Richmond Hill Woods City Park

This blog is dedicated to preserving Asheville, NC's largest wooded green space, Richmond Hill Park, from becoming an athletic field complex and National Guard armory. If you want to Save this wooded park WRITE, CALL or email all City Council and Parks and Recreation TODAY. TEll them you oppose the ball fields in this unique, hilly and amazing wooded park. There are better places for ball fields than in the exceptional city park.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A short list of the birds in Richmond Hill Park

Here is a short list of bird species that can be found in Richmond Hill Park. This is just the begining of the neotropical song bird migrations, so more species are arriving daily. Come check them out, Richmond Hill Park is perhaps the best place to go birdwatching in the city.

I will try to post some pictures of these birds in a few days

Pileated woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

Hairy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Blue-headed vireo

Yellow-throated vireo

Blue jay

American crow

Tufted titmouse

Carolina chickadee

White-breasted nuthatch

Carolina wren

Wood thrush

Golden-crowned kinglet

Ruby-crowned kinglet

Blue-gray gnatcatcher

Yellow-rumped warbler

Black-and-white warbler

American redstart


Hooded warbler

Chestnut-sided warbler

Pine warbler

Scarlet tanager

Northern cardinal

Eastern towhee

Song sparrow

American Goldfinch

Thank you for you help in compiling this Dr. Petranka

Hike on 4/20/06

Our hike on Thursday went great, but was a little rushed due to the weather. We did however see lots of beautiful plants and flowers. Below is a short list of what we saw.

Species observed on nature walk (April 20, 2006)

Fern and fern allies

Lycopodium lucidulum shiny clubmoss

Diphasiastrum digitatum southern running pine

Athyrium asplenioides Southern lady fern

Onoclea sensibilis Sensitive Fern

Polystichum acrostichoides Christmas Fern

Dennstaedtia punctilobula Hay-scented fern

Asplenium platyneuron Ebony spleenwort

Flowering plants

P. pubescens Solomon’s Seal

Smilacina racemosa False Solomon's Seal

Trillium rugelii Southern Nodding Trillium

Uvularia puberula Mountain bellwort

Iris cristata Crested dwarf iris

Goodyera pubescens Downy Rattlesnake Plantain

Tipularia discolor Cranefly orchid

Stellaria pubera Giant Chickweed

Claytonia virginica Spring beauty

Thalictrum thalictroides Rue Anemone

Podophyllum peltatum Mayapple

Sanguinaria canadensis Bloodroot

Calycanthus floridus Sweetshrub

Geranium maculatum Wild Geranium

Viola sororia Common blue violet

Chimophila maculata Spotted Wintergreen, Pipsissewa

Epigaea repens Trailing arbutus

R. calendulaceum Flame Azalea

R. maximum Rosebay, Great Laurel

Galax aphylla Galax

Phlox stolonifera Creeping Phlox

Thank you Dr. Petranka for helping to ID all these wonderful flowers in Asheville largest forest.. This is far from a comprehensive list of the plants in this forest.

Article from the UNCA Blue Banner

Students develop plan to save park

By Kristen Marshall - Staff Writer



James Wood, senior environmental science student, lives in the neighborhood surrounding Richmond Hill Park. Wood has developed a plan to save the 30 to 35 acre park that the city plans to build a National Guard Armory, three baseball fields and a soccer field

Richmond Hill Park is a 183-acre natural forest with hiking and mountain biking trails and a disc golf course. City plans threaten to destroy the balance created by Asheville’s largest wooded green space.

“Our city has a real deficit of natural areas as parks,” said James Wood, senior environmental science student. “What we’re trying to do is provide a better vision for future development in our city.”

Wood, who lives in the neighborhood surrounded by the park, heads up the group to develop new plans that won’t destroy 30 to 35 acres of the park. Currently, the city plans to build a National Guard Armory, three baseball fields and a soccer field in the park, which means clear cutting and leveling the trees and hills.

Wood wants to locate the baseball fields along Riverside Drive as part of the French Broad Greenway Project, which turns all of the riverfront property into parks and green space.

“We’re trying to put the ball field development alongside the river so that the players can get their fields and the city can preserve its largest urban forest,” Wood said.

There are currently 14 parks in Asheville with ball fields, according to the Asheville Parks and Recreational Department.

“To make a baseball field, it requires that they clear cut this huge area of forest and park that can co-exist with nature,” said Max Hartford, freshman student. “We have enough baseball fields.”

