George Hasara – Columnist
Since becoming a board member of the Friends of the Greenway a few years back, I’ve been meaning to write a column about our local Greenway. However, the “problem” from an op-ed standpoint, is that there really isn’t much negative to be said about this wonderful eco-recreational-educational-community asset. The demographics of the Little Tennessee River Greenway use, are as universal as possible. All age groups are represented. Ditto for other socioeconomic metrics from income to ethnicity. The Greenway is a place for a serious runner or a casual walker. A person doesn’t even need to know the difference between flora and fauna to appreciate the access to the natural beauty along the river. While usage is higher in fair weather, the GW is a four-seasons venue. Ironically, because of its broad appeal and usage, the Greenway can slip to the back burner of county-funded programs. Government spending is often driven by advocacy groups who are seen as potential votes if their requests are granted. In regards to recreation needs, the major sports hold sway over expenditures. More kids are into basketball than bird-watching. Parents dream of their children becoming all-stars, not ornithologists. (Someone who studies birds.) Another factor leading to the Greenway being off the appropriation radar is that maintenance needs tend to be gradual in the making. Barring the river overflowing, gravel or asphalt paths don’t need constant attention. Pavilions, bridges, benches, tables, take a while before they succumb to the elements. Gradual deterioration tends to become invisible. One day to the next looks pretty much the same. Except for bicycles or strollers, the Greenway lacks the squeaky wheel necessary for government funding grease. Despite limited staffing, our county workers have done commendable work maintaining the Greenway. There’s also a dedicated cadre of volunteers who perform varied jobs from restoring a butterfly garden to a deep cleanup of trash. Various civic groups besides the Friends of the Greenway are also active in sustaining and improving the trails. Many of the tasks done by volunteers, in other localities, would be done by paid employees. An often overlooked aspect of the Greenway is its economic and tourism value. Besides the trails, there are other fine recreational options offered. When we travel, I scope out dog park locations for our four-legged family member. I don’t think we are alone in doing so. I’ve met a fair amount of out-of-town folks at our Bark Park on the Greenway. Wesley’s Playground is a great place for kids and their families. Put-ins along the river are a draw for kayak and canoe enthusiasts. The list goes on, and it provides reasons for people to stop, stay and spend. Residents enjoy the GW for the same reasons as visitors, but we have a bonus feature. The Greenway is a community promenade, a place to see and to be seen. The pathways not only lead us to nature but also to each other. In this context, I can’t think of anything negative to say. Contact George at firstname.lastname@example.org.