RiverLink breaks ground at future Karen Cragnolin Park

Press release from RiverLink:

RiverLink is delighted to announce the long-awaited launch of construction to activate and connect Karen Cragnolin Park with a paved path linked to the ribbon of river parks on each side. General contractor Baker Construction began work at the site of this former brownfield at 190 Amboy Road the week of March 20, 2023.

The Greenway Phase of the project marks the transformation of the once-contaminated property—which has been fenced off for years—by launching construction of a paved path along with innovative stormwater features for flood mitigation, water quality protections and enhancements, pollinator meadows with native grasses, educational signage, and more.

“Asheville and its relationship with the river have come a long way since Karen Cragnolin first arrived in the mid-80s,” said Lisa Raleigh, Executive Director for RiverLink. “It’s an honor to be part of this amazing three-decade journey and we are grateful to be activating this community amenity in celebration of our visionary founder and her tireless work on the French Broad River’s behalf.”

RiverLink acquired the five-acre parcel in 2006. The property was once home to an auto-crushing operation, where the soil became contaminated by oil, gas, and related compounds. RiverLink embarked on a decade-long soil remediation program—aided by plants and underground microbes—and later launched a community design process with help from renowned landscape architecture firm, Nelson Byrd Woltz in 2018. RiverLink will continue to own and manage the park’s open space, wetlands and native plantings in partnership with the City of Asheville who will maintain the greenway.

The $1 million-plus Greenway Phase would not be possible without generous support from many donors and funding sources, including a significant Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF) investment from Explore Asheville and the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA). “We are proud to invest in the Greenway Phase of the Karen Cragnolin Park, which connects the River Arts District to the emerging Amboy Adventure Corridor. We are delighted to support Karen Cragnolin’s vision and Riverlink’s dedication to enhance the economic viability of our natural systems and expand access to the French Broad River for residents and visitors to enjoy,” said Vic Isley, President & CEO of Explore Asheville and BCTDA in making the award.

“We have tremendous gratitude for all the generous support this project received,” said Raleigh, “including the many donations that were made in honor of Karen’s extraordinary life.” RiverLink will also recognize the leadership-level supporters of the Greenway Phase with a permanent installation in the park.

Next steps include a community-wide celebration and ribbon-cutting ceremony, currently projected for mid- to late-summer, 2023 based on the construction schedule and weather conditions. We will announce the date as soon as it is determined. In addition, RiverLink will continue exploring the additional park features and the partnerships needed to bring them to fruition.

For more information on the project, please visit www.riverlink.org/projects/kcp

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