NEW ALBANY — It’s never a good thing when your boss hands you a job application.
But that is exactly what happened to Ashton Cash one day at Charlestown State Park where she was employed. Lucas Green, property manager at the state park, told her she would be perfect for a new position at the River Heritage Conservancy.
“I had never heard of it,” she said. “So I did my research.”
She liked what she saw. She applied for the project associate position and was hired as the first staff member for the River Heritage Conservancy. She has been on the job for two weeks and said she has “loved every minute” of it. Scott Martin is executive director of the conservancy.
“It feels like a dream when you think about what we are doing,” Cash said. “Where will be in 10 years? It’s incredible to see it at this level and see all the steps moving forward.”
The ultimate goal of the River Heritage Conservancy is to develop a “world-class, linear parkscape” on the north shore of the Ohio River. OLIN, a globally recognized landscape architecture studio, has been commissioned to develop and design the 400-acre park. The project will “rehabilitate and transform an expanse of waterfront lands, which for decades have been occupied with landfills and industrial facilities,” into a park, according to its website.
The park will take a similar path as the recently completed Greenway, connecting Clarksville, Jeffersonville and New Albany. It will take years to develop, but the conservancy has already acquired some land and is working daily toward its ultimate goal.
“We are excited to think of something like this being done in this area,” Cash said.
Cash, a Charlestown native, is a 2014 graduate of Providence High School and a recent graduate of Oregon State University. She is working toward a master’s degree in natural resources from Oregon State.
She worked four years as a seasonal employee at Charlestown State Park, doing everything from serving as a gate attendant to taking people on tours to Rose Island.
“Ashton’s passion for the Southern Indiana landscape and strong relationships with Indiana state parks and the Falls of the Ohio visitors will immediately help us build strong connections with our service area,” Martin said in a release. “Her passion for expanding her knowledge and skills in parks and natural resource administration are a perfect fit for a growing organization such as ours.”
Cash has been busy reaching out to the community, setting up meetings and spreading the word about the River Heritage Conservancy.
“I think people will love it. It’s going to be amazing for people in the community,” she said of the park. “This can be a place for people to enjoy the outside. It’s great for the soul.”
While it will take time for the park to come to fruition, Cash said it’s exciting to be on the ground floor of the planning process.
“People are excited,” she said. “They are interested to see what we can do for the area. It’s going to take time but we are committed to making it great.”