The Future Karen Cragnolin Park is in the Works

Old Tree Hangs over French Broad River near Asheville

RiverLink executive director Garrett Artz recently assembled a small crowd at a parcel of land on the banks of the French Broad River to announce a new park design committee.

The tract of land identified by RiverLink as the “missing link” in its French Broad River hiking and biking trail is the future Karen Cragnolin Park. It is being named for RiverLink’s former executive director in honor of her 25 years of faithful service, but has proven exceedingly difficult to rehabilitate.

EDACO auto salvage yard previously occupied the 5.33-acre property, spewing five decades worth of volatile organic compounds (VOC) contamination into the ground from crushed automobile and truck wreckage. Add to that the necessary removal of layer upon layer of concrete dumped on the ground, eight feet and more deep in some places.

“The owner had a dispute with the city, and his way of getting even was to have every cement truck in the state go there to clean their trucks. So this site was not only covered with cars, but beneath the cars was concrete, in some cases at least eight feet deep,” Cragnolin recalls.

D.H. Griffin, a national company based locally, agreed that in exchange for the concrete they would conduct a training workshop on recycling concrete for other contractors across the country. They recovered some of their cost by selling the ground concrete. For nine months D.H. Griffin ran this mining operation on Amboy Road where they dug up and ground 100,000 tons of concrete, and sold it as a component in asphalt.

To mitigate the VOC contamination RiverLink sent samples to Belgium where a liquefied bacterium was created that would consume them without producing any hazardous byproducts. This bacterium was used to hydro-seed the affected area. Today, all but two small hotspots have been tested, and found to be within regulatory limits.

The next step in the process will require RiverLink to release a Request for Qualifications to select a firm or individual that can facilitate community design workshops to provide design workshops to produce concepts from which to choose for the master plan. RiverLink will also be working with N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to obtain a Brownfields Certification before construction of the master plan will begin.

Artz said that RiverLink welcomes comments and ideas from the community at large about the park’s design. To submit your ideas, begin by visiting their website at

By Mark-Ellis Bennett

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Photographs by Mark-Ellis Bennett:

3713 – Acting RiverLink executive director Garrett Artz announces plans for a new committee to guide the design for the future Karen Cragnolin Park.

3730 – The new park between the French Broad River and Amboy Road will be named for longtime RiverLink executive director Karen Cragnolin.