As French Broad River overflows with boaters, The Bywater is forced to confront parking issue

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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bywater_parking_asheville_2015The Bywater bar has become a victim of its own success.

A popular watering hole for cocktail sippers, craft beer drinkers and French Broad River users, The Bywater has limited parking at its 796 Riverside Dr. location. And it is the boaters and tubers, in particular, that overwhelm the bar. Groups use The Bywater as an ending point for their float trips, which means that they often meet there early to park, then get together to trek to a spot upriver to start their trip. That causes The Bywater’s parking lot to fill up quickly.

It’s also causing people to create their own parking spots along Riverside Drive. That has forced adjacent property owners to post signs banning the practice. It has also triggered attention from N.C. Department of Transportation officials and Asheville police. The Bywater reports that DOT officials are considering an outright ban on roadside parking and lowering the speed limit on Riverside Drive. Asheville police have been actively ticketing parkers who block bicycle lanes.

The Bywater has reacted with two recent Facebook posts urging its customers to carpool and to use a shuttle service offered by neighbor Asheville Adventure Rentals. The Bywater also announced that it would close off its parking lot during the bar’s off hours to stop people from parking there early.

Since it opened in 2010, the bar has been a destination for tubers and boaters looking to sip a cocktail or a craft beer after an afternoon on the French Broad River. It has, in fact, been the only food/drink destination for recreational users of the portion of the river that runs along Riverside, although that is changing quickly.

Here’s the full statement from The Bywater on Facebook.

The Bywater is thankful for all our friends and family that support us through cold winters and sweaty summers! We want everyone to come in thirsty and leave here happy! We know parking can be a pain… And we’re working on a solution! In the short term, parking safely and responsibly, carpooling, and using the shuttle service would be incredibly helpful

As the Bywater has become busier and river traffic has exploded, we are finally being forced to confront our parking problem. We have been visited by both the NC Dept of Transportation, and the Asheville Police Department in regards to this matter. PLEASE take this to heart!

Our #1 issue is boaters leaving (multiple) vehicles in the parking lot while floating the river. We see typically 3-6 people each leaving a car in the parking area and taking a single car to the put-in. This fills the parking lot for hours, leaving no parking for immediate customers

The second major issue we are having is that many floaters (40% by our count) use the Bywater as a takeout and then proceed to leave without patronizing the business. This creates a parking problem for actual customers.

The third major issue is irresponsible and dangerous parking on the side of Riverside Dr. This includes blocking the bike lane, actually parking on the roadway, and blocking access to neighboring businesses.

As a result, the NCDOT is threatening to abolish roadside parking, and the APD is actively ticketing cars along the roadway.
In order to better serve our members, the Bywater will be blocking off the parking lot during closed hours, encouraging alternate arrangements for the floaters and carpooling.
Thanks for understanding.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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  1. Dean July 5, 2015

    This is part of the larger problem with Asheville: it’s being loved to death.

    Get used to it folks. Crowding, parking issues, and hordes of people are just part of it.

    Besides, it’s a nasty old river that’s been a dumping ground for decades. It doesn’t move fast enough to clean out anything. Shower and scrub if you’ve been dangling your legs in it for hours.

    1. jtroop July 5, 2015

      the FB is awesome, the BW is awesome, Asheville is awesome…. fun things draw crowds. the more the merrier!

  2. luther blissett July 3, 2015

    The BW may need to patrol its own lot and run a membership card check on those trying to park, or come up with some kind of satellite lot and shuttle transport. But it’s disingenuous to suggest that if they could deal with the (selfish) floaters and boaters there’d be enough parking spots.

    This is why I avoid the Bywater during the summer: the lot is barely large enough to hold everyone there on a Thursday evening in September, and APD now sees Riverside Drive as happy hunting ground for tickets. That’s reasonable, because parking’s a dangerous mess.

  3. Kim July 1, 2015

    I think the owners of the Bywater have made some good suggestions already. The shuttle is of course an option, and if people don’t want to do that, they can carpool. I’m concerned that the parking and traffic in Asehville in general is just going to get worse. Ideally, we would try to carpool whenever possible- and bike when a car is not needed. Anyway, my opinion is that rather than just expand the parking, let’s try to reduce the cars.

  4. Jami June 30, 2015

    I asked one of the owners of the Bywater why they didn’t just buy that lot for parking years ago. They said the owner saw an opportunity and hiked the price up so it’s not feasible.

    1. Ron July 1, 2015

      They (the owners of the lot) should just lower the price so the Bywater could buy it, pave or gravel the lot, and let the people park there. :S

  5. weavervilleman June 30, 2015

    they should just by that empty overgrown lot by Grainger, pave or gravel the lot and let the people park there.

    1. indie June 30, 2015

      Love the numerous “they should just…” suggestions.

    2. Adam June 30, 2015

      Who is “they”, and why should “they” spend money on something that provides no return on investment? As stated, 40% of the people parking here do not patronize The Bywater in any way…

      1. Doug Cegelis June 30, 2015

        Clearly Adam, the OP was referring to the owners of the Bywater. While the suggestion may not be financially possible for the owners of the bar, it certainly could generate revenue for the bar by allowing for more paying patrons, not to mention river property is only going up in value right now. That piece of land could appreciate considerably in the coming years. They could open the lot on weekends, with a paid attendant to either-

        A. be sure that the potential parkers are going to patronize the establishment


        B. charge a parking fee if they’re just using the Bywater as a landing for their river adventures.

        1. indie July 1, 2015

          Wow and the owner of said lot would not be bright enough to price the property to reflect appreciation prospects.

          1. Doug Cegelis July 2, 2015

            Are you always so nasty, “indie?” Feel free to point out where in my reply I suggested that the owner of said parcel would basically give it away. Barring that, please refrain from any more negative, presumptuous replies.

      2. luther blissett July 3, 2015

        “As stated, 40% of the people parking here do not patronize The Bywater in any way…”

        That might be so, but the Bywater’s parking isn’t adequate for its clientele, and hasn’t been adequate for a long time. I’ve been there on chilly evenings around Halloween and it’s still been full to bursting with cars on the grassy verges or even in the ditches along Riverside.

        They may just have to suck it up and pay whatever the nearby lot owner wants. Or squat on it and defend against towing companies with spare oars.

  6. BC June 30, 2015

    Not just a Bywater problem. Drive thru Amboy Road, Riverside, Sandy Bottoms, or Hominy Creek on a sunny weekend and you’ll see the extent of the parking problem. Asheville & Buncombe Co. need to provide more parking and more river access points for boaters and floaters. The river helps make this area a tourist attraction and local government should support that.

    1. jtroop July 1, 2015

      I agree! While this is “a good problem to have” for the Bywater, this is not truly their problem. The FB is a natural resource that has many other stakeholders than just the private businesses operating on and off of it….

      This is problem of access and something every river, beach, lake, wilderness area, attraction has to manage. The city, the county, the state and others need to address access…. NOT the Bywater’s parking lot.

      1. Asheville native July 2, 2015

        It is anything but a “good problem” to have and it is part of their problem. Even if boaters aren’t using Riverside to park on, the ByWater attracts large enough crowds to make that stretch basically a parking lot.


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