BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER: While community members largely spoke out in favor of Alternative 4B for Section B of the I-26 Connector Project, several aspects of NCDOT’s design, such as the three bridges that would span the French Broad River near Montford (above), have a coalition of Montford neighbors and others questioning the scale and scope of the design. Image via NCDOT; courtesy of DWAC

Despite progress, concerns about the I-26 Connector persist

When the DOT finally decided on a design for Section B of the Connector project in 2015, many stakeholders thought they saw light at the end of a very long tunnel. Other residents, however, see serious flaws in Alternative 4B, questioning whether the project’s long-term benefits will justify the sacrifices their neighborhoods must make to see it completed.

FROM THE TOP: While geocachers are usually looking for small containers stashed in precise locations, this group of local geocachers scoured an area above the Beaucatcher Cut to remove trash from the area a few years ago. The photographer, geocacher Graeme McGufficke, notes that the area is no longer accessible by foot. Photo by Graeme McGufficke

Geocaching community finds its way to Waynesvill­e

Less than 20 years old, geocaching is a new sport that’s gained a lot of ground in its short existence. Western North Carolina is prime territory for geocachers, who use GPS devices to find and hide containers stashed in precise locations around the world. The Haywood County Fairgrounds will host one of the country’s premier geocaching events on Saturday, May 27.

CLEAN RUN: French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson says reducing sediment runoff into area streams and rivers is a critical part of maintaining the health, beauty and ecological function of these critical parts of the ecosystem. Photo by Jeff Rich

Muddy Water Watch app celebrates first anniversar­y

It’s been just over a year since the locally developed Muddy Water Watch app was launched, enlisting citizen watchdogs to help protect their communities’ waterways. Conceived by the environmental nonprofit MountainTrue as an enhancement of its existing Muddy Water Watch program, the app makes it easy for residents to report potential problems with sedimentation in streams as well as other water quality issues.

TAKIN' IT TO THE STREETS: Asheville residents took to the streets of downtown on Saturday, April 29 in solidarity with the national People's Climate March. Photo by Max Hunt

In Photos: Asheville residents rally for People’s Climate March

Asheville residents turned out in scores to show solidarity with the National People’s Climate March on Saturday, April 29. The procession marched through downtown, waving banners and signs, and chanting slogans urging government leaders to recognize climate change data. The marchers, which ranged in age from small children to older residents (and a couple dogs), […]

HERE COMES THE SUN: Appalachian Offsets is offering an opportunity to offset your carbon footprint and support a solar array for Isaac Dickson Elementary at the same time. Rendering courtesy of Appalachian Offsets

Appalachia­n Offsets seeks donors to help Isaac Dickson school go solar

Appalachian Offsets is providing an opportunity for Asheville residents to both protect the environment and invest in environmental education, by helping fund Isaac Dickson Elementary School’s much-anticipated 600-kilowatt solar system. Donations can be made via Appalachian Offsets’ website, which calculates a person’s carbon footprint and then asks for a donation to offset that footprint. The […]

LEGALIZED IT: North Carolina passed legislation allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp in 2015. But barriers still stymie farmers hoping to develop hemp as a new cash crop. Photo courtesy of Vote Hemp

DEA holds up industrial hemp in North Carolina

Local farmers are still holding out hope that 2017 will be the year industrial hemp grows in WNC fields for the first time in decades. But the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration isn’t making it easy for growers to source seed or seedlings in time for planting, which may mean another year of waiting for eager prospective hemp growers.

GET MOVING: The newest section of the French Broad River Greenway — open and ready for action. Photo by Cindy Kunst

Asheville’s newest section of greenway opens next to New Belgium Brewery

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newest section of the French Broad River Greenway was held Friday, April 21, at the foot of the New Belgium brewery as part of the city of Asheville’s Earth Week Celebration. Representatives from the many public and private partnerships that had a role in the development of this section, called […]

QUALITY CONTROL: Two pollutants make up the bulk of the air quality monitoring oversight by the NC Department of Environmental Quality: ozone and fine particulates (PM2.5). From Bryson City to Lenoir, there are 11 ozone monitoring sites and five sites for PM2.5. The WNC Air Quality Agency conducts monitoring operations in Buncombe County, which also includes an urban air toxics monitor at A-B Tech. New this year is a sulfur dioxide monitor near the Duke Energy Progress plant in Skyland. Image from  Google, mapped by NCDEQ

Air apparent: monitoring air quality in the mountains

We all have to breathe to live, and the good news is that here in Western North Carolina, the quality of the air we all share is much better than it was just a few years ago. Across North Carolina, government employees are monitoring air quality and the associated health risks to make sure they stay within specified legal parameters. Meanwhile, citizen volunteers are also collecting data and working to make more information available to the public.

DIRTY BUSINESS: CompostNow offers weekly pickup of compostable waste for residential customers. Once a month, customers get back a delivery of finished compost equal to half the weight of the material they collected. The company now serves about 100 area customers and hopes to triple that amount by the end of the year. Image courtesy of CompostNow

Local companies lead the way as Asheville considers composting service

Asheville and Buncombe County have worked for several years on plans to reduce the area’s solid waste stream, but implementing “pay as you throw” and municipal composting programs remain in the realm of good ideas rather than reality or even future plans. But the city says it hasn’t given up on initiatives to divert more waste away from the landfill.

SEW SUSTAINABLE: Asheville's sewing scene is growing, both for businesses and hobbyists. Photo by Kari Barrows

Local businesses aim to make clothing more sustainabl­e

Industry studies show consumers are growing tired of fast, disposable fashion. In addition to a greater awareness of where clothes come from and the impact of their production, a new interest in extending the life of clothing or reusing materials to create new garments is fueling a resurgence of sewing skills in this region and around the country.