Many folks woke up Tuesday morning determined to start the year off with some sort of exercise. Some took to the Cooper River Bridge pedestrian path, others to the beaches, but several took to the West Ashley Greenway.
The greenway has recently been partially paved, a controversial move that led to some back-and-forth and ultimately some compromise. More than 3.2 miles have been paved, from the start at Folly Road to Stinson Drive. Original plans for 10-feet-wide asphalt were reduced to 8 feet (or in some places what looks like less) thanks to resident and user input. The goal was more users, more connectivity and more versatility (read fewer rain-related problems).
Among a completely unscientific sampling of users Tuesday morning, responses ranged from neutral to genuine enthusiasm.
It was such people as Jeanne Hartnett who city planners hoped would become users of the paved path. Hartnett, sporting her Clemson sweatshirt, said she uses the greenway twice a day, once to walk her dog and then later for a two-mile walk.
“I didn't walk on it when it was dirt. (At) 65 years old I was afraid I was going to step in a hole and twist my ankle,” she said. And she bikes the greenway now, too.
Susan Steadman said she rides her bike on the greenway now that it's paved. “So that's kind of an improvement for me,” she said. She's been using the greenway about twice a week for about two years. She's happy there's still grass, but at the same time worried that the reduced paved width would be too narrow to accommodate walkers and bikers. But in all likelihood, the folks who want to go on long, fast bike rides aren't going to be using the greenway anyway.
Margaret Davidson, also walking her dog, moved to West Ashley in November but had lived downtown.
“I would have been one of the people who would have preferred it unpaved,” she said. But even she said it allayed her fears that her new neighborhood would be less pedestrian-oriented than her previous one.
Even for folks who have lived here long enough to remember when the greenway still had the railroad ties, seeing it change over the years has been interesting. That was the case for Kim Jones and Lee Ivey, out with their dogs. Like some, Jones said when she first heard about the paving, she couldn't understand why it would be done. But when she walked on it, she realized she liked it.
Ivey had a broad, philosophical perspective on the changes.
“I prefer the way it was,” he said. “But you know, it's not a big deal. It's not something to get real upset about.”
Jones also talked about the feeling of the greenway, of being removed, being out in nature.
You forget that you're walking behind a grocery store or that you're a quarter mile from the car dealers. Yet the groceries and the shops at Avondale and the rest of it are just up the road, which is another point in favor of paving it, making a more pedestrian-friendly community.
Seems to be working out well so far.
Reach Melanie Balog at 937-5565 or firstname.lastname@example.org.