The latest in a series of steps in the reopening of the pedestrian bridge that spans I-240 and connects the Hillcrest Apartment complex with Asheville’s River District took place Saturday, Feb. 5. City of Asheville police, public works and community relations staff gathered alongside community members to share information about the reopening and gather information about areas residents feel present safety concerns. Neighborhood/Volunteer Coordinator Marsha Stickford shared, “This is a chance for us to benefit from your knowledge of the area and hear your ideas. Your input will really have an impact on what we do.”
The bridge was reopened by the Department of Transportation in early December following a request by the Asheville City Council. The reopening was ahead of schedule and tasks to be completed by the city of Asheville such as removing brush and cleaning sidewalks in the vicinity of the pedestrian bridge were moved forward to compensate for the early re-opening.
“We have done some tree trimming to make the area safer and passable, but there is more to come,” said David Foster, assistant director of public works. Foster noted that temporary patches have been made on eroded sidewalks adjacent to the bridge, and added that permanent fixes are coming in the spring. Additional walk-throughs are anticipated for the spring as well, when leaves are on trees and additional growth may need to be cut.
Increased law enforcement coverage was also moved up to accommodate the early opening. Community Resource Officer Jackie Stepp emphasized the Asheville Police Department is prioritizing safety at the pedestrian bridge. “The department is making extra checks,” Stepp said. “We do surveillance and walk-throughs that [the community] may not see.”
APD foot patrols, said APD Chief William Hogan, will increase in the warmer weather of spring and summer when more people spend time outside. Meanwhile, new officers are currently making their way through the police academy, which is anticipated to provide even more law enforcement for the area, a concern expressed by neighborhoods adjacent to the bridge.
After the information session, community members and city staff walked through the bridge and surrounding area and discussed opportunities to implement Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles. CPTED principles are multi-faceted and range from landscape alterations such as the removal of underbrush that provides a hiding place for people engaging in criminal behavior to increasing community pride through beautification projects. The idea is that criminal behavior is less likely to occur in well kept areas where people are active and feel invested in sustaining a safe community.
The information gathered in the CPTED walk will form the next steps of the work plan to be completed by the public works department and community partners. “Residents living in the vicinity of the bridge are the people with the knowledge who can tell us what needs the attention, from the Police to Public Works,” Stickford said. “This is not a one-shot thing. We are going to continue paying attention.”
The city will continue its partnership with the Department of Transportation to address areas adjacent to the bridge that, like the bridge itself, are DOT-owned. Additionally, Stickford said, the city is exploring community partnership efforts that can help keep areas around the bridge clean. As an indicator of success, Stickford points to a clean up effort before Saturday’s meeting, in which Hillcrest community members picked up a literal truckload of trash from around the area.
“The Hillcrest community really stepped up to the plate on that one,” Stickford said.
In order to maintain a safe and clean pedestrian bridge, Asheville city departments will need the help of the community. Reporting criminal or suspect activity will help police keep the area safe. Sharing potential improvements can lead to a better and more accessible pedestrian route. The contact information for the Asheville Police Department’s Community Resource Officers and the city’s Community Relations division can be found below.
To follow the progress of the safety efforts, visit www.ashevillenc.gov/progress and follow the Hillcrest Pedestrian Bridge link.
See more photos of the community meeting and walk at the City of Asheville’s Flickr page.
To submit ideas or feedback for the pedestrian bridge, contact Neighborhood/Volunteer Coordinator Marsha Stickford at 259-5506 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Community Resource Officer public safety contacts:
East and North Asheville:
CRO Brien Griffin (828) 552-1467 email@example.com
CRO Josh Simpson (828) 251-4032 firstname.lastname@example.org
CRO Chad McCall (828) 251-4032 email@example.com
CRO Jackie Stepp (828) 337-7478 firstname.lastname@example.org
CRO Evan Coward (828) 777-4505 email@example.com