Celebrating 10 years of Beaucatcher/Overlook Park Community Purchase

I can’t believe it has been ten years since the fateful evening when Asheville City Council supported my proposal to conserve Beaucatcher/Overlook Park for our community.  The conservation of this parkland in our City’s center was one of the highlights of my council term.  It was the effort of many people, Tandy Solomon, John Cram, Scott Reviere, The Trust for Public Land and so many more dedicated folks who rallied together to bring this partnership to fruition.  Stan Greenberg’s willingness to sell the property for this effort instead of developing it for housing was an instrumental component of the opportunity and highlights how local landowners can make a difference in a community’s future.

I walked that land again yesterday with a friend as I have many times over the past 10 years and relished in the same stillness this mountain forest always promises us.  It is a home for wildlife, hikers, runners and walkers who enjoy the wide trails that loop through this acreage.  New homes and a housing development provide “eyes on the park” ensure that this is property to be used and stewarded.  Asheville’s own central park!

Enjoy this article from the Mountain Xpress, 2007.

Asheville City Council

The Asheville City Council made short work of its March 20 meeting agenda. In a scant two hours, Council members ran through a number of agenda items, a couple of which will have a long-term impact on the city. Besides kicking in money for a new city park, Council approved the voluntary annexation of a massive development project just southwest of Asheville, giving the developer a temporary reprieve on property taxes in exchange for the new jobs and tax revenues the project is expected to create.

Park power: Beaucatcher Overlook Park advocates jump for joy. From left, Council member Robin Cape’s daughter Lucy Ballentine, Cape, local fund-raiser Scott Riviere and Trust for Public Land project manager Maggie Clancy. photo by Jonathan Welch

A $575,000 allocation by the city will help preserve the largest tract of undeveloped land left in Asheville, laying the groundwork for a new park overlooking downtown. Proponents of Beaucatcher Overlook Park had just heard the Buncombe County commissioners approve an equivalent amount—provided that City Council followed suit.

The 30-acre parcel, owned by local developer Stan Greenberg, is on Beaucatcher Mountain above Memorial Stadium. If the property weren’t made into a park, it would probably be subdivided for high-end homes.

The plan calls for the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit, to buy the property and then turn it over to the city within the next three years. In addition to the $1.15 million pledged by the city and county, the trust has agreed to kick in $375,000, and local volunteers have raised an additional $620,000 in private donations. The trust is seeking another $500,000 in grant money from the state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund to complete the $2.6 million acquisition. Additional donations will help pay for developing the park.

The trust has said it envisions closing on the property before the end of April. Afterward, the group would negotiate an agreement with the city, including certain land-use restrictions. The city would then have to hold another public hearing before it could approve the deal. This is similar to the way Azalea Park in east Asheville was acquired.

Once the city takes title to the land, it will be responsible for developing and maintaining the park. Initial development is expected to cost at least $325,000, with annual maintenance pegged at $5,000 for the first five years and perhaps as much as $10,000 after that, according to the staff report.

Mayor Terry Bellamy gave Cape the honor of bringing the motion to approve the funds. Clearly pleased, Cape—who’s been working on the park for more than a year—said it will preserve a precious chunk of the city’s dwindling natural environment for the benefit of all.

“You are not going to have to go to a tree museum in Asheville” in the future, she declared.