Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa (FANS) recently received the following open letter to the Swannanoa community from William George, Head of School at Asheville Christian Academy (ACA), a private K-12 school located at 74 Riverwood Road in Swannanoa.
Dear Friends and Neighbors of Swannanoa (FANS),
Asheville Christian Academy relishes the fact that it landed in this Swannanoa Valley. We are neighbors and ACA (that’s our acronym) has become the largest independent school in the region, here in the quaint little mountain town of Swannanoa. We are stakeholders and investors.
When you think of it, our valley has amazing qualities. Two private colleges, several private schools, several public schools, the largest concentration of environmentally protected ridgetops (the Swannanoa Rim), numerous summer and year-round camps, the first big settlement in the Asheville area (the North Fork Valley community), a river that is mostly picturesque and whose source is Asheville’s watershed (and the secret sauce for Asheville’s many breweries), the Black Mountain Home for Children, the original home of the Black Mountain College, several church conference centers, Blue Ridge Assembly, two museums, and an abundance of land for future preservation, agriculture and development.
Pretty amazing for a region that has, at times, been in the shadow of other parts of Buncombe County! It seems to me that strategic and thoughtful growth will be a critical factor in the future of the valley. And I am not speaking of growth only for affluent, mainstream developers. But instead, and I may be showing my naivete here, I believe in growth that will be diverse and mindful of the valley’s rich history.
Community development should be directed and constructive. I see FANS playing a vital role in bringing thoughtful and worthwhile change in the Swannanoa Valley. I laud its work so far. But there is much to be done on developing good crosswalks, sidewalks, and public trails that are safe and patrolled. I applaud the growth of affordable housing in the region. I also hope to see housing complexes across all socio-economic levels. I hope that FANS can work with county officials in the planning stage and at the commissioner level so that this beautiful area can see good, safe, and equitable development, while stewarding our greatest asset – the beauty of valley and mountaintops.
To better serve our students and staff, we have recently been able to construct four new buildings on our campus. These buildings are all part of our master plan. These additions will allow for expanded academic and athletic opportunities for our students.
We also realize that since building a multipurpose athletic field with lights for evening games and matches, some of our nearby neighbors are a little annoyed with the lights at times. I can say that we will try to switch off the lights as soon as a competition has ended. I also ask our neighbors to think of the benefits derived by our student athletes who are growing in mind, body and spirit as they play.
On a restrained note, ACA has recently had to close off its campus trails and fields to visitors who want to freely walk around on our beautiful campus. The reason for this was not that we are unfriendly, private school folks. The reason is one of safety, protection of children, and preventing both damages and inappropriate activities which have increased significantly over the last ten months during the pandemic. In this, we have followed the pattern of Warren Wilson College (with whom we have a longstanding collaborative relationship) which closed all trails to outsiders well before we felt compelled to do the same.
ACA wants to contribute to conversation in the valley. Whether it is our high school Habitat chapter building a house every other year for years, our being a major food drive contributor to SVCM, or our sports teams’ outreach, or our ministry providing gifts for those who are incarcerated to give to their children on Christmas, there is much good news to express from within our ACA community to our wonderful neighbors and to our Swannanoa Valley community.
Eighteen years ago, the owners of the current ACA property, the Bakers, told me that they would much rather the Baker Farm become a school than a storage center, or warehouse. They said the thought of hundreds of children learning and growing in this pastoral setting was a blessing. Since our relocation to the Baker Farm in 2003, we have spread our wings and expanded to serve the broader community in five counties. We are so glad to have a part in growing children ages four to nineteen. And we are thankful that we get to do this in the Swannanoa community.
William George, Ed.D.
Head of School
Asheville Christian Academy