Western North Carolina has a new playground with the April 23 dedication of the Chestnut Mountain Nature Park in Canton. About 35 acres of the nearly 450-acre tract — purchased by the nonprofit Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy in 2020 and recently transferred to the town of Canton — are now open, including the Berm Park mountain bike skills course and a mixed-use hiking/biking trail.
As outlined in a master plan for the overall property available at avl.mx/bk7, future developments will include a picnic area, outdoor classroom, backcountry hiking trails and advanced singletrack mountain bike routes. Work is expected to continue over at least the next two years.
“The collaboration between recreation and conservation here at Chestnut Mountain will remain an example for other communities in how working together can make big projects come to life,” said Seth Alvo, a local mountain biking influencer who led the fundraising effort for Berm Park. “Chestnut Mountain and Berm Park now serve as assets to the area, strengthening the community’s health through recreation and enriching the lives of many.”
The park will also serve as a destination for several active transportation projects. A greenway is planned to run from Chestnut Mountain to downtown Canton along U.S. Route 19/23, and the park will be a stop on the Hellbender Regional Trail system, a 150-mile greenway network championed by the French Broad River Metropolitan Planning Organization.
Chestnut Mountain Nature Park is at 2415 Asheville Highway in Canton and is open daily from dawn to dusk. More information is available at ChestnutMountainNaturePark.com.
Appalachian High Route takes hikers up and away
Jennifer Pharr Davis, an Asheville-based hiker who holds the women’s record for the fastest supported completion of the Appalachian Trail, is blazing a different path. Together with Jake Blood, co-founder of the N.C. High Peaks Trail Association, she is promoting the Appalachian High Route as a long-distance option for outdoor adventure in WNC.
The roughly 350-mile loop combines portions of the Appalachian Trail, Lost Cove Trail, Mountains-to-Sea Trail and Black Mountain Crest Trail with the Burnsville Connector, a 19-mile road walk between the established routes. Along the way, hikers can access 50 of the 54 Appalachian peaks above 6,000 feet, as well as the towns of Burnsville and Hot Springs.
Pharr Davis finished the first known completion of the loop May 8 in downtown Burnsville. A community information session about the route is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 4, at the Burnsville Library; trail maps, patches and an audio interpretive guide for the Burnsville Connector will be made available at the Burnsville Visitor Center in the coming months.
- Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock received a $1 million grant from the Rocky Mount-based Golden LEAF Foundation to construct a new greenhouse for the college’s horticulture program. The state-of-the-art facility will train students to use automated growing systems, which are becoming increasingly prevalent among Henderson County producers.
- Two local initiatives received honors from the N.C. Source Water Collaborative, a statewide drinking water protection group. The Haywood Waterways Association and Haywood County Environmental Health Department received the group’s Surface Water Implementation Award for a septic-system repair project, while the town of Black Mountain earned the Groundwater Implementation and Education Award for its wellhead protection work.
- Outlaw Acres Farm in Clyde received a $3,000 grant from the Chicago-based Food Animal Concerns Trust to expand its sustainable chicken production. Farmers Chris and Christina Braswell will use the funds to build chicken tractors and further their transition to a fully pasture- and orchard-raised poultry system.
- Asheville GreenWorks, supported by a grant from Pratt & Whitney, distributed over 680 saplings to Buncombe County residents during an Earth Day giveaway. The nonprofit hopes to plant 50,000 trees over the next two decades as part of efforts to restore Asheville’s urban canopy.
- Asheville Catholic School finished the installation of a 49-kilowatt solar array on Earth Day. The school joins the adjacent St. Eugene Catholic Church, which in 2015 became the first Catholic parish in the diocese of Charlotte to install solar panels, in producing its own power.
- The Asheville-based Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project marked the 20th year of publishing its Local Food Guide, a comprehensive listing of area farms, farmers markets and other local food businesses. Print copies are available throughout WNC; a digital copy and an online database of the guide’s listings are available at avl.mx/81y.
- Starting Wednesday, May 18, WNC landowners and farmers can submit proposals for funding from Asheville-based Carbon Harvest, a new business working to support climate-conscious agricultural practices. The company hopes to sell carbon offsets tied to local carbon farming projects, with a focus on agroforestry. More information is available at avl.mx/bjt.
- As part of the 2022 DuPont Forest Festival Saturday, Sept. 24, Friends of DuPont Forest is seeking proposals for community activities at the event. Activities should be hands-on, suitable for all ages and follow “Leave No Trace” ethics. Submission are due Saturday, June 4. More information is available at avl.mx/bjp.
