Its a greenway, not a blacktop
Melanie Balog, in her column “Making the greenway for everyone,” quotes Tim Keane, Charleston’s director of planning, preservation and sustainability, declaring that the three-mile portion of the West Ashley Greenway (WAG) being paved is 60 feet wide and the paving would be only 10 feet of that.
While extremely wide areas might be 60 feet wide, other areas measure barely 10 feet, unless the dense thicket of trees and deep ditches containing utility poles on both sides are included in the measurement.
One cannot help but believe that the information as presented is either a deliberate attempt to conceal the impact of a paved 10-foot-wide paved path on the greenway, or Mr. Keane has never walked the WAG.
In order for the 10-foot path still to leave “a nice grassy shoulder on either side” for walkers/joggers who wish to avoid the asphalt pavement, the thicket of trees lining the path would need to be removed and/or the ditches filled.
Judging by the area closest to Folly Road already under construction, the ditches are not going to be filled. The pavement extends almost up to the trunks of the live oak trees, thus jeopardizing the life of the trees.
We must conclude that some areas of the path will be completely covered by asphalt with no grass border or with only a minimal strip of grass.
In addition to being an aesthetic issue, the blacktop will absorb and then radiate a tremendous amount of heat in the summer, creating a safety hazard for joggers and walkers, and a risk of burned paws for the many dogs that are walked on the WAG.
Another peril to walkers/joggers, pets and baby strollers on the narrow stretches is bicyclists who approach rapidly from the rear without announcing their presence. We have walked for 10-plus years on the WAG and observed that fewer than 1 percent of cyclists announce their approach. This will be an even greater safety issue when bikers can approach more silently at greater speeds.
Ms. Balog writes that “bikers should announce their presence.”
We know that what one should do and what is actually done can be quite different.
We support making the greenway wheelchair accessible, as advocated by Mr. Keane, but does this require a 10-foot wide paved street?
We simply request that the width of the pavement be reduced to ensure that grassy borders are wide enough to accommodate people (and dogs) who choose not to walk/jog on a heat-generating surface. Three feet (or in some areas less) bordered by black pavement on one side and deep ditches on the other hardly seems adequate.
It is indeed ironic that Mr. Keane sees the WAG as not just a path but “a transportation link.” We bemoan the loss of the current WAG urban oasis to be replaced by a considerably less green “transportation link.”
We sincerely hope that Ms. Balog is correct that many will abandon their motorized vehicles and cycle to work, and many walkers/joggers who have chosen not to use the WAG in the past will suddenly realize the health and livability benefits of using it once it is paved.
All of the above can still be accomplished with a 4- to 6-foot-wide pavement rather than a 10-foot-wide one.
DAN and REBECCA KNAPP