Last Updated on January 9, 2024
In Western North Carolina, we’re fortunate to live among some of the richest, most biodiverse wilderness areas in the world. And luckily, greenspace isn’t something you have to drive to encounter. Within Asheville city limits, there are myriad parks, greenways, and other well maintained outdoor spaces in every direction. And more are proposed or in progress!
Asheville’s River Arts District (RAD) is a former industrial corridor that has in recent years been transformed into a destination for local arts and dining. Even this neighborhood is home to numerous greenspaces.
Here are five parks and greenways that help make Asheville’s River Arts District a popular destination.
5 Parks and greenways in Asheville’s River Arts District
Today, there are 17 miles of existing and projected greenway systems along the French Broad and Swannanoa Rivers, from Biltmore Village north to the edge of Woodfin. These greenspaces provide environmental benefits and recreational and wellness opportunities. And they are also revitalizing the riverfront by encouraging economic development and job creation:
French Broad River Park and Greenway System
Meandering through West Asheville, the French Broad Greenway System begins at Hominy Park and follows the river to French Broad River and Dog Park. Recently completed stretches now follow the river north to Craven Street. The French Broad River Park features plenty of greenspace with old trees, a wildflower garden, and recreation amenities. The fenced dog park is the perfect place to exercise and socialize your best friend. Additional miles of greenway, heading north from Craven Street, are in progress on either bank of the French Broad.
Read more about the French Broad: The French Broad River: A beginner’s guide to recreation, safety, and more
Carrier Park sits at the location of a former local racetrack on the south side of the River Arts District. Today, the site features a multi-use sports field, volleyball courts, a giant playground, a roller-hockey rink, and velodrome for cycling. People interested in less structured recreation opportunities can enjoy the park’s picnic pavilion, river overlooks, and wetland interpretive trails.
Karen Cragnolin Park
Once divided by a former junkyard, the 5.33-acre Karen Cragnolin Park now connects French Broad River Park with Carrier Park. The park is named after Karen Cragnolin, the former executive director of local environmental group RiverLink. Cragnolin helped spearhead the creation of Carrier Park and French Broad River Park. Once fully complete, her park will feature places for recreation, education, and enjoying the natural beauty of the French Broad River. Park planners are also proposing a pollinator garden, which will attract butterflies and bees to native flowers. After two decades of work, Phase One of the park (the greenway phase) is now open.
Murray Hill Park
Next time you’re walking through the River Arts District, take note of one of Asheville’s newest parks. Though not located along the river itself, the small greenspace is worth the detour for a visit. Murray Hill Park is located in the South French Broad neighborhood behind the RAD businesses on Depot Street. This seven-acre park features a loop walking trail, as well as a pavilion with benches, grills, and picnic tables.
Wilma Dykeman Greenway
Wilma Dykeman (1920–2006) was an Asheville native and author. Her first book, The French Broad (1955), made the first full-fledged economic argument against water pollution—seven years before Rachel Carson shifted the public’s environmental consciousness with her book, Silent Spring. So, it is fitting that one of our local greenways is named after her. The Wilma Dykeman Greenway was constructed as part of the River Arts District Transportation Project, a major urban waterfront development project running through the RAD. Her greenway follows the eastern banks of the French Broad River from Hill Street to Amboy Road.
Live near the parks and greenways in Asheville’s River Arts District
Decades ago, the River Arts District may well have been called the River Industrial District. The area sits low along the French Broad River and train line, which made it a perfect location for industries ranging from iron works to chicken farming. These businesses faded over time, and beginning in 1985, artists began reopening the old industrial buildings as studios. You can still see history reflected in many of the building names, from 352 Depot Street Studios to The Hatchery. Today, the RAD is an ever-expanding complex of art studios and galleries. It’s also becoming one of Asheville’s culinary and entertainment hubs.
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