RiverLink continues public input for Karen Cragnolin Park

Press release from RiverLink:

RiverLink, a regional non-profit spearheading the revitalization of the French Broad River, took another step forward on the design of Karen Cragnolin Park by taking public input on July 17 at a Field Day with the Community at the park along Amboy Road where a junkyard once operated. About 150 attendees were treated to walking tours of the site led by the Design Team, Nelson Byrd Woltz, that focused on cultural history, the ecology of the streams in the area, and background on the remediation of the soils. Design Team leaders also facilitated a discussion about what people would like to see as part of their community park system. The public can still provide input before August 3 via a survey on the organization’s website.

While the process to design and construct a new park on the site of a former junkyard has begun, RiverLink also sees the project as laying the foundation to replicate similar successes along the French Broad River and its tributaries. “We see the park not only as a nod our past to honor Karen’s audacious vision for the Riverfront, but we also see it as a bridge from our past to our future by building the capacity to replicate aspects of the park planning process for projects in other areas of the 8-county French Broad River Basin,” says RiverLink Executive Director Garrett Artz.

This goal for a scalable and replicable Park Master Plan was one value that design team leaders from Nelson Byrd Woltz and key stakeholders agreed upon when they met in preparation for the July 17 event. The entire process could serve as a living laboratory, from the purchase of the property in 2006 to the removal and recycling of 100,000 tons of concrete off the surface of the site to the natural remediation processes used to break down contaminants in the soil left by the car crushing operation.

Steps still ahead for the 32-year old organization include the creation of a brownfields remediation agreement with the state, several more rounds of soil tests and the creation of an environmental management plan. “Each step of the process creates new challenges and problems to solve, but we have a long track record of resolving difficulties that result in parks or River access for the benefit of the public,” said Artz.

The next opportunities to apply lessons learned in building Karen Cragnolin Park will likely occur by furthering the Wilma Dykeman RiverWay Plan to completion. Adopted by the City of Asheville and Buncombe County in 2004 and updated in the latest version of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, the RiverWay Plan vision is to build a series of public parks, trails and greenways along 17 miles of the French Broad River and Swannonoa River in Asheville that would connect the River Arts District to Azalea Park in the east, the Arboretum in the South and emerging parks and greenways to the North at Woodfin. A connection to the Hominy Creek and to the WNC Farmer’s Market could later connect to a County Plan to reach Enka-Candler via a proposed trail system.

For now, RiverLink is content to take public input on the park’s design through August 1 online. Community members who missed the public engagement opportunity on July 17 can visit Riverlink.org, review online materials about the park and provide input via an online survey.

Nevertheless, the future is never far from the minds of RiverLink’s board and staff. According to Artz, “Community leaders in the region have shown an interest in bringing RiverLink’s model of River revitalization to their communities and, while tailored to local preferences and tastes, would build upon a proven track record of community engagement, planning, conservation, and overall project success for the benefit of the public.”

For more information, contact Justin Young, programs manager, at Justin@riverlink.org or 828-252-8474.

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