A local company has been renting Segways to private individuals to take rides on the Little Tennessee Greenway. The problem, according to the organization that helps manage the trail, is that several who use the greenway have complained. The issue is two-fold: one, should a private company be allowed to make a profit from a public walkway; and two, do the electric vehicles cause a disturbance to those who are enjoying the solitude and beauty of the greenway?
The first complaint seems the easiest to solve.
Whitewater rivers in national forests host fishing guides and rafting companies who are certainly out to make a profit. Mountain bike outfits rent and lead tours on trails throughout the region, as do stables who take paying customers out for horseback rides on public lands.
All of these activities are governed by regulations that set up rules and limits. Some activities also carry a commerical operation permit fee. Since the greenway is technically owned by the county, then its attorney and board must establish and set up reasonable regulations. It would make sense for the Friends of the Greenway (FROGS), which is seeking the Segway ban, to also be involved.
The second issue is more sticky because it is more philosophical. Should Segways — whether privately owned or for rent — be allowed on a county nature trail? We almost always argue for wilderness and less use when it comes to wilderness areas, but this is not wilderness. This is an urban trail along a special river, and part of the attraction of this trail is that it puts people close to the Little Tennessee River. Many in Macon County have fought for years to win special protections and status for this waterway. If a Segway tour will get more people in touch with the river and win it more friends and supporters, it seems a good trade off.
Segways are a unique mode of transportation. They are almost silent and, since they are electric, the only pollution is to produce the electricity that charges them. They are not as noisy or cumbersome as golf carts. Folks with breathing problems and other injuries can use them to go places they otherwise would not be able to enjoy.
As Franklin and Macon County grow and prosper, enterprising entrepreneurs are going to look for ways to make money. It’s completely reasonable for greenway Segway tours to get everyone’s attention, but in this case it seems the best solution is regulation instead of an outright ban.
Taylor-Shuler debate sorely needed
Anyone who has turned on a television set recently has to be tiring of the commercials being aired by our congressional candidates. It’s nearly nauseating, and points out the need for the two to get together for a real debate.
The editorial page of the Asheville Citizen-Times has already called for the two candidates to get together to discuss the issues. We would like to add our voice to theirs and formally ask for Rep. Charles Taylor, R-Brevard, and Democratic challenger Heath Shuler to debate.
Taylor hasn’t granted a challenger the courtesy of a debate in years. That’s the power of incumbency. Shuler’s camp is reportedly supports one.
Let’s just do it. Taylor deserves to show his constituents at least that much respect. A thoughtfully moderated, civil debate would well serve the voters of Western North Carolina and the candidates.