Student holding a proposed plan of the future park.

Buncombe County Early College (BCEC) students are dedicating their skills, knowledge, and resources into revitalizing an East Asheville park. 

Azalea Park is located right beside the City of Asheville John B. Lewis Soccer fields near the Western North Carolina Nature Center. This area has become overgrown with invasive species plants such as kudzu, and is prone to flooding, especially into the neighboring soccer field. For 10 years now, BCEC has been in a partnership with the City of Asheville and Riverlink in hopes to alleviate some of the issues surrounding the park. 

“The primary goal of the project is to restore the ecological integrity of the space,” said Earth and Environmental Science teacher William Cory. “We are looking to solve the storm water challenge by restoring the riverbank, and installing artificial wetlands to help mitigate major flood events.”

By working together on this project, students are learning about the ecological problems the area faces and the future human attractions and park structure to be implemented.

“Our subsequent goal is to add human attractions over time to the area,” Mr. Cory said. “Those human attractions could include things such as playgrounds, picnic areas, jogging and walking trails, pollinator gardens, and the use of educational signage.”

Mr. Cory expressed that they hope to make the space a welcoming place for the community to enjoy while also serving as a habitat for native species. He said they are looking to formulate a phase-based plan by the end of this year. 

“Students will propose some short term goals that they would like to see happen,” he explained. “Part of the short term goal is to remove the invasive plants. Eventually the students will have another proposal for some larger scope projects, since BCEC is an ongoing community partner in the revitalization.”

This extensive project is what BCEC is all about, says Mr. Cory. 

“We are an innovative high school that asks students to aim higher for their short, medium, and long term goals,” he said. “This project really encompasses all of our graduate outcomes, which include engaged citizenry, effective communications, self-directed learning, and to be a little less individualistic with their own advancements and think more altruistically about how they can use their skills and talents to make the world around them a little better.” 

As far as the students' ideas for the space, Mr. Cory says it speaks highly of their maturity and selflessness. 

“My biggest takeaway is the selflessness of their desires for the space. A lot of their park installations and plans are aimed at serving the larger community, which includes disadvantaged demographics, which is really impressive for students so young. They show a kind of maturity beyond their years that speaks incredibly highly of them,” Mr Cory said. 

Students measuring an area of the park for future human attraction.

Students studying the invasive plant kudzu in the park.