Check out our Updates for August

A Note from Lisa Raleigh – Our New Executive Director

Dear RiverLink Friends,

Before I introduce myself, please let me begin with my appreciation and gratitude for your support of RiverLink’s work and for protecting and experiencing the extraordinary gift of the French Broad River and its tributaries. 

I am honored to share that I am joining the RiverLink team as the new Executive Director (ED). Given RiverLink’s rich history and legacy promoting the environmental and economic vitality of the French Broad River and watershed, this is a tremendous responsibility and one that I look forward to sharing with the talented and dedicated staff and Board members. As only the third ED in the organization’s over 30-year history, I am committed to carrying forward the vision and transformational work of founder Karen Cragnolin, who championed the river’s cause for three decades. She then passed the baton to Garrett Artz who led RiverLink for the following five years including successfully navigating the challenging times of Covid. A tremendous amount of gratitude to both for their endless work and advocacy on the French Broad’s behalf. 

Rivers have always played an instrumental role in my personal life including the past 13 years where my family and I have lived adjacent to the wild and scenic Crystal River in Colorado. But water has also been a key component of my professional world and I hold a PhD in Environmental Science from the University of Oklahoma. A geologist and hydrologist by training, my work has led me to the nonprofit sector where I spent a decade-plus as the Director of Advancement at Colorado Rocky Mountain School and most recently as a nonprofit leadership and fundraising consultant. The opportunity to help guide RiverLink forward into its next 30 years is incredibly inspiring and a perfect culmination of my background and passions. And with both our daughters off to college, my husband and I have been seeking a new adventure that includes relocating to the beautiful Asheville area given our love of outdoor pursuits.

As the team looks forward to RiverLink’s next chapters, we remain committed to conservation, education, and experiencing the river and watershed first-hand. From RiverCamp, to the Central Asheville Watershed Project and the Woodfin Greenway & Blueway Project, immediate opportunities abound for our ongoing positive impact, and soon we will bring Karen Cragnolin Park to fruition. Dedicated to RiverLink’s founder, this 5.33-acre tract of land in the French Broad River Park corridor has gone through a significant transformation from former junkyard to reclaimed, open greenspace and once completed will become another critical piece of the 17-mile Wilma Dykeman Riverway. We will share more information regarding the park’s next implementation steps in the coming weeks and how you can support our efforts.

In the interim, let me close as I began, with a tremendous amount of gratitude for your interest and commitment to the river and to all who have been part of this amazing 30+ year journey. Once again, I am honored and delighted to join this organization and look forward to connecting and meeting you as I come on board. Thank you for the beautiful opportunity and for all you have done to bring RiverLink to this extraordinary place. Here’s to a very bright future together.

Be well,

Lisa Raleigh | PhD | Executive Director

Program Updates

Good News for the Southside Community Stormwater Project

The Dogwood Health Trust recently awarded RiverLink $115,000 for the Southside Community Stormwater Project. These funds will construct community amenities as part of a stormwater project at Erskine Apartments, an Asheville Housing Authority community. Amenities will include walking paths that better connect the community to the Arthur R. Edington Education & Career Center and a shaded gathering space. Construction is expected in mid-2022. For more information on the project, click here or email

You can also check out recent media coverage of the Southside Community Stormwater Project and our efforts to clean up Nasty Branch: WLOSBlue Ridge Public RadioAsheville Citizen-Times

We had a Wonderful Summer with our RiverCampers

Summer is coming to a close and our camp season was a great success this year! Our camp counselors, Anna Miller and Grace Doughtery, explored the French Broad River Watershed with 36 campers over four weeks. They all had the chance to see waterfalls at Graveyard Fields and Looking Glass Falls, learn more about trees at the Cradle of Forestry, learn where our water in Asheville comes from and how it’s treated at the Bee Tree Reservoir, and also learn about stream ecology and stormwater with RiverLink. 

