Asheville Loses an Extraordinary Community Advocate

Jean Williamson Webb, 1932 – 2022

RiverLink is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of another extraordinary river advocate and agent of change for the Asheville community. Jean Williamson Webb passed away Thursday, March 29, 2022. She was 90.

Born and raised in Asheville, Jean grew to be a tireless advocate for the French Broad River and our local environment. As the Executive Director of Quality Forward (now Asheville Greenworks) from 1978 to 1983, she organized and led trash cleanups all around the city, and launched early river cleanup days when the French Broad’s ecological condition was at a low ebb following decades of industrial misuse and neglect.

Jean served as president of the French Broad River Foundation, whose aim was to develop public access to the river, create streamwatch groups for pollution monitoring, and organize RiverFest–drawing people to the river’s edge to celebrate this natural asset. Combining forces with Karen Cragnolin and Wilma Dykeman, Jean’s efforts ultimately led to the founding of Riverlink, where she served as board president beginning in 1986, working alongside RiverLink’s first executive director, Karen Cragnolin, for many years. Karen passed away in January.

Jean’s work formed the very bedrock of RiverLink’s ongoing mission. Her guiding philosophy was that people who use and enjoy the river will be inspired to take care of it. Her work made massive strides toward keeping the French Broad safe for everyone, and laid an essential foundation for the transformation of Asheville’s riverfront – a transformation that continues today.

RiverLink is indebted to Jean Webb for her can-do spirit and commitment to her community – and to a project many others found insurmountable. Her life stands as a call to action. We are honored to be continuing her work for future generations, for the river – from Rosman to Hot Springs!