RiverLink and Friends of Woodfin Greenway & Blueway Form Strategic Partnership

RiverLink and Friends of Woodfin Greenway & Blueway Form Strategic Partnership

Union aims to further elevate community support for Woodfin Greenway and Blueway project

Woodfin, NC – January 16, 2019 – RiverLink and Friends of Woodfin Greenway & Blueway have announced that they are joining forces in support of the Woodfin Greenway & Blueway project.   The arrangement was finalized Wednesday morning.

The Greenway & Blueway project is an ambitious $18.1 million effort to construct five miles of greenway along the French Broad River and Beaverdam Creek, new river access sites, the new Silver-Line Park, expansion of Riverside Park, and creation of the in-stream Wave feature for whitewater paddling and surfing enthusiasts.  The included greenway trails will connect to the larger system of greenway trails being developed in the City of Asheville and beyond, promising a network of more than 25 miles of safe urban paths centering on the French Broad River.  The project is being designed and built by the Town of Woodfin, with Buncombe County Recreation Services supporting the effort with design and construction of the greenway elements of the project.  Fundraising and planning have been underway since 2016, and project construction is set to begin in 2019.  Completion is targeted for 2021.  Learn more about the project at woodfingreenwayandblueway.org

The Greenway & Blueway project has roots in the 2016 adoption by 71% of Woodfin voters of a $4.5 million bond referendum as core funding for the project.  Friends of Woodfin Greenway and Blueway was founded ahead of the referendum by local civic leaders Rick Lutovsky and Marc Hunt for the purpose of partnering with the Town to develop community support and to facilitate fundraising for the project.  The Friends group has to date supported over $13 million in fundraising for the $18 million project.

The YMCA of Western North Carolina has been a critical partner in that fundraising effort as well, serving as fiscal sponsor so that contributions could flow into the project. To date, over 400 individuals and businesses have provided financial support for the project through the Y. As RiverLink is established to similarly receive donations for the project, the role of the YMCA will be ending. “The Y was honored to be the fiscal sponsor of the Woodfin Greenway and Blueway, which will have long-term positive impact on the community’s access to healthy outdoor activities,” said YMCA President and CEO Paul Vest said. “We will continue to support efforts to bring this worthwhile project to fruition.”

While Friends of Woodfin Greenway & Blueway will technically become a program of RiverLink, the aim is for the Friends to be maintained as a distinctive effort with its prominent brand and community presence.  The program will benefit from a dedicated advisory committee to be formed soon, and Friends founders Hunt and Lutovsky have pledged to remain very active volunteers in the effort.  “Marc and I are very proud of the ways our group has been able to support the project to date, especially in fundraising.  RiverLink has great leadership and staffing, with critical expertise and resources that our volunteer-led Friends group could not have assembled on its own.  RiverLink is one of the most respected organizations in the community with a great track record of accomplishment.  Friends of Woodfin Greenway & Blueway is honored by this union, and we are certain that the project will benefit greatly as a result.”, said Lutovsky who chairs the Friends group.

RiverLink was founded in 1986 by Karen Cragnolin and others to support the environmental and economic revitalization of the French Broad River.  Ms. Cragnolin retired in 2016.  The organization led the production of the landmark 2004 Wilma Dykeman Plan which offered the community a bold vision of riverfront renewal. According to RiverLink Executive Director Garrett Artz, “From the start, we have seen the Woodfin Greenway & Blueway project as one of the most compelling steps for riverfront revitalization and environmental stewardship.  We respect and honor the leadership by the Town of Woodfin and the support that the Friends group has provided to date.  And we appreciate the opportunity to contribute.” Artz added that RiverLink has already been gearing up for the effort.  Learn more about RiverLink at riverlink.org

Ahead of the merger announcement, the Woodfin Board of Aldermen on Tuesday night voted unanimously to enter a letter of agreement with RiverLink for fundraising and communication support in the project, replacing the Town’s earlier agreement with the Friends group.  In reflecting on the action, Mayor Jerry VeHaun said, “We have known from the start that this challenging project would have to be a team effort.  We appreciate so much the volunteer dedication that the Friends Group and the community have provided to date.  Much work remains though, from raising the remaining goal of $4 million-plus to getting the project built.  We are delighted with and grateful for RiverLink’s new commitment to partner.”