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.

Monday, April 17, 2006

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?


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