Woodfin Unleashes Wave of Outdoor Rec Opportunities - TribPapers

Woodfin Unleashes Wave of Outdoor Rec Opportunities

Riverlink Executive Director Lisa Raleigh speaks at the groundbreaking for Woodfin Greenway and Blueway.

Woodfin – On Friday, June 21, the Town of Woodfin held a groundbreaking for the anticipated Taylor’s Wave and the expansion of Riverside Park known as the Woodfin Greenway and Blueway. More than 200 people braved the hot afternoon to hear from project partners and elected officials, learn about the next steps in the project, and celebrate the future of outdoor recreation in Woodfin.

Riverlink Executive Director Lisa Raleigh led the press conference and groundbreaking, with stakeholders Woodfin Town Manager Shannon Tuch, former Woodfin Mayor Jerry Vehaun, State Senator Julie Mayfield, Buncombe County Commissioners Amanda Edwards and Terri Wells, Explore Asheville CEO Vic Isley, and project advisor Marc Hunt making statements in support of the initiative.

The nonprofit Riverlink, along with Buncombe County Recreation Services and the Town of Woodfin are the primary partners in the Woodfin Greenway and Blueway initiative. The ultimate goal of the project is to develop additional recreation facilities along the French Broad River.

The standout feature of the project will be Taylor’s Wave, a unique feature combining the natural structure of the river and constructed elements to create a “standing wave” for kayakers to test their skills. The Wave is similar to world-class competition sites and tourist destinations in New Zealand, Colorado, and others.

The Wave has received permitting from federal and state environmental agencies including the US Army Corps of Engineers to avoid any harmful environmental effects on the French Broad both during construction and following completion. The project includes flood mitigation efforts such as improved stormwater management and streambank restoration. A bypass is being constructed to one side of the Wave to ensure aquatic wildlife is able to pass by, as well as provide an alternative to the Wave for river travelers such as boaters, tubers, and others who do not wish to surf the wave.

The Wave is named for local whitewater instructor and enthusiast Taylor Hunt, who passed away in 2015. Taylor’s father Marc Hunt has served as a consultant and project leader since its inception. Speaking at the event, Hunt celebrated the increasing attention being paid to the health and accessibility of the French Broad. “The Woodfin Greenway and Blueway is one more important way for us to care for the river,” said Hunt.

Construction on the Wave is slated to begin in June 2024. “Construction on the riverbed will appear dramatic to many who pass by, but effects on the environment during construction will be minimal,” said the Town of Woodfin in a video released ahead of the event. “The site will return to a much more natural state after construction.” A completion date of fall 2024 is set, but it could stretch into 2025 depending on river flow conditions. The Wave will open to the public before additions to the accompanying greenway are completed.

In addition to Taylor’s Wave, the Woodfin Greenway and Blueway project also includes an expansion and added amenities to Riverside Park. Planned features include restrooms and changing rooms, a children’s play area, additional parking, and improved river access. The expansion will nearly double the current footprint of Riverside Park and restore a former industrial site to natural grade. The greenway portion of the project is still in the design and acquisition process. Construction is expected to begin in 2025 and wrap up by 2027.

The cost of Taylor’s Wave and the improvements to Riverside Park are estimated to be $14.2 million. The majority of funding has come from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority, other state and federal grants, and the Town of Woodfin, which passed a bond referendum for the Woodfin Greenway and Blueway project in 2016. Additional funds of $2.9 million are necessary to complete all planned improvements, with additional grants and donations being sought to close the gap.

Following the groundbreaking ceremony, Woodfin Mayor Jim McAllister touted the project as a unique asset for Woodfin. “This is going to be an economic driver,” said McAllister. “We’re going to need places for people that come to The Wave and use the Greenway to stay and to eat. We want them spending their tourist dollars in Woodfin and Weaverville instead of Asheville, and I’m not ashamed to say it,” said McAllister.

“The economic benefit will be huge, but cleaning up this nasty landfill and fixing the riverfront to where it can’t erode anymore is another huge feature. And then if you add on recreation, it’s a huge win-win,” said McAllister. “We’re just going to have to figure out what to do with traffic, and we’ll work on that during the two years this is being built.”