It has never been easier to take a tour of downtown Asheville’s Urban Trail, thanks to a free downloadable audio guide made available through the City of Asheville’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department.
The tour, funded with a grant from the Janirve Foundation, is designed for mp3 players, and walks participants through the 1.7-mile, 2-hour trail that highlights Asheville’s history, architecture, public art and local personalities.
Though the Urban Trail has seen guided tours in the past, it was intended to be a self-guided, so people walking the trail can stop in shops and restaurants or other attractions and resume the tour on their own, a feature enhanced by the audio tour.
Recording and mixing the mp3 took about 18 months and utilized the expertise of tour guides and local historians familiar with the stories behind the Urban Trail. Those guides served as narrators of the tour, recording as they stood at each of the 30 stations along the trail.
Getting the input of those guides, said Diane Ruggiero, City of Asheville Superintendent of Cultural Arts, was important because they are the people who best know what most people are interested in hearing about.
“These are great tour guides that have been with the Urban Trail for years,” Ruggiero said. “They really stayed with the whole recording process.”
Dixie Guthrie, who has served as an Urban Trail tour guide since the late 1990’s, was one of several guides who lent their voices and knowledge for the audio tour.
“I just love the Urban Trail,” Guthrie said. “It tells so much history about Asheville and the early days of downtown.”
The recording, Guthrie said, is a faithful reproduction of the guided tours she led.
“It’s nicely done,” Guthrie says, pointing out that local musicians supplied a soundtrack for the recording. “It gives you more than if you use just the brochure.”
“We think it is pretty cool. We want to make this information available to as many people as possible,” Ruggiero said.
To further enhance the experience of the Urban Trail, The Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department is working on a version of the audio tour geared towards children, as well as a tour that can be accessed by cell phone. An online slideshow tour with audio is also in the works so people not in Asheville can see the rich history its downtown holds.
Click here to download the audio tour, as well as both the Urban Trail map and brochure.