Some runners, bikers and dog walkers love the paved portion of the West Ashley Greenway now that the project is about a third complete, but others long for the dirt path they say was more peaceful and easier on their bodies.
Paving of the first three miles of the eight-mile Greenway, from Folly Road to Stinson Drive, was completed in January, said Jason Kronsberg, the city of Charleston’s deputy director of parks. Paving on the next mile-long portion can’t begin until March, after Charleston Water System completes sewer work along that portion of the trail. And it remains unclear when the final four miles will be completed, he said. “It’s on the city’s unfunded capital projects list.”
Randi Weinstein rides her bike on the Greenway, a wooded former rail line which runs behind hundreds of suburban stores and backyards. She likes some aspects of both the paved and unpaved portions of the trail, she said. But she ultimately supports paving it because she thinks more people will use it.
She was riding her bike recently on a muddy dirt portion of the trail during a particularly rainy week when her wheel slid out from under her and she fell. “Both are fun,” she said, “but on the unpaved section I totally creamed my leg.”
Kronsberg said he has heard nothing but positive comments from neighborhood group leaders who tell him that a lot more people use the trail now that a portion of it is paved. It’s easier to use because it’s level and isn’t muddy on rainy days. Even many critics support the paving plan now that a portion is complete, he said.
“A lot of people who didn’t like the idea at first, now that they realize what it is, are happy with it,” Kronsberg said. “A lot of people had the misconception that a roadway would be paved through there.”
The original plan was to pave a 10-foot-wide path, but after some users complained about that, the city held the width to eight feet.
Erin Conrad, who regularly runs and walks her dog on the trail, said she strongly favors leaving it unpaved. There are many paved places in the city to run, she said, but the West Ashley Greenway is one of the few dirt trails open to runners. “It hurts,” she said of running on a paved surface.
She can accept that the rest of the Greenway inevitably will be paved, she said. And she has contacted city leaders, asking them to pave along the side of the trail from now on, instead of down the center. That way, people would be able to choose which surface to use.
Kronsberg said the city spent about $400,000 to pave the first three miles of the trail. And it has $188,000 available for the next paving phase, which is estimated to begin in March and to run from Stinson Drive to Parkdale Drive. The money comes from a federal grant and is managed by the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments’ transportation committee, known as CHATS. No source has yet been identified for paving the rest of the trail, he said.
In the meantime, Melissa Stephens, who lives near Stinson Drive, said she will continue to use the paved section of the Greenway. “It’s just easier to walk and bike there.”
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.