City helps Biltmore Village businesses connect the dots and volunteers dig in, with the help of GreenWorks

Sometimes it takes a village. In this case it took a collaboration.

Flash flooding that dogged Biltmore Village several times last winter puzzled — and vexed — business owners. While Biltmore Village is built in a flood plain, this flooding was different than what they had experienced before. The prevailing notion was something had changed.

So members of the Historic Biltmore Village Partnership requested a meeting with City of Asheville officials and NCDOT representatives. The business association wanted to talk with the City’s Stormwater Services Manager McCray Coates. Members of the Asheville Fire Department were on hand. And Neighborhood Services Coordinator Marsha Stickford was at the table. She often attends neighborhood and business association meetings, to help coordinate solutions to community issues.

“The merchants said, ‘This has never happened,’ ” said Coates. “Water had never run down the street like that.”

People in the meeting started talking the situation out. The business owners said the usual culprit, the Swannanoa River, was not at fault. Instead, the flooding appeared to be coming from Sweeten Creek. Since there has been development along Sweeten Creek Road, some questioned whether storm runoff may be in play. Others wondered if there was a logjam in Sweeten Creek backing up the water. No one seemed to know who might “own” this issue.

Then Marsha Stickford had an idea. “Why don’t you call Asheville GreenWorks?,” she suggested. “They have a partnership with the City of Asheville and often go into communities to organize stream cleanups.”

That idea took root. And boy, did the result have an impact!


One of GreenWorks’ specialties is partnering with groups to safety guide and help maintain semi-private/public gray areas of Asheville and Buncombe County.

Eric Bradford of GreenWorks led a group of Biltmore Village volunteers out for the cleanup in early May. They quickly identified the problem. Debris had piled up against an old railroad trestle, one no longer used.

“This essentially formed a dam, created through a debris jam,” Coates said.

Tree trunks, limbs and other debris had piled up against the structure. The volunteers worked hard to clear the stream. And the hope is this is what was causing that flash flooding.

“Asheville GreenWorks and the Historic Biltmore Village Association worked hard together to help reduce the risk of flooding to our neighborhood. This is very important to so many local small business owners who operate in the Village,” said Robert Foster, General Manager of the Doubletree who heads up the Historic Biltmore Village Association. “While this is a small step in the scheme of things, it is a step forward for our community.”

“Eric and his team made it so easy to complete a project that will impact so many,” Foster added.

“We couldn’t do it without the support of Sanitation and NCDOT by removing the debris piles and bagged trash after these cleanups,” said Bradford. “We’re grateful for that constant support.”

This was definitely a win-win outcome, Coates said.

“We talked with the association, listened to their concerns and helped facilitate a solution,” said Stickford.

“The volunteers cleaned up the debris, definitely made the whole area better and restored the stream to extra flow capacity to prevent a future overflow event,” Coates said.

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