MOUNTAIN MAJESTY: The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most beloved and most visited sites in the National Park System, attracting millions of visitors and tourist dollars to the region each year. Its creation was the result of over a decade of legislative wrangling, relentless promotion and fundraising, and the tireless efforts of WNC residents such as George Masa, a Japanese immigrant who helped introduce the Smokies to the American people through his photography. Photo via North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Library, Asheville

George Masa and the birth of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

“These efforts really are about protecting places for all Americans and for future generations,” notes Brent Martin of The Wilderness Society. The leaders of the national parks movement, he maintains, “all saw a much bigger picture, not only for all human beings, but for all living things.”

Both science and religion urge us to address climate change, says Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist and evangelical Christian. Photo by Dayna Reggero

Fight climate change, urges scientist and evangelist Katharine Hayhoe

Faith and science are not mutually exclusive, and this understanding can help address the climate challenges we face today, Katharine Hayhoe told hundreds who gathered at the First Baptist Church on Oak Street in downtown Asheville Tuesday, April 5, to hear the acclaimed climate scientist present a talk titled “Science, Faith and Our Changing Climate.” […]

RETURN OF THE RAIL: For more than 20 years, a collective of WNC communities between Asheville and Salisbury have strived for the return of regular passenger rail service into the region. At a March 2 meeting, the WNC Rail Corridor Committee outlined a new three-pronged strategy to reinvigorate freight service, expand excursion train opportunities and explore a pilot thruway bus service into the region through Amtrak. Photo by Max Hunt

WNC Rail Corridor Committee hatches new strategy

For more than 20 years, the WNC Rail Corridor Committee has worked tirelessly to prove the economic viability of restoring the historic rail link between Salisbury and Asheville. With changes in the rail industry looming and younger travelers showing increased interest in train travel, the committee is partnering with towns and municipalities and freight rail companies to pursue a new, three-pronged strategy.

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ICYMI: Xpress feature reads of the week

Ahh, Spring is in the air! The tourists are buzzing around downtown and the lovely smell of Bradford pear trees is wafting on the breeze….which means we’re probably in for a heavy frost or one more freak snow shower in the coming weeks. Anyway, here’s some feature stories from the past week, if you’re looking […]

Cultivating Ginseng: Photo by Priya Jaishanker courtesy of Flickr (flic.kr/p/oPtFo8)

Farm & Garden: Growing ginseng and celebratin­g spring with UNCA’s Greenfest

Learn to grow ginseng and goldenseal The Southern Appalachian School for Growing Medicinal Plants will host a ginseng and goldenseal workshop at Eagle Feather Organic Farm in Marshall on Sunday, April 10, from 1 to 4 p.m. The workshop will be facilitated by Robert Eidus, who operates Eagle Feather and owns the North Carolina Ginseng […]

Condo owner Geoff Kemmish (left) reviews four options proposed by engineers for routing the Beaucatcher Greenway past The Sky Club. Sue Peterson (r) also owns property along the proposed greenway and maintains that the plans encroach on her land. Photo by Virginia Daffron

Forest for the trees? Residents seek answers on Beaucatche­r Greenway

To make way for the planned Beaucatcher Greenway, how many trees must be cut to preserve the forest? And does significant construction on steep sections make sense to begin with? Those are among the questions being asked by residents at both ends of the planned greenway route — and they say the city’s answers have been few and far between.

Duke Energy Progress' coal-fired power plant at Lake Julian is slated to be replaced with a pair of large natural gas generators.

State holds line at two natural gas units for Duke

Published by Carolina Public Press by Frank Taylor If Duke Energy-Progress is disappointed with the N.C. Utilities Commission’s decision Monday to approve only two of the three natural gas units the company had requested permission to build at its Lake Julian site, the company’s official response did a good job of hiding it. “We appreciate the […]

CROP ROTATIONS: Once a dominant crop across WNC, tobacco production in the mountains has all but disappeared in the wake of the Tobacco Transition Payment Program, commonly referred to as the "Tobacco Buyout," which did away with the long-standing federal quota system and changed the landscape of farming in the region. Photo via North Carolina Collection, Pack Memorial Public Library, Asheville, North Carolina

Smoke and mirrors: the death of tobacco in WNC

Few crops have been as central to North Carolina’s economy and culture — or as controversial — as tobacco. Historically, its high market value and the relative ease of growing it made tobacco a staple for many Western North Carolina farmers. As late as 2002, 1,995 mountain farms grew tobacco. The crop’s prevalence, however, was […]

State Utilities Commissioners James Patterson (l) and Bryan Beatty question Duke Energy counsel Bo Somers during state Utilities Commission hearings Monday. Kirk Ross/Carolina Public Press

Duke Energy threatens to stick with coal at Asheville plant if commission rejects plans

After a Monday, Feb. 22 hearing disrupted several times by protests, the chair of the state Utilities Commission said he expects to meet a legislative deadline for a decision on Duke Energy-Progress’ conversion of its Asheville facility. Duke warned that it may not phase out its coal-fired units at the site if its petition is denied.