The Richmond Hill Park is most commonly known to students as the park with the disc golf course.

“It’s a really fun course,” said Nathan Watkins, junior management student. “It’s easy to navigate if you’ve never been there, and the park is really beautiful.”

Richmond Hill Park offers more than just disc golf, with a wide array of activities, including hiking, jogging, bird watching and mountain biking, most of which Wood himself participates in.

“I live in the neighborhood that will become the main entrance to the park,” Wood said. “One of the biggest problems is that the city has never really told people about this park, and the only people who really know about it are the disc golfers, and most of them didn’t even know the park extends down to the French Broad River.”



Wood and his team along with other local environmental organizations continue to literally fight city hall, pushing for new development plans that will cause less of an impact.

“There’s no guarantee that the construction won’t have environmental impacts. It will. You can’t get around it,” Wood said. “Clearing part of the forest will effect climate and humidity and introduce invasive exotic species. There’s a lot of environmental stuff that’s sort of complicated that goes along with it.”

The main goal is to keep the park natural and to accommodate everyone’s needs, according to Wood.

“If we can address the need for baseball fields in a way that is already planned out by the city and really benefits the city, then that’s what we’re going to do,” Wood said.

As the city continues to grow, green space will always be a causality. Wood wants to ensure the longevity of the park because he knows how important it is to the economy and ecology.

“This park is unique and irreplaceable and an asset to the city,” Wood said. “Our city simply doesn’t have another place that offers the same recreational or environmental opportunities as this park does. It’s a whole nature experience with a really diverse ecology. It’s a great park, and we don’t have another place like it.”

To find out more about Richmond Hill Park meet James Wood on the Breezeway on April 20 at 4:30 for a hike.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Rare species found, will our city respond with strong environmental stewardship? or something less?

April 14, 2006

To whom it may concern:

I examined the EIS for the Richmond Hills Park development and found
the biotic component to be grossly inadequate. The report appears to
rely almost entirely on records from the Natural Heritage database,
which are widely acknowledged as being unreliable for assessing the
biota of small isolated sites such as Richmond Hills that have rarely,
if ever, been visited by trained field biologists. As mentioned in a
previous correspondence, Richmond Hills Park contains two seasonal
ponds that provide critical habitat for rare vertebrates and
invertebrates. The inadequacy of the biotic component of the EIS is
obvious, since the authors apparently were not even aware of the
existence of seasonal ponds on site, and made no attempt to survey the
flora and fauna to determine if rare species are present.
I made a single visit to the site in winter 2006 and found two
regionally rare species, the marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum) and
the eastern fairy shrimp (Eubranchipus holmanii). The marbled
salamander was probably common in the Blue Ridge of western North
Carolina before the wholesale destruction of seasonal wetlands in the
mountains. This species is currently at risk of regional extinction
from the Blue Ridge, where only three remaining populations are known.
The Richmond Hills population constitutes the fourth.
The eastern fairy shrimp is extremely rare in North Carolina. The
North Carolina Museum has no records of this species for the state and
I have been unable to find any records elsewhere, such as in the
Smithsonian collection, USFWS records, or the Natural Heritage database
for North Carolina. Based on correspondence with Joan Jass (Milwaukee
Public Museum), who recently completed an atlas of county and state
records for fairy shrimp in the US, this appear to be the only known
population of the eastern fairy shrimp in North Carolina. A
comprehensive survey of plants and animals on site will likely yield
other regionally rare or unique species. For example, the southern
nodding trillium (Trillium rugelii) was observed on site. This is a
rare regional endemic that is on the North Carolina watch list.
Numerous scientific studies indicate that seasonal pond communities
are highly sensitive to disturbance within watersheds. Amphibians such
as ambystomatid salamanders and wood frogs require large forested
buffers to maintain adult populations outside of the breeding season.
In addition, disturbances in the upper watersheds from timbering, road
construction, and urbanization can result in the long-term degradation
of seasonal ponds. Estimates are that watershed disturbance that is as
far as one-half to one mile from ponds will ultimately degrade pond
The City Council is aware of the need to consider a watershed as a
single functional ecosystem that entails both the forested watershed
and the associated drainage systems. They are also fully aware of the
fact that disturbances in the upper watershed may ultimately affect the
quality of water resources below. This is the basis for providing full
protection for the Asheville watershed. The proposed construction
activities at Richmond Hills will in all likelihood have long-term
adverse effects on seasonal pond communities on site due to altered
hydrology, the loss of forest, compaction of soils from human traffic
(golf course), the input of nutrients from fertilizers applies to ball
fields, and the input of chemical pollutants from automobiles (e.g.,
oil that leaks from engines). These habitats will be best protected by
maintaining the park as a nature preserve or for other low-impact uses
such as environmental education. With an active program to control
exotic invasive plants on site, and limited forest management to
improve stand quality, the site could fulfill the duel role of
protecting rare ecological communities and providing a large green
space and nature preserve for future generations to enjoy. I encourage
the City Council, Parks and Recreation, and other interested parties to
aggressively pursue an alternative site for construction of ball fields
and other needs. At the very least, a comprehensive inventory of the
flora and fauna of the site is in order before any decision is made
concerning future development. Respectfully, Jim Petranka (Professor
of Biology, UNC-Asheville).