- The Asheville-Buncombe Air Quality Agency is seeking nominations for its annual Clean Air Excellence Awards. The program honors local individuals, businesses and organizations that have made outstanding voluntary efforts to improve Buncombe County’s air. Applications are due Tuesday, June 7. More information is available at avl.mx/bjr.
- Carolina Farm Credit invites WNC nonprofits interested in promoting agriculture and the agricultural economy to apply for grants of up to $5,000 through its Corporate Mission Fund. Applications are accepted online through Thursday, June 30, at avl.mx/bjs.
Grab some greenery
- The Black Mountain Beautification Committee hosts the Black Mountain Garden Sale at the Town Square parking lot in Black Mountain Friday-Saturday, May 20-21. Proceeds from the sale, which runs 4-8 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, support the committee’s Seed Money Award for local gardening efforts. More information is available at avl.mx/bjo.
- The annual Spring Plant Sale and Vendor Market returns to the N.C. Arboretum 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 27-28. Offerings include plants from the arboretum’s own production greenhouse, as well as products from over 20 local growers and businesses. More information is available at avl.mx/bju.
- Garden Jubilee takes over downtown Hendersonville 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, May 28-29. Over 200 plant and craft vendors will sell their wares along Main Street, and local gardening experts will give educational presentations. More information is available at avl.mx/bjv.
Class in session
- In addition to the Firefly Gathering’s annual flagship event Tuesday-Sunday, June 7-12, in Mills River, the nonprofit is now offering earth skills workshops throughout the year. Upcoming offerings include a bicycle repair clinic Sunday, May 15, and a course on vegetable preservation Sunday, July 31. More information and registration are available at avl.mx/bk1.
- Buncombe County’s N.C. Cooperative Extension center hosts several educational opportunities on gardening topics throughout May. Events include a Zoom presentation on edible landscaping Thursday, May 19, an in-person composting demonstration Saturday, May 21, and a drop-in session with Buncombe County Master Gardeners Wednesday, May 25. More information and registration are available at avl.mx/bk3.
- Landowners with forests on their property are invited to a free workshop by Asheville-based nonprofit EcoForesters and N.C. Cooperative Extension 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, June 4, at the Sandy Mush Community Center. Participants will learn about tax incentives for forest management, cost-share funding for invasive species control and access to carbon markets. Registration is available at avl.mx/bk0.
- The Organic Growers School, in partnership with the Appalachian Beginning Forest Farmer Coalition, is launching a series of teaching events on agroforestry throughout WNC. The first meeting will take place in Leicester Sunday, June 5, and will focus on integrating forest farming into existing farm enterprises. More information and registration are available at avl.mx/bk2.
Save the date
- Members of Wildlands Network will present the latest research on the road ecology of Interstate 40 in the Southern Appalachians at Citizen Vinyl 7 p.m. Thursday, May 12. As previously reported by Xpress (avl.mx/bjl), the stretch of I-40 that connects WNC with Eastern Tennessee poses a dangerous obstacle for wildlife. More information is available at avl.mx/bjm.
- Bears and Brews returns to the WNC Nature Center 5:30-8 p.m. Friday, May 13. Guests can watch zookeepers give popsicles to the zoo’s two black bears, Uno and Ursa, while enjoying beer from Highland Brewing and cider from Urban Orchard. More information and tickets are available at avl.mx/9iq.
- The Ecology Club at Asheville High School hosts a virtual town hall meeting for local political candidates Sunday, May 15, 4-5 p.m. Candidates will be asked to discuss their views on climate change and environmental policies. The meeting will be available via Zoom at avl.mx/bkj.
- As part of Strive Beyond, a regional effort to encourage car-free transportation, Asheville on Bikes will host a Ride of Silence Wednesday, May 18, 7-8:30 p.m. Riders will wear black to mourn cyclists lost in vehicle collisions and raise awareness of the right to share the road. The ride begins in Pack Square Park; more information is available at avl.mx/bjq.
- The Wilma Dykeman Legacy presents a series of four environmental economics webinars Thursday-Friday, June 2-3. Topics include natural costs and benefits, valuing the environment, policy choices and climate change. More information and registration are available at avl.mx/bjn.
- Nature lovers ages 4-10 can explore the world through a faith-based perspective at Wild Wonders, a day camp hosted 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Monday-Friday, June 20-24, by The Episcopal Church of St. John in the Wilderness in Flat Rock. The creation-care curriculum combines science activities with crafts and worship songs. Campers are encouraged to register by Monday, June 6; more information is available at avl.mx/bjk.