On June 21, the footbridge that spans the former New Asheville Speedway was packed with people, many waving their hats in the air and cheering the race cars rumbling around the track. It was the first time cars have been on the loop since the speedway closed in 1999, but this time, the drivers kept it slow, coasting through two laps before calling it a day.
The cars were there as part of a fund-raiser, helmed by City Council member Jan Davis, for a memorial to the old speedway at Carrier Park.
But the rumbling didn’t stop when the engines did. An Aug. 1 letter from RiverLink Executive Director Karen Cragnolin to Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy says the race cars violated an agreement between the nonprofit and the city that was penned when RiverLink purchased the site for $1.1 million and donated it to Asheville (the organization also raised an additional $1.6 million to develop the park.)
“The city, by allowing race cars and racers to speed around the track, has violated the spirit, if not the letter, of the conservation easement and gift,” Cragnolin’s letter says. It adds that “the property has a restrictive covenant that requires that no motorized racing occur on this property ever again under any circumstances,” and goes on to threaten legal action if there is a repeat run ‘round the track.
Davis told Xpress that the event was a big success, raising $11,055 toward the estimated $50,000 cost of the memorial. He also said he was disappointed by RiverLink’s reaction.
“This is going to create bad feelings all over again,” Davis says, referring to the snub the racing community felt from losing the track. “I thought we were over this.”
Davis also says he met with Cragnolin before the fund-raiser, and that he informed her that cars would be there. (And Davis had mentioned the idea in a May 16 story in Xpress.)
Meanwhile, Davis and others have raised $41,000 toward the memorial and would like to see it built before winter. “We’re almost there,” he says, adding that he hopes the project won’t be diminished or damaged by the Carrier car controversy.
“I hope this hasn’t picked at a scab,” he said.