Our campers also got to have some exciting adventures on the water. They got to go canoeing on Lake Julien, tubing at the headwaters of the French Broad River with Headwaters Outfitters, and rafting on Section 9 with Blue Heron Whitewater. A service project was done by each camp week as well, taking out 12 bags worth of trash along waterways in the River Arts District and Central Asheville. We send a big thank you to all of our camp sponsors, partners, and campers and can’t wait for French Broad RiverCamp 2022!

Progress is Being Made at Karen Cragnolin Park

Multiple steps have been taken recently to move forward at KC Park. Slowly but surely this old junkyard is starting to look more and more like a community green space. 

  • Earlier this summer we conduced environmental soil sampling to test the last hotspots of pollutants left over from the property’s history as a junkyard. 
  • We’ve met with the state Department of Transportation and Duke energy to plan for future interactions of our park with their infrastructure. 
  • With the help of volunteers we planted our first pollinator garden on the property! Eventually milkweed flowers will bloom and attract monarchs anf other critical pollinators. 

Much has already been done to transform this space into a beautiful public park, but there’s still much left to do. We appreciate every one who’s helped it get this far, and look forward to working with the community to make this dream a reality.

Some Updates on Woodfin Greenway & Blueway

The Town of Woodfin will be hiring a full time project manager with a primary focus on the Woodfin Greenway Blueway project. They were also recently awarded $200,000 by the Division of Water Resources (NC Dept of Environmental Quality) as part of the funding strategy to renovate and expand their 8.5 acre Riverside Park. 

In July 2020 the Town purchased 3.3 acres from Waste Pro to convert the former industrial garbage site from barren concrete into a beautiful park that respects the natural beauty of the riverbank and inspires people to care for the river and its surroundings. 

Plans for the park include river access for kayaks and canoes, a riverbank stabilizing “boulder scramble”, natural forest, and a grand viewing pavilion. The park serves as a launching point for the world-class Whitewater Wave, currently in design in coordination with the park. A section of the French Broad River greenway passes through the park, and upon its completion will connect Reynolds Village to Asheville’s Wilma Dykeman greenway.

Other News

Farewell to AmeriCorps Members & Our Intern

The end of July marks the end of our AmeriCorps members term. Our two incredible members, Anna Miller & Sarah Clement, have been with us for two years. During that time they have given so much time, energy, and passion to furthering the mission of RiverLink. Their efforts have made such a positive impact on the French Broad River and its community. We will deeply miss having them on our team, and wish them both well as they begin the next phase of their professional careers. 

We also say farewell to our summer intern Tim Kinsey. He has spent the past 7 weeks with us, helping with our education and stewardship efforts. We really appreciate all of his hard work and wish him luck as he returns to school at Warren Wilson. 

Shop at Second Gear & Support RiverLink

During the month of August Second Gear has selected RiverLink as their monthly non-profit partner! They will be donating 1% of all the proceed they receive throughout the month. We are so thankful for their generous support of our mission to protect the French Broad River! Both of our organizations share a passion for the environment and helping our community experience it’s beauty. Their support will help us ensure that the French Broad River continues to be an excellent source of outdoor recreation.

Second Gear is a locally owned, independently run store based out of Asheville, North Carolina where they’ve been proudly serving the community since 2004. They buy and sell outdoor gear and help people prepare for their next outdoor adventure. So go get some gear this month and help support clean water! 

Support RiverLink at the Preservation Through Art: Sale and Exhibition

Preserving A Picturesque America (PAPA) will hold its annual Fall art sale and exhibition “Preservation Through Art — The French Broad” from Sept. 16 through Oct. 27 in the Cloud Room at the Wedge at Foundation. Many local artists have contributed art works in a variety of mediums, depicting scenes along the French Broad River from the original 1870s publication “Picturesque America.”

This art sale and exhibition is PAPA’s major fundraiser. Proceeds from the sale of artwork will not only support PAPA with its ongoing mission but will also contribute to the conservation efforts of such organizations as Riverlink, Asheville Greenworks, MountainTrue, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Friends of Pisgah National Forest, and Friends of Chimney Rock State Park.