Photo by Daniel Stewart

WNC paddle sports on the rise: River use is up locally and nationally­; area retailers seeing more revenue

Few people spend more time on Western North Carolina’s rivers than Chris Gragtmans. Our waterways, he says, have become increasingly popular with outdoor enthusiasts in the past few years — a sentiment echoed by a number of local leaders in the paddle-sports industry. What’s more, the trend is national. And while local excursion providers, rental […]

Not only will local photographer Ken Abbott's pictures of Hickory Nut Gap Farm make it into his forthcoming book Useful Work, but the artist's visuals will also be on display at the Asheville Art Museum from Friday, July 24, until Sunday, October 11. Photo of longtime farm employee Clarence McAbee by Abbott

Faces in the crowd: WNC crowdfundi­ng initiative­s

Each week, Xpress highlights notable WNC crowdsourcing initiatives that may inspire readers to become new faces in the crowd. This week features a photo book capturing Hickory Nut Gap Farm’s storied past and present, a “Barnraiser” to help the farm build a kitchen and butchery on-site and a mobile app for mental wellness information hub MindPod Network.

Cigarette butts ready to be shipped for recycling pile up in Rowdy Keelor's garage.

Friends Against Butts aims to capture and recycle cigarette butts

Even though his organization is called Friends Against Butts, make no mistake, Rowdy Keelor wants your butts. Cigarette butts, that is. An Asheville environmentalist and host of Asheville FM’s “Best Day Ever,” Keelor and three others founded the venture earlier this year with the goal of recycling as many cigarette butts as possible

Firefly Gathering 2014 at Bell's Cove, a 300-acre, private lot in Barnardsville. The Gathering will be held here for the 3rd year. Photog: Oliver Fleming.

Firefly Gathering teaches primitive skills as a culturally transforma­tive experience

This year’s Firefly Gathering, being held June 25-28 in Barnardsville, aims to take its transformation potential a step further, putting cultural transformation at the forefront. The gathering, now in its eighth year, has always been geared toward changing participants’ lives through a variety of classes based on radical ideas and concepts, but this summer, directors are working to make that goal explicit instead of implicit.

Standing before the board: Parker Cove resident Nancy Nehls Nelson speaks before the Buncombe County Planning Board.

Weavervill­e residents voice concerns about subdivisio­n developmen­t

The Buncombe County Planning Board initially approved the plans for the Maple Trace subdivision in November 2014. At that time, the design called for 140 household units to be built in a rural Weaverville community with traffic directed through two exists. However, revisions to the plan have residents concerned that poor visibility and high traffic may result in dangerous driving conditions.

RESIDENTIAL WOES: Neighbors of Pond Road near Enka are worried that a proposed recycling facility may bring some serious consequences. But the property’s employment district zoning allows for offices, industry, storage, warehousing and wholesale trade. Map by Alane Mason

Recycling debated: Pond Road residents say ‘no’ to Regional Recycling Solutions

Local company Regional Recycling Solutions has big plans to open a recycling center, using “green” European technology, on Pond Road near Enka. But residents and members of the community take serious issue with not only the facility being built in their backyards but the consequences that truck-traffic on the winding roads could bring. A public hearing for the facility will be held on July 8 at noon, 30 Valley St., in Asheville.

RIVER RUNS THROUGH: Looking south, a calm French Broad flows well within its banks, with New Belgium Brewery under construction on the right. Drone photography by Dan Caylor

Costs and benefits: What’s the price of riverfront revitaliza­tion?

In her landmark 1955 book, The French Broad, Asheville author Wilma Dykeman said the river was “above all, a region of life, with all the richness and paradox of life.” She described a watershed rich in flora and fauna, ranging from the “fertile fields and gentle fall” through Transylvania and Henderson counties to the sudden “plunge between steep mountains” around Asheville, “strewn with jagged boulders.”