Green in brief: Morrow Landing to offer new French Broad access near Brevard

French Broad in Transylvania County
POINT OF INTEREST: Morrow Landing will offer more convenient river access to paddlers and others on the French Broad in Transylvania County. Photo courtesy of Headwaters Outfitters

Those floating the French Broad River in Transylvania County will gain a new place to get on or off the water thanks to Conserving Carolina. The Hendersonville-based nonprofit has purchased a 1.25-acre property near Brevard, to be known as Morrow Landing, for use as a public river access point.

The land, purchased from the Kathleen M. Morrow trust for $11,000, falls roughly halfway between the current Island Ford and Hap Simpson Park access points, which are separated by nearly 10 miles of river. Morrow Landing’s placement will therefore facilitate shorter trips by less experienced river users, improve access for emergency responders and help volunteers conduct cleanup efforts.

“This location is about as strategic as it can be, from many perspectives — public safety, equitable access and proximity to other recreational resources,” said Torry Nergart, Conserving Carolina’s conservation easement manager, in a press release announcing the acquisition. “We feel this project will create lasting benefits to the community and to everyone who uses the French Broad River.”

Morrow Landing is not yet open to the public, and Conserving Carolina is seeking donations to develop the site with parking, signage, a boat slide and picnic facilities. Spokesperson Rose Jenkins Lane said the nonprofit doesn’t yet have estimates for the cost of those improvements or a timeline for their completion. More information and donation details are available at avl.mx/bpg.

Conservation groups seek protection for Hickory Nut Gorge green salamander

HANGING IN THERE: Two conservation groups seek federal endangered species status for the Hickory Nut Gorge green salamander, which is found only in the 14-mile-long gorge southeast of Asheville. Photo courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity

The Hickory Nut Gorge green salamander was only recognized as a species in 2019, but biologists are already worried about losing it. In an effort to prevent that outcome, the national nonprofits Defenders of Wildlife and Center for Biological Diversity have filed a petition with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asking for the amphibian to be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

“Like many of southern Appalachia’s iconic salamanders, this species is facing an existential crisis brought on by habitat loss and climate change,” said Ben Prater, who leads Defenders of Wildlife’s Asheville office, in a press release announcing the petition. “The Fish and Wildlife Service must institute critical protections for the Hickory Nut Gorge green salamander and its habitat before it’s too late.”

As suggested by its name, the salamander is only known to exist in the 14-mile-long Hickory Nut Gorge, which cuts through Henderson and Rutherford counties to Asheville’s southeast. No more than 500 are thought to exist in the wild, many in areas threatened by residential development.

The Fish and Wildlife Service must evaluate the petition by mid-September, and if officials find listing may be appropriate, a decision on the salamander’s status would come within the next  12 months. In 2019, the FWS denied protections for the eastern hellbender, another rare Appalachian amphibian.

Mayfield to leave director role at MountainTrue

Julie Mayfield, co-director of Asheville-based environmental nonprofit MountainTrue, has announced she will be leaving that role at the end of the year. She will become the organization’s senior policy adviser, making current co-director Bob Wagner its executive director.

Mayfield, who was elected as state senator for Buncombe County’s District 49 in 2020, cited her increasing political responsibilities as the main reason for the change. She was hired as MountainTrue’s executive director in 2008 and became co-director with Wagner in 2013.

While Mayfield will no longer play a day-to-day role in managing the nonprofit, she will continue to provide planning and policy direction. “This management restructuring will ensure continuity of leadership and a bright future for MountainTrue,” she wrote in a press release announcing the  change.

