A sense of community

Sure, this year’s Mountain Sports Festival serves up a full range of exciting outdoor challenges and events — but dig a little deeper. Look for the sense of community that binds it all together. The festival’s downtown headquarters, for example, features both a Community Action Village and a Health Services Village — each offering information, activities and a nudge to get involved.

The Mountain Sports Festival spills over boundaries of pure athletic sweat and strain, seeking to engage festival-goers in addressing the bigger issues underlying their love of outdoor sport.

The environment

“We know so much about what’s bad for the environment [and] what’s good, but some people wonder, ‘What can I do?'” says Julie Fish, development coordinator for the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition. One easy answer is to visit SAFC’s Community Action Village at the festival center in downtown Asheville’s City/County Plaza. The village, Fish explains, will host a number of environmental groups hoping to spread the word about their missions and educate people about the issues, and offering a few fun activities for both kids and grown-ups.

“It’s also a chance to let people know how they can get involved,” adds fellow SAFC coordinator Jackie Dobrinska.

The Forest Coalition represents 21 groups in a six-state region, united by a common desire “to find ways for all of us to work together so we can get what we want for our public lands,” Dobrinska explains.

In Virginia, for instance, a SAFC staffer has been working with hunters, fishermen, horse lovers, mountain bikers, businesses, paddlers, hikers and other environmentally minded folks — “everybody who has a stake in the public lands,” Dobrinska says — to get wilderness protection for some areas there.

“A lot of us do want the same things,” she maintains.

“Our environment is our community,” Fish declares.

And that includes much more than just the forests — it’s about air- and water-quality issues, public and private lands, she muses. It’s about having a voice in public policy, too: Five national forests in the region have pending 10-year plans that are now open for public comment (though North Carolina’s national forests aren’t yet at this stage in the planning process). These plans cover such diverse activities as logging and recreational use, Fish explains, and citizens have until July 3 to give input that can help shape the final policies.

At the Community Action Village, SAFC will offer information about the plans, Dobrinska notes, as well as ways to contact our legislators about these and other issues — such as national policies that have an impact on local forests.

The Bush administration’s Healthy Forest Initiative, for example, allows clear-cutting on up to 1,000 acres of national-forest land without requiring an environmental-impact statement, Dobrinska points out. That’s a concern for both the SAFC and its affiliate groups, though both she and Fish stress that the organization strives for middle ground, working with groups with a range of views, and meeting regularly with representatives of the Forest Service and other government agencies.

“We really do want to reach out to people who enjoy our outdoors and build bridges between groups,” proclaims Fish.

Nearly half the this country’s population can reach our region in a day’s drive or less, Dobrinska notes. They come to paddle, hike, bike, hunt, fish and more.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize how important the outdoor resources are to our economy,” she adds. “How can we all work together to keep these great places so we can continue to use them?”

One unusual aspect of the village will be a kind of orienteering/scavenger hunt featuring product giveaways and raffles, as well as an environmental trivia challenge. (Example: “Our region has more tree species than all of Europe.”)

There’ll also be informative presentations onsite and off, such as the demonstration/workshop on trail maintenance sponsored by the Carolina Mountain Club. The group’s members have been involved since the 1930s in such volunteer activities as routing, marking and maintaining sections of the Appalachian and Mountains-To-Sea trails, as well as supporting efforts to establish Linville Gorge and the Craggy Mountain Scenic Area, Dobrinska notes.

So expect the Mountain Sports Festival to push you to get involved in environmental issues.

“Do the best you can,” Fish says. “You don’t have to be a saint and recycle everything and use solar power and live off the grid and be an ovo-lacto vegetarian. Even the smallest contribution has an effect.”

Personal health

After all, it goes hand in hand with environmental issues and all the sports activities represented at the festival.

Community Care Partners is sponsoring a Health Services Village offering everything from blood-pressure screening to backpack checks for kids, reports coordinator Deanna Lane, an outpatient case manager at Thoms Rehabilitation Hospital.

Thoms is not only the place to go when recovering from a stroke or catastrophic injury, Lane reports; the hospital also offers its Community CarePartners team, which includes VHP-Visiting Health Professionals (nursing, therapy and auxiliary care for the home-bound), Mountain Care Adult Day Services (for the elderly, those with Alzheimer’s and dementia), and the Mountain Area Hospice (for the terminally ill).

These services — Thoms in particular — are about more than helping folks after “a really heinous injury,” Lane maintains.

“There’s been a gradual change in the health industry towards paying more attention to prevention and alternative therapies [such as] acupuncture and massage,” she adds. Prevention, especially, “is the wave of the future — no, it’s here and now. We have to catch [injuries and illnesses] on the front end,” she declares.

Lane has 14 years’ experience in dealing with work-injury patients; and while there’s a continuing need for that kind of care, organizations like Community CarePartners also acknowledge the need to help community residents — whether they’re athletes or not, and whether those athletes are elite competitors or weekend warriors.

That attitude is a natural fit with the festival, Lane asserts — especially since many Community CarePartners therapists and practitioners are themselves avid runners, kayakers and hikers. Several of these staffers will be on hand in the village, offering advice on such practical matters as getting the proper fit in your running shoes, or choosing the right kayak or backpack.

“We have a beautiful area [in WNC], with lots of active people,” Lane concludes. “There [will] be plenty to do and learn at the festival center.”

Community Action Village

[Hosting environmental groups hoping to spread the word about their missions and issues — and offering activities for both kids and grown-ups. Hours: 2-8 p.m. on Friday, June 6; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday, June 7; and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday, June 8. Located at City/County Plaza, and sponsored by the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition.]

Further info

Contact Julie Fish or Jackie Dobrinska at 252-9223.

Health Services Village

[Offering everything from blood-pressure screenings to backpack checks for kids. Hours: 2-8 p.m. on Friday, June 6; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday, June 7; and 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday, June 8. Located at City/County Plaza, and sponsored by Community CarePartners.]

Further info

Contact Deanna Lane at (828) 274-2400.

Trail Maintenance Day

[Working on the Mountains-To-Sea Trail near Balsam Gap, 8 a.m. on Friday, June 6. Sponsored by the Carolina Mountain Club.]

Directions

Meet at Home Depot (exit 44 off I-40). Tools will be provided, but participants must have good footwear, gloves and long pants, and should bring their own lunches and water. The group will return to Asheville around 3:30 p.m.

Registration

In advance; call (828) 298-8371 or e-mail to pietboden@aol.com.

Trail Maintenance Demonstration/Workshop

An educational session, 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 8. Located at City/County Plaza, and sponsored by the Carolina Mountain Club.

Further info

E-mail to pietboden@aol.com.

Guided Trail Hike

[A day of hiking one of the region’s premier trails, 8 a.m. on Sunday, June 8. Sponsored by the Carolina Mountain Club.]

Directions

Meet at the downtown festival center at City/County Plaza.

Further info

Visit www.carolinamtnclub.org.

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About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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