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News: Bugs Clean Up Soil, Allow Park Plan to Proceed


December 13, 2017

Hazardous waste sites – or “brownfields”– can offer unique opportunities for “green” development.  And that is the idea behind the future Karen Cragnolin Park in Asheville, North Carolina.  Back in 2009, The French Broad River Garden Club received a $25,000 Founders Fund award from the GCA to help with the master plan for this new riverside park designed to transform an ugly junkyard into a community greenway.  The obstacle to development?  Contaminated soil.   

Soil contamination must be removed before development can proceed.  And removal can be difficult and expensive. At long last, project planners found an answer – a tiny bacterium.

The process is called phytoremediation – the use of plants and specially formulated bacteria to remove soil contaminants on site.  Rather than making things sick, these “bugs” literally bring new life:  Native grasses infused with the bacterium were hydroseeded in 2012.  Through the roots, the “bugs” ate the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contaminating the soil.  The bugs died off when all the contaminants were eaten, and May 2017 testing showed clean soil.  As a result, the master planning process for the park is moving forward.  

Prior to the “bugs” doing their job, project planners also recycled 100,000 tons of concrete covering the junkyard into asphalt, demonstrating innovative ways communities can transform urban blight into urban oases.  

The French Broad River Garden Club is collaborating on the project with RiverLink, a regional nonprofit promoting the environmental and economic vitality of the French Broad River and its watershed.

Established in 1934, the GCA’s Founders Fund provides monetary awards to projects proposed annually by GCA-member clubs.  Today, the GCA awards a total of $50,000 annually to three projects selected by a regional committee and presented for a vote by its nearly 18,000 club members. Since the beginning, the GCA has awarded almost $1.5 million and supported 81 projects focused on historic preservation, civic plantings, horticulture, and education.



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