Buzzworm news briefs

Forest Service seeks Bent Creek volunteers

The U.S. Forest Service is seeking volunteers to assist in a year-long survey of recreation use at Bent Creek, an experimental forest adjacent to Asheville. Previous experience is not required for participants; training will be offered. Volunteers will need to commit to three hours per survey session. Survey times will occur at randomly chosen periods about three times per week (daylight only). The first volunteer orientation session was held in late April, but the work will continue through May 2006.

Bent Creek has continued to increase in popularity as a recreation destination in recent years. “As recreation use has grown, the Forest Service can better manage the area if we know more about our forest users,” says Mary Noel, recreation staff officer for the National Forests in North Carolina. Groups that regularly use Bent Creek are encouraged to assist by asking their members to participate as volunteer surveyors for the project.

To volunteer, contact Julia Murphy at the Bent Creek Experimental Forest at 667-5261 (ext. 104), or at juliamurphy@fs.fed.us.

— Cecil Bothwell

Standing Up to Hitler

During World War II, Anna Kovascova, a Slovakian Jew, was taught enough about Catholicism to fake it. Then her grandfather placed her in a convent, safe from Nazi soldiers. She was 4 years old.

Walter Ziffer‘s French village of Le Chambon hid thousands of Jews for a period of two years, simply because, as Ziffer says, “It was the right thing to do.”

These stories — as told by local residents — give a whole new meaning to Holocaust Remembrance Day. The memorial, observed on Thursday, May 5, often calls to mind those who were victims and those who were perpetrators. Even bystanders — those who stood by and did nothing — are called to mind, making Holocaust services bitter occasions. But this year’s community remembrance event, themed “Resistance and Rescue,” is a homage to those who fought back.

Hendersonville resident Hendrik Colijn will receive special recognition at the 7p.m. service, to be held at Beth Israel Synagogue (229 Murdock Ave., Asheville). Raised in the Netherlands, Colijn worked with the Dutch Resistance during World War II.

“I knew in my heart that this was not right. And then after the war I found out about Anne Frank. I had spent time probably about a block away from where Anne Frank’s family was in hiding,” he reports in a testimony archived at UNCA’s Ramsey Library. His resistance efforts included stealing ration cards for Jewish families, transcribing and distributing contraband Allied news broadcasts and dodging mandatory labor recruitment. Later, as a member of a resistance cell at the Colonial Institute, he smuggled weapons — managing several narrow escapes from German authorities.

Another local person to be acknowledged is the late Minnie Reiser, whose son Peter lives in Arden. Forced into service as a nurse at Auschwitz, Reiser was able to save the lives of some Jews, even as she worked under Joseph “Dr. Death” Mengele. Two concentration camp detainees whom Reiser helped were Eva Geiringer Schloss and her mother. At the time, Schloss was the same age as Anne Frank, who died at Auschwitz. Schloss’ mother ended up marrying Frank’s father, who also survived the camps.

“Far from submitting to their horrific fate, many Jews did fight back,” notes writer Lucien Steinberg, who chronicled those who stood up to the Nazis in The Participation of Jews in the Allied Forces. “They make a substantial contribution to the European Resistance movements which prepared the ground for the defeat of Nazism.”

The community is invited to celebrate these stories at the Holocaust Remembrance Day observance. For more information, call 252-8431.

— Alli Marshall

Picturing the Latino community

It’s no secret that Western North Carolina is home to a vibrant and diverse Latino population — but all too often it seems the Latino community remains hidden in plain sight. And in a time when debates about immigration are again becoming heated, myths and misconceptions about area Latinos are once again common currency.

So what better time to take a fresh, up-close look at individual members of the Latino community and hear from them directly? This month, exhibits in Buncombe and Transylvania counties offer opportunities to do just that.

Throughout the month of May, the West Asheville Library (942 Haywood Road), is hosting “Mi Historia: Latinos Today in WNC,” an exhibit of photos and interviews collected by UNCA senior Laura Simmelink. The exhibit features excerpts of more than 30 interviews with area Latinos that address many facets of life here, from work to school to arts, culture and cuisine.