Community kudos

  • Asheville-based Pine Gate Renewables received $500 million in capital from Generate Capital, a San Francisco investment company, to further the construction and development of utility-scale solar energy projects. Generate’s investment includes a $200 million equity stake and will grant the company a seat on Pine Gate’s board of directors.
  • The Wildlands Network and National Parks Conservation Association released a report outlining strategies to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions along Interstate 40 in the Pigeon River Gorge. Based on decades of collision data and extensive monitoring of wildlife activity, the document identifies priority areas for wildlife road crossings. The full report is available at avl.mx/br4.
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Mills River was recognized as the state’s first BearWise business by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. The certification reflects the brewery’s work in securing trash, reducing bear attractants and educating visitors about how to live with bears.
  • Nearly 23 acres of farmland in Fletcher are now protected by a conservation easement supported by Conserving Carolina. The Plumlea Farm property contributes to the water quality of Hoopers Creek, a tributary of Cane Creek, and preserves views from the Bill Moore Community Park.
  • Sauna House, a Nordic-style bathhouse on Asheville’s South Slope, donated $10,000 — 1% of its 2021 revenue — to Asheville GreenWorks as part of the 1% for the Planet campaign. “Nature is one of the most healing environments, and so we here at Sauna House want to protect it,” said Andrew Nehlig, the company’s founder and CEO, in a press release.
  • Bullington Gardens in Hendersonville received over $17,000 from the Community Foundation of Henderson County’s Perry N. Rudnick Endowment Fund. The money will help the nonprofit horticultural education center expand parking and improve drainage.

Opportunity knocks

  • Business owners with at least five employees can apply for help from North Carolina to deploy Level 2 electric vehicle chargers. The state will reimburse up to 60% of installation costs to a maximum of $25,000. Grant applications open Monday, July 25; more information is available at avl.mx/bpe.
  • The Organic Growers School has opened applications for its yearlong Farm Beginnings and Journeyperson Farmer Program cohorts. The former is designed for those interested in starting a farm business, while the latter serves farmers who have been operating for at least three years. More information and applications are available at avl.mx/bpz.
  • In honor of MountainTrue’s 40th anniversary, the nonprofit is hosting a Hike-a-Thon fundraiser through September. Participants who raise at least $1 will receive a custom MountainTrue patch and be recognized at the organization’s October annual gathering. More information, recommended hikes and registration are available at avl.mx/bpf.
  • The Asheville-based Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is launching a fundraising campaign to support 20 new projects across the national park. Initiatives include volunteer training, the installation of new outdoor exhibits at Craggy Gardens and reconstruction of the Mount Pisgah observation deck. More information and donation details are available at BRPFoundation.org.

Save the date

  • Josh Kelly, MountainTrue’s public lands field biologist, leads a guided hike through the proposed Craggy National Scenic Area Saturday, July 23. Participants will learn about the area’s fauna, flora and natural history during a 6-mile trek through high-elevation forest. More information and registration are available at avl.mx/br2.
  • The N.C. Utilities Commission seeks feedback on Duke Energy’s proposed Carbon Plan, a state-mandated document outlining the utility’s path to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. A hearing will be held at the Buncombe County Courthouse 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 27; a virtual statewide hearing takes place Tuesday, Aug. 23. More information on the plan and opportunities for public input are available at avl.mx/br3.
  • Bountiful Cities hosts a free tour of Asheville’s urban gardens Saturday, July 30, 2-6 p.m., with educational activities and guided walk-throughs of each location. Guests can also purchase a $35 tasting pass to enjoy small bites and nonalcoholic beverages at the seven gardens. More information and registration are available at avl.mx/bqv.
  • Creation Care Alliance, a faith-based initiative of MountainTrue, offers a retreat at Canton’s Lake Logan Retreat Center Saturday, July 30. The daylong gathering aims to build community and promote well-being among environmental advocates. More information and registration are available at avl.mx/bpd.
  • The Riveter, an indoor climbing facility in Fletcher, holds a free adaptive climbing clinic 9 a.m.-noon Saturday, Aug. 20. Hosted by Atlanta-based nonprofit Catalyst Sports, the event will show how people with disabilities can climb using specialized equipment and techniques. More information and registration are available at avl.mx/bpc.
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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the News Editor of Mountain Xpress, coordinating coverage of Western North Carolina's governments, community groups, businesses and environment. His work has previously appeared in Capital at Play, Edible Asheville and the Citizen-Times, among other area publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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