The Ray C. Anderson Foundation recently awarded a “NextGen” grant to RiverLink in Asheville, North Carolina to help in connecting two portions of an existing greenway system along the banks of the French Broad River.
The park where the greenway is being completed, Karen Cragnolin Park, has a rich 30-year history of environmental awareness and restoration. Riverlink originally entered an adjacent property in 1999 and raised the funds necessary to remove an eight-foot concrete cap from a 5.9 acre property that was originally the Asheville Speedway.
In 2009, RiverLink acquired a piece of land that had originally been a junkyard, with potential to serve as the missing link for the greenway, once necessary environmental remediation was accomplished. RiverLink received a grant from EPA’s Brownfields program to clean up volatile organic compounds, and now, with a current grant from Garden Club of America and the Foundation’s matching grant, the final phase of the plan should soon be completed. It will seamlessly integrate the revitalized land into the existing greenway system and provide additional amenities for the local community.
The Foundation’s NextGen is made up of Ray’s five grandchildren and their spouses who comprise the “next generation” for Ray’s legacy, which is embodied in the private family foundation that Ray endowed upon his passing in 2011. Traditionally the NextGen has been allocated funds annually from the Foundation Board to award as they see fit for carrying on their grandfather’s legacy. This year, the NextGen decided to put their focus on water conservation, choosing to use the funds to impact projects in their own communities.
“Riverlink has a long, established history in Western North Carolina, and it's an honor to be supporting them in reclaiming this vital connecting piece of riverfront property,” said Jay Lanier, grandson of Ray C. Anderson and a resident of Asheville. “With the rapid development of the adjacent River Arts District and exponential increase in usage of this stretch of the French Broad by locals and visitors alike, we believed this was a project whose time had come. We are excited to see Karen Cragnolin Park completed and I’m proud that Ray's legacy will play a role in delivering this stretch of river and land back to the community.”
In the past, the NextGen has supported urban agriculture projects through Truly Living Well in Atlanta. They have also supported increased educational outreach for the Net-Works program, which is a joint venture between the Zoological Society of London and Interface, to reclaim plastic fish nets in remote fishing villages to repurpose into fibers that can be used to make new carpet tile. This past year, they also announced a grant to the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper to support a new floating classroom project on West Point Lake in Troup County, Georgia, where Ray Anderson grew up and founded Interface.