Tomorrow (5-20) is Wilma Dykeman’s birthday. Who is Wilma Dykeman you ask. She was an author and a woman ahead of her time. She wrote a book called: “The French Broad” in 1955 which promoted the idea that a clean river would be good for the economy.


She said that a clean river would be good for hunters, fishermen, and would bring in tourist. She also saw that a clean environment would attract business executives who made business location decisions partly based on quality of life issues. At the time of the books writing, the French Broad River was a dumping ground for industrial and agricultural waste. People would not swim in it, and would not eat fish from it. Her book was sort of a watershed moment that pointed a spotlight on the condition of the river and won the first Thomas Wolfe Memorial Literary Prize. On an interesting side note: it was Thomas Wolfe’s sister, Mabel, who introduced Ms. Dykeman to her future husband, James Stokely. 

Ms. Dykeman was born in 1920 near Asheville, NC and grew up on ten acres of woodland that infused her with a strong environmental mind set. Since the Stokely - Van Camp canned food company has an operation in Newport TN which is downstream of Asheville and is also on the French Broad River. Ms. Dykeman and her husband maintained homes in both Asheville and Newport. She would have seen the condition of the river on a daily basis. 

Many people and organizations have helped promote the resurgence of the French Broad River into the great recreational resource we have today, but it all started with Wilma Dykeman and the book she wrote. So we would like to take a moment to give thanks to her and her commitment, and wish her a Happy Birthday!

Thank you Wilma Dykeman

There will be a celebration between 4 and 6 at Jean Webb Park at 30 Riverside Drive in Asheville. Ms. Dykemand died in 2006 and is the namesake of the Wilma Dykeman RiverWay which is a series of greenways connecting the French Broad and Swannanoa rivers.

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