Simmelink, who prepared the exhibit as part of an independent study project for the Center for Diversity Education at UNCA, told Xpress that she conceived the project as a means of raising awareness about the breadth and depth of Latino communities. “It’s important to me that the wider community understands that the group of people we call Latinos are a very diverse group of people from different countries [and] different cultures. They speak different languages, in addition to Spanish, [and] have different traditions. And hopefully, as people learn this, they will be less apt to stereotype.”

For more information about the exhibit, which was underwritten by a corporate sponsorship from Bi-Lo, call the Center for Diversity Education at 232-5024 or the West Asheville Library at 251-4990.

Meanwhile, the Transylvania Community Arts Center is hosting “The Migration Transitions Project: Photonarratives with Latina Immigrant Women,” an exhibition by Deborah Bender and Melanie Wasserman of the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Public Health.

The exhibit, according to the Arts Center, focuses on “Latina immigrant women and the role of social support in making the transition to a new community and in accessing health services, particularly preventive health services such as prenatal care, immunizations, and cervical cancer screening.” To collect the information and perspectives for the exhibit, Bender and Wasserman visited Spanish-language churches in four counties in the Piedmont, where they invited Latina immigrants to serve as community photographers for the project.

The photos and the women’s stories will be featured at the Arts Center (321 S. Caldwell St. in Brevard) from May 4 to 26. For more information, call (828) 884-2787.

— Jon Elliston

Word painters needed

When asked what makes a good describer, Jan Stanko, president of Descriptive Audio for the Sight Impaired (DASI), replies, “Someone who’s very good at giving you a mental word picture — being able to paint a picture with their words.”

DASI (pronounced ‘daisy’) provides description of live stage performances to sight-impaired members of the audience. The nonprofit was founded in 2001 by Robert Brummond, who passed away two months ago. (Brummond also founded RAISE, a local organization that provides a 24-hour radio reading service to the sight impaired.) The DASI equipment, which allows volunteer describers to transmit information without disturbing other members of the audience, was funded by the Asheville Lions Club.

Before a play even starts, volunteer describers will describe the set to sight-impaired members, “which makes the play and dialogue make sense,” and can be important to the action later, says Stanko.

During the play, the describers will point out any gestures, sight gags, costume details and other visuals important to the story being told. “All of this,” notes Stanko, who is visually impaired herself, “makes you part of the audience again instead of separate and apart.”

Other qualities of a good describer, include a good speaking voice, clear enunciation, and the ability to be succinct and accurate with their words, “so they’re not talking over the conversation that’s going on on-stage,” Stanko explains.

To expand the DASI service, additional describers are needed, says Stanko. An audition for new describers will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 7, in the conference room of the United Way building (50 S. French Broad Ave.) in Asheville.

For more information or to attend the audition, call Stanko at 253-8781.

— Lisa Watters

Environment and cancer

How does Western North Carolina’s air and water quality affect our health and the incidence of cancer? In an open forum next week, Clay Ballantine, M.D., and Rick Maas, Ph.D. will discuss how we are affected daily by environmental conditions in this region.

Mary Hill, development director of Pathways — Life After Cancer, told Xpress that she got the idea for the forum when an acquaintance in another city asked her, “So you have pretty bad air back there in WNC … how does that affect the incidence of cancer in your community?”

“I couldn’t answer him because I didn’t know,” Hill recalls. “I knew that we needed to get this information out there to the community at large.”

Ballantine sits on the board of directors for the Asheville- Buncombe County Clean Air Community Trust, and Maas is a professor of environmental science and co-director of UNCA’s Environmental Quality Institute. The two speakers plan to address ways that citizens can both safeguard themselves and improve the state of the environment.

The free forum is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on May 11 at the Asheville YWCA, 185 South French Broad Ave. Contact Mary Hill at 252-4106 or 777-2038 for more information.

— Cecil Bothwell

First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain…

In West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, coal companies are blasting as much as 1,000 feet off the tops of mountains, burying nearby streams under rock and debris. Mountaintop removal is the cheapest way to mine coal, and mining-company practices are driving out many longtime area residents tired of the incessant blasting and of having their drinking water poisoned.

But coalfield resident Bo Webb of Coal River Mountain Watch is fighting back. (The group was honored in 2003 when its director, Judy Bonds, was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize.) Webb will speak at Jubilee! Community on Sunday, May 8, at 7 p.m., giving a multimedia presentation with photos, music and recorded testimony from other coalfield residents.

