Green Roundup: Karen Cragnolin Park officially opens after 17 years of restoration work

GRAND OPENING: The new features of Karen Cragnolin Park include a paved path, stormwater management to facilitate flood mitigation and water quality, pollinator meadows and educational signage. Photo courtesy of RiverLink

After 17 years of removing toxic soil and replanting native grasses and flora, the greenway phase of Karen Cragnolin Park officially opened with a dedication ceremony Aug. 25. The park was dedicated to and named after Karen Cragnolin, the founder and former executive director of RiverLink who died in 2022. Located at 190 Amboy Road, the 5.33 acres in the French Broad River Park corridor transformed from a former junkyard into green space.

Karen Cragnolin Park is the missing link in a trail system connecting Carrier and Amboy Road river parks. Phase one of a larger park project covers one-third of the 5-acre property. The latest features include a paved path, stormwater management to facilitate flood mitigation and water quality, pollinator meadows and educational signage. Additional features being considered include a pavilion, river access and an educational platform, all dependent on funding and partnerships.

Speakers at the event included Raleigh Cragnolin, Karen’s husband; Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer; Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority CEO Vic Isley; and RiverLink board member Anne Keller.

“Nothing in the riverfront greenway development is easy, and Karen knew that very well. She did not turn away from difficult situations. Her efforts produced great things, like this greenway and the park with her name on it. She fought so hard to turn RiverLink’s riverfront visions into reality, and this parcel is a hard-fought victory,” said Manheimer. “We are so lucky to have such a dedicated organization partnering with all of us in this community. I can’t say that enough. We are so lucky.”

“These types of projects enhance the quality of life for area residents and enrich visits for our guests,” said Isley. “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.”

Good to know

  • RiverLink received $50,500 from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina for its When It Rains, It Pollutes clean water campaign for the French Broad River. The campaign highlights the fact that stormwater pollution is a threat to water quality and biodiversity in the French Broad River and promotes public action to reduce pollution delivered by stormwater throughout the watershed.
  • WNC Agricultural Options is accepting grant applications from farmers diversifying or expanding their businesses. WNC AgOptions helps offset farmers’ risk of trying new ventures and expanding their farms with $4,000 and $8,000 grants. More information can be found at
  • On Aug. 26, 62 volunteers joined Asheville GreenWorks to pick up trash throughout West Asheville. Volunteers collected 48 bags of trash, weighing a total of 300 pounds. More cleanups throughout the rest of Asheville are being planned.
  • Multiple road projects are taking place along the Blue Ridge Parkway, which may lead to road closures throughout the season. Parkway officials encourage visitors to check the latest closure information at
  • On July 28, the City of Asheville “flipped the switch” on the photovoltaic array, commonly known as solar panels, at the Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Community Center on Livingston Street. This is the sixth city facility to include renewable energy production, the first being the Transit Station on Coxe Avenue. The Wesley Grant Center system will produce approximately 147,600 kilowatt hours per year, enough to power 13.2 homes.
  • On Aug. 23, Asheville GreenWorks TreeKeepers and Sand Hill Community Garden volunteers harvested 225 pounds of apples from the Sand Hill Community Orchard. The apples were donated to the free community market at Montmorenci United Methodist Church in Candler, along with the weekly bounty of produce from Sandhill Community Garden.
  • The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy purchased 124 acres in the Crabtree and Fines Creek communities of Haywood County, adding to hundreds of acres already conserved in the area. The N.C. Native Plant Society’s Alice Zawadzki Land Conservation Fund awarded SAHC a $1,000 grant to fund a biological inventory of the new preserve.

Save the date

  • The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s annual Farm Tour returns Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 23-24. All farms on the tour are within an hour’s drive of Asheville and showcase the region’s agricultural diversity, from fruits and vegetables to livestock and fiber. More information and passes are available at
  • On Saturday, Sept. 23, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Greenworks is hosting its annual WNC Big Sweep cleanup project. Volunteer groups throughout the region will focus on cleaning over 25 miles of the French Broad River, as well as several creeks in the area. More information can be found at
  • The Organic Growers School is celebrating its 30th anniversary with the Sow & Grow Fest from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 30, at Smoky Park Supper Club. The event will feature local food trucks, craft beverages, bluegrass music, and several local gardening and floral vendors. More information is available at
  • The WNC Gardening Symposium, organized by the region’s Extension Master Gardeners, comes to Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock on Wednesday, Oct. 11. With the theme of “Seeds of Joy: The Evolution of Your Home Garden,” the event will feature YouTube personality Linda Vater and Craig Mauney of the Mountain Horticulture Crops Research and Extension Center. More information is available at
  • The WNC Nature Center will host a behind-the-scenes tour from 1:30-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14. The event will give visitors the opportunity to meet the zookeepers, experience an animal enrichment session and learn about the feeding and care of the center’s animals. More information and the registration link can be found at

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About Chase Davis
Chase Davis is an Asheville-based reporter working for Mountain Xpress. He was born and raised in Georgia and holds a Bachelor's degree in Political Science from LaGrange College. Follow me @ChaseDavis0913

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