Azalea Road project improves flood management, park access

Things are happening along the Swannanoa River. The river banks adjacent to Azalea Road and Gashes Creek road are undergoing a makeover that will not only ease one stream bank at the City of Asheville’s Recreation Park, but will also relocate a section of the Swannanoa to have less impact during high water events. Since December, heavy earth moving equipment has been visible making changes to the landscape in the area that will greatly improve multi-modal park access and safety.


What is it?

Phase I of the Lake Craig/Azalea Road Improvements Project is an effort to better manage high water during flood events and create new and improved infrastructure for vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists at one of the City of Asheville’s most popular park complexes.

This flood control project involves lowering a streamside multi-use field to the east of the Gashes Creek Bridge to give high waters a place to expand when the Swannanoa crests its banks. Another step will install breaks to slow the water down as is passes through Recreation Park. Both moves protect property and infrastructure downstream. The relocation of the stream just west of the Gashes Creek Bridge will straighten a curve in the river, lessening the impact it has on the steep bank below Swannanoa River Road near the intersection with Azalea Road.  This will reduce stream bank erosion in that location and prevent undercutting of the roadway.


Why was this location chosen?

The Swannanoa River, flowing from Black Mountain to its confluence with the French Broad River in West Asheville, is one of Asheville’s major water corridors and can be greatly affected by heavy rain events. In past rain events, flooding on the Swannanoa River has affected Biltmore Village, Swannanoa River Road and surrounding businesses and residences.

Because of the surrounding park facilities, work can be conducted in the area with minimum disruption to businesses that line other parts of this section of the river.

The location is considered part on an ongoing flood remediation study by the Army Corps of Engineers, says the city’s Stormwater Services Manager McCray Coates.

An added benefit is the partnership with NCDOT to make improvements at the intersection of NC 81 and Azalea Road.  NCDOT plans to install a traffic signal and turn lane along NC 81 which will benefit users of the WNC Nature Center, Recreation Park and the John B. Lewis Soccer Complex.

How does the new infrastructure fit in?

“When we have large projects like the stream bank improvement plan, it makes sense to combine these efforts and go after some needed sidewalks, waterline and roadway improvements while you are in there,” Coates said.  The City is also excited to be partnering with the NCDOT for the installation of a new traffic signal and turn lane at the intersection of NC 81 and Azalea Road.

Sidewalks, a bike path, road improvements and a one-way roadway facility down into the soccer complex will improve access to one of Asheville’s most popular park facilities. Additionally, the soccer complex will get a long-needed water line installed to serve the user of the facility.

How is it funded?

Phase I of the Lake Craig/Azalea Road Improvements project is financed by a mix of state and City of Asheville funds. The total project cost is $3.7 million dollars.  The Hurricane Recovery Act of 2005 allocated funding for these types of projects, and covers $1,143,380 of the total project cost. The remainder is funded through the Sullivans Act funding in the amount of $2,748,002 and the city’s Water Resources Department ($371,127),

What’s next?

Phase I of the project is expected to be completed by December 2014. Leading up to the groundbreaking, project engineers and city staff held three community meetings to take input and inform the public about the impact of the construction and the benefits of the project’s completion. Special attention has been paid to coordinate and minimize the impact of construction during special events for the John B. Lewis Soccer Complex, the WNC Nature Center and Recreation Park.

“We know this is an extremely popular area,” Coates said. “We don’t want this to interfere with any soccer tournaments or Nature Center events. Summer is a big time around here.”

Asheville City Council approved Phase I of the Lake Craig/Azalea Road Improvement Project October 22, 2013.