Proposed greenway causes stir among Saluda residents

Published 7:01 pm Thursday, September 17, 2009

Commissioner Leon Morgan was against the vote, saying he doesn&squo;t think it&squo;s fair to property owners near the rights of way.

Saluda is currently waiting on a legal opinion from its attorney as to what it can do about opening unopened streets and alleys as access to a greenway. Since the city&squo;s decision to open unopened streets, some property owners have taken steps to claim those areas as private.

Residents in favor of the greenway Monday asked the city to impose a moratorium so no other property owners could close public accesses, but council said that was too complicated and they&squo;d rather talk to people involved and hold city meetings regarding the greenway.

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Council also asked the public not to take any action on making rights of way private, while promising that the city will not rush to open them until public discussions have been held.

Commissioners also charged the city&39;s planning board Monday with taking an inventory of all the city&squo;s public rights of way while it is waiting a legal opinion regarding what the city can do.

Some property owners whose properties are near possible public access areas expressed concerns about a greenway. Burt Browning said he is uncomfortable with the thought of having a public access abutting his land with no supervision.

But several other residents said many Saluda residents want a greenway for safe walking passages and possibly places for children to ride bicycles. Martha Ashley said her land has always been public as many children have used her pond and streams. She said she has a hard time understanding why people in Saluda are so afraid of other people near their home.

Another man said he&squo;s opened up many greenways in other areas and people have misconceptions of what a greenway will be for the city. He says a greenway does not mean &uot;people jumping out of trees raping your neighbors,&uot; but instead would be very beneficial for the entire community.

Betsy Burdett of the Saluda Community Land Trust said there has been a lot of misinformation about the proposal throughout the community. She said she is only asking for a five-foot-wide path through residents&squo; woods, not anyone&squo;s whole front yard.

&dquo;All I&squo;m asking is a way that kids can cut through,&dquo; she said. &dquo;If there are problems, you can close it.&dquo;

The Saluda Community Land Trust has been working on a proposed greenway along the Pacolet River for a few years, applying for grants and attempting to acquire property and permission for public walkways.

Saluda Mayor Rodney Gibson also said Monday that the city needs to look at greenways in its planning and vision for the city as officials have been discussing for some time their desire to have safe walking paths for residents, especially children going to and coming home from school.

Public discussions will likely be planned at upcoming Saluda Planning Board meetings regarding the greenway and ways the city can or will use its rights of way for public access.