Webb will also discuss Mountain Justice Summer, a series of events designed to focus national attention on the coalfields.

To learn more, visit crmw.net, or www.mountainjusticesummer.org.

— Cecil Bothwell

That’s steam, not smoke

Drivers on Interstate 26 are often alarmed by the plume pouring out of the smokestack on Progress Energy’s coal-burning Skyland power plant. It just looks so bad for our air. And soon, the company warns, it’s going to look a lot worse.

But hold the cell phone, Martha. That plume will be more visible because it will actually be much cleaner. Between this year and 2009, as the company’s flagship power plant — already one of the cleanest coal-fired utilities facilities in the Southeast — installs state-of-the-art smoke-scrubbing technology on its two boiler units, the plume of steam the Skyland plant emits will be increasingly reduced to pure water vapor. And in cool, moist weather, it will look opaque and cloudy, not unlike the steam from your breath.

The most prominent parts of the new system will be the scrubber towers, which rise up like oversized concrete smokestacks but have no opening at the top. (The first will begin operation this fall.) Flue gas from burning coal flows into the scrubber, where it’s met with a wet slurry of finely ground limestone. The SO<->2<-> (sulfur dioxide) in the gas — the pollutant that causes acid rain — reacts chemically with the limestone and forms gypsum, which falls to the bottom of the chamber. Gypsum is harmless; it’s the main component of wallboard.

The most innovative part of the system, however, is an artificial wetland that will filter the scrubber water before it returns to the environment — much as natural wetlands do. The biofilter’s plants, soils and water will remove the toxic metals in the scrubber water, such as mercury and selenium. This particular system was developed with Clemson University’s help; similar artificial swamps have been created recently at the North Carolina Arboretum and UNCA to filter runoff from parking lots.

The two other principal pollutants in coal smoke — fine particulates and NOx (nitrogen oxide, the chemical precursor of ozone) — will be cleansed by precipitators and selective catalytic-reduction units. Similar to a car’s catalytic converter, an SCR creates a chemical reaction with ammonia that splits NOx into nitrogen and still more of that water that’s due to come steaming out of the Skyland stack.

When all these upgrades are complete, Progress Energy will have invested $190 million to clean up its WNC plant and achieved a 93 percent reduction in ozone-generating NOx since 1997, according to company spokespersons Robert Sipes and Selenah Seabrooks, who spoke at an April 26 press conference called by the Land-of-Sky Regional Council on behalf of its Ozone Season Kickoff media event. The cleanup is required by the N.C. Clean Smokestacks Act, which WNC legislators Martin Nesbitt and Steve Metcalf co-sponsored in 2002.

— Steve Rasmussen

How to meet live, local carpoolers

Lonely singles hook up on the Internet — so why not lone commuters? A new Web site is designed to help you find someone near you who shares your commute and work hours, and maybe even your interests — in saving gas money and reducing air pollution, at any rate.

Share the Ride NC, at www.sharetheridenc.com (or .org, if you prefer) is a new state-sponsored ride-share matching service that quickly and securely allows North Carolina commuters to find carpool partners. After logging on to the free service and registering, visitors get access to contact information for other interested carpoolers with similar destinations. Interested participants can then make contact via phone or e-mail and, if everyone’s simpatico, they can establish a carpool that will reduce their costs while relieving each of them of some driving chores (not to mention the boredom of waiting out a traffic jam with no one but an ’80s-rock station for company).

“It’s the greatest innovation in carpooling since the four-door sedan,” Margie Meares, executive director of the locally based Clean Air Community Trust, proclaimed with a smile at the Land-of-Sky Regional Council’s Ozone Season Kickoff media event on April 26. And after registering your carpool with the trust (at www.airtrust.org), participants will be eligible for an emergency-ride-home program the group is developing, for days when people have to leave work early or stay late.

Once Progress Energy’s power-plant cleanup system goes online (see “That’s Steam, Not Smoke” elsewhere in this issue), autos will be the largest source of ozone pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions in Western North Carolina. Decreasing that pollution is the trust’s main goal in helping to administer the program.

And partly out of concern for relieving downtown’s worsening parking pressure, the city of Asheville is getting involved, too. A transportation-demand-management coordinator will be hired to work with Share the Ride.

— Steve Rasmussen

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