When Garrett Artz grabbed the reins at RiverLink about five years ago, plenty had already been done and there was plenty more to do in the realm of revitalizing the French Broad River and its watershed.
Artz, the environmental nonprofit’s executive director, is credited with championing the river’s water quality, as well as its capital projects like the Karen Cragnolin Park and the Woodfin Greenway and Blueway and Whitewater Wave.
Now that Artz is moving on after taking over the nonprofit from Cragnolin, who founded RiverLink in the mid-80s, Artz will easily admit there are even greater tasks ahead, and he’s sure they will get done.
The largest challenge RiverLink has faced, he says, comes with the development of the city and surrounding area. As Asheville continues to expand, Artz said conservation becomes less of a priority.
“As a region, as a state and probably as a nation, we’re behind making sure that we preserve our water quality, preserve our outdoor recreation opportunities along rivers and other nice places. I think that’s what we’re grappling with,” Artz said.
Jim Stokely, president of the nonprofit Wilma Dykeman Legacy, worked closely with Artz during his initial time as executive director and throughout the transition process. Stokely said Cragnolin, was, in a sense, RiverLink, and the change from an iconic leader to the second stage would be drastic.
RiverLink and Wilma Dykeman Legacy recently worked together with the city to rename the newest section of greenway through the River Arts District after Stokely’s mother, Dykeman, who was a well known conservationist and author of “The French Broad.”
“He’s a good man with a good heart,” Stokely said. “We need as many of those folks as we can get. He’s open to suggestions, he’s affable, he’s good at forming lasting relationships.”
According to Stokely, Artz’s ability to form relationships with the city of Asheville as well as with the town of Woodfin has allowed the organization to navigate political challenges.
“He privileges one person to another, communication and friendship, but he’s also got the skills to back it up,” Stokely said.
After Artz steps down, RiverLink aims to continue his legacy through continuing the two capital projects underway, restarting its education program now that COVID-19 protocols have lessened, and improving the city’s water quality through…