Don’t take the car — you’ll pollute the planet!

Yep, it’s that old argument-stopper again, the one that always comes up when you’re trying to convince someone how environmentally friendly your lifestyle really is (you’re mostly vegetarian, you recycle, you turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth, etc.); and then your opponent will grin and say, “Yeah, but you drive a car, don’t you?” Well now, you can have an answer ready for that one, too. Because Friday, May 21 is Strive Not to Drive Day, when many of us in Asheville will reduce our reliance on those monoxide-belching, four-wheeled monsters by taking bikes, walking or riding the bus to work and for doing local errands.

Strive Not to Drive Day was conceived by the Pedestrian and Bikeways task forces to raise awareness of WNC’s pollution problems, while highlighting other available transportation options. Pollution is always a concern, of course, but Asheville is particularly susceptible to air-quality problems because it sits in a bowl, surrounded by mountains which inhibit air movement that could clear out the ozone, nitrous oxides and carbon monoxide generated by vehicles. Obviously, driving less will help the problem.

Strive Not to Drive Day will be celebrated at City/County Plaza from 5 to 7 p.m. with activities including a bicycle rodeo for kids, a 5K run, a nonmotorized parade (with awards for most creative vehicle), plus environmental displays. Elsewhere on that day, Earth Fare will hold a cookout from 12 to 2 p.m., and health walks will be held at Hendersonville’s City Hall at noon, 1 and 5:30 p.m. Other sponsors of Strive Not to Drive Day include the Asheville Fire and Police departments, the Asheville Transit Authority, the Land-of-Sky Regional Council, Quality Forward, State Farm Insurance, Pro Bikes and ECO.

This car-less day is just one facet of a massive Clean Air Campaign organized by more than 30 WNC organizations to increase public awareness of the region’s air-quality issues, particularly ground-level ozone, acid deposition (which harms high-elevation forests and streams) and haze. One of the purposes of the campaign, which was launched by the Western North Carolina Regional Air Pollution Control Agency, is to provide concrete solutions to pollution-related problems, such as: better insulating your home, replacing older vehicles with more efficient models, conserving hot water, planting more trees and vegetation, and — oh yeah — driving less.

To learn more about Strive Not to Drive Day, call Elizabeth Teague at the Land-of-Sky Regional Council at 251-6622. To learn more about the Clean Air Campaign, call Bill Eaker, also at 251-6622.

A friend of the river is a friend of mine

Every year for the last 22, the Land-of-Sky Regional Council has put out a call for worthy nominees for their annual Friend of the River awards … and now, it’s that time again. The program recognizes individuals, organizations, civic groups and/or public agencies in Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania counties who have made significant contributions toward enhancing or restoring the French Broad River as a cultural, economic, natural or recreational resource.

As you can see, there’s a lot of leeway there: The contributions can be as varied as the many faces of the river itself. And whether a potential nominee helped boost community awareness of the river; provided legislative, technical or funding support for a river-improvement project; stimulated or used citizen volunteers to help with river improvement; and/or furthered public understanding of the river as a natural resource, their efforts may be recognized.

The deadline for nominations is Friday, May 21, and award recipients will be honored at Land-of-Sky’s annual Friends of the River Dinner, scheduled for Tuesday, June 8 at the Asheville’s Recreation Park. Past winners include: Jean Webb, Quality Forward, Frank Fitzsimmons, Wilma Dykeman, the WNC Muskie Club, Glenn Goodrich, Bob Caldwell, Bill Thomas, the Environmental & Conservation Organization of Henderson County, Sam Cathey, and others.

For information on how to nominate a Friend of the River, call Jean Sluder at 251-6622.

Putting the “cool” back in school

There’s a broad range of educational institutions serving school-age kids in the Asheville area. One of them is The Learning Community, an independent school for grades K through 8, located in Black Mountain. Not familiar with it? TLC is hosting the opening of its Mountain Heritage Museum on Saturday, May 15 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Swannannoa 4-H Center.

The museum’s exhibits explore Appalachia’s natural history and cultural heritage; all were researched and created by TLC students, in partnership with local 4-H clubs. The students began by visiting other local museums and artisans; then, under the tutelage of project director Terry Godfrey, they eventually narrowed their focus, choosing specific areas of concentration. The third- and fourth-graders, for instance, decided to recreate the interior of a traditional log cabin; the fifth- and sixth-graders focused on presenting the uses of trees, forestry tools and Cherokee animal mythology; and the seventh- and eighth-graders studied the geology of Southern Appalachia, Southern Appalachian trees, and such crafts as woodworking and blacksmithing.

Founded by parents in 1996, The Learning Community stresses parental involvement, outdoor education, experiential learning, an integrated arts curriculum