with the company said if the site were bigger, say a half-acre, they could bring in larger equipment and get the work done in about half the time.
The lot, at the corner of Redfern Street and Clinton Avenue, is behind the West Asheville Library.
“We recognize that this is a site with limited square footage,” McDaniel said. “This in itself creates construction challenges that lengthen the duration of construction. For example, due to steep slopes along the boundaries and having a small footprint, it is difficult to use large machinery on the site, therefore, hand work must be employed to stay within these bounds.”
Now, on to the tree removal, which we all know is always a hot topic here in Asheville. Workers took out four sweet gum trees.
“These trees had girdling and exposed roots, in addition to dropping spiky seed pods, which were hazards for playground users,” McDaniel said. “This shallow root system is typical for this species of tree, indicating this would not dissipate with time or repair. Over the years, numerous complaints were received about these trees and their debris.”
Parks & Rec operates a Therapeutic Recreation Program for people with disabilities, which also uses the West Asheville Center and playground, “so an easily navigable playground was needed,” McDaniel said.
“We are planning on replacing these trees with scarlet oaks and trident maples, trees more suitable to the site,” she said.
As far as cost, the project will run $338,000, including $88,000 for the playground equipment and $250,000 for construction.
Question: I was driving back from a mountain bike ride in Bent Creek and noticed that Brevard Road south of I-240 was very wide. I was told that the road width was to accommodate bike lanes, but the North Carolina DOT cut the budget for striping the bike lanes. I would bike that route if it were striped. Is that true?
My answer: I would bike that route if it had beer taps every 200 yards.
Real answer: “Brevard Road is a primary highway serving approximately 19,000 vehicles per day in the section between I-240 and I-40,” said Tim Anderson, division maintenance engineer in the DOT’s Asheville office. “The road was constructed with additional width on the outside lanes to provide opportunities for lane-sharing, but not wide enough for a designated bicycle lane. We cannot stripe bike lanes unless there is sufficient width for vehicles lanes and a minimum of 4 feet of roadway for bike lanes.”
Anderson said they are “constantly working with local planners to provide more alternative travel opportunities — including bicycle and pedestrian accommodations — as we design and deliver road projects in locally adopted transportation plans.”
This is the opinion of John Boyle. To submit a question, contact him at 232-5847 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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