James W. Petranka
Department of Biology

Thoughts on Richmond Hill Park, By Dr. David Clarke

To: Asheville Parks and Recreation Department

From: David Clarke, Biology Department, UNCA

Re: Richmond Hills

Date: 12 April 2006

We can all agree that a priority should be placed on providing opportunities for outdoor recreation to members of our community. Further, while it may be difficult for the city of Asheville to acquire the funding necessary to provide the infrastructure necessary to provide adequate outdoor recreation in the form of organized, team sports, Asheville is blessed with natural areas that provide abundant opportunities for other, more individual forms of outdoor recreation. Clearly, decision makers should be looking for ways to enhance both forms of outdoor recreation without diminishing opportunities for either form of recreation. I have reviewed the environmental impact assessment of plans to build an armory and ball fields in the Richmond Hill Woods and believe that this project will seriously degrade the natural features of this site and limit opportunities for outdoor recreation that are compatible with maintaining the ecological integrity of this area. While partially degraded by infestation with exotic invasive species, siltation of creeks, and previous deforestation, the Richmond Hill site has all the elements of a recovering high quality natural area representative of our southern mountains. It is especially unique as it is the only intact natural area in the city that forms an natural gradient between the French Broad River and surrounding upland areas. Canopy and understory trees, shrubs, and herbs are native and representative of what should be expected in a natural community at that elevation. Preserving regenerated habitats such as these are an essential component of good land stewardship as the city executes its obligations as a responsible land manager. Preserving these habitats is an important service to the community as development and habitat degradation reduce the amount of habitat preserved elsewhere, particularly the low elevation and riparian areas that are found in Richmond Hill area as these are the areas most threatened by development and habitat destruction in our region. While some may argue that, since the white pine (Pinus strobus) is not native to the area, removing it and developing the area does not degrade the natural area. I would counter that argument by stating that the pines are an important place-holder in the forest, occupying a space in the canopy until replaced by native hardwoods such as white oak and black gum. The pines are not reproducing. With the pines, exotic invasive species are shaded out of the forest and the area will slowly recover and gain a diversity of native species. If the area where the pines grow is converted to paved and built space, or open space, then an important component of the forest is lost and the remaining forest is exposed to more edge effect. Leaving a legacy of restored natural communities in Asheville is an idea that I would like to promote. How can permanent protection be achieved for this area?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A pretty view of the Carolina Blue sky from the park, in a few weeks the forest will shades of bright green, and the new leaves on the trees will cast dappleding sunlight onto the forest floor.  Posted by Picasa

The mixed hardwoods and pines of Richmond Hill Park. When the hot days of summer set in, Richmond Hill Park provides cool retreat, to jog or go bird watching. Posted by Picasa

Known as Running Cedar or Running Juniper, this small attractive everygreen goundcover is sensitive to foot traffic, and steeping on will kill it. Protecting this park is more then just having trees left, we need to protect the beauty and diversity this park offers for everyone to enjoy. Posted by Picasa

The cool waters of Smith Creek. Not only does this creek provide a relaxing girggle, and a scenic view, it also can be use to help local high school studens study water quality, and aquatic ecosystems. Posted by Picasa

Small white flowers brighten the understory in Asheville's largest urban forest, a sure sign that spring is here. Watch for spring flowers all through the park! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

This rhododendron will have large white clusters of flower in a few months. This picture was taken this winter, but the park was still green with ferns, rhododendron, running cedar, hemlocks and more.  Posted by Picasa

Mountain biker on the trails in the park. Posted by Picasa

Hikers on Smith Creek Trail, enjoying the city's largest urban forest. Posted by Picasa