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New Asheville River Park Planned

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8/25/2008 - New Asheville River Park Planned
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Volunteers picking away at a former automotive shop near Ashevillle's  French Broad River are helping turn an area known best for post-industrial blight into a centerpiece park.

Vacant lots and former commercial buildings make up the land that runs along the river behind 12 Bones restaurant to the south and Craven Street to the north.

But within five years, organizers say that will turn into a 30-acre chunk of green space on Riverside Drive four times the size of Pack Square Park planned for City-County Plaza downtown.

Alex Cury, a retired attorney and artist from Montford, bicycles on Riverside Drive and puts her canoe in at Gene Webb Park, a small piece of the tract already used for recreation.

It is a very unpleasant ride through the industrial area, and the cars drive too fast, Cury said. Its seedy, and there is nothing green about it. So to ride back on a greenway would be glorious.

RiverLink, which promotes the protection and recreational use of the French Broad, bought the final 3-acre missing link for the park in September for $575,000.

Volunteers are in the process of taking apart a blue building that housed an automotive shop on the site. RiverLink will test the ground to see if any pollution needs to be cleaned before the site can be re-used.

The 3-acre plot will house a sculpture garden and will join surrounding properties to make up a short section of greenway, a linear park that features pedestrian and bicycle paths, said Karen Cragnolin, RiverLink executive director.

The other properties include Gene Webb Park and land recently donated to the city by Progress Energy.

The project will change more than the view along the river, Cragnolin said, since it will be visible from the Smoky Park Bridge, the main roadway over the French Broad.

Part of the excitement here is really that Ashevilles front door is the Smoky Park Bridge. And right now, when you go into downtown, what do you see? A blue building and nothing attractive, she said.

When we start putting in the greenway and the sculpture garden, that is going to be a really powerful statement about what is going on at the river. Were telling people we are an arts destination.

RiverLinked

The nonprofit RiverLink is trying to create 17 miles of unbroken greenway on and around the French Broad River. RiverLink acquires the property then gives it to local governments, like Asheville or Buncombe County. Some details:

Plans call for a greenway from the N.C. Arboretum in the south to the Blue Ridge Parkway on the east and UNC Asheville to the north.

Completed portions include Carrier Park on Amboy Road, French Broad River Park on Riverview Drive and Azalea Park off Azalea Road.

Portions soon to be added include Karen Cragnolin Park on Amboy Road, a portion next to N.C. 191 southwest of the N.C. Farmers Market and a portion connecting Carrier Park and Hominy Creek River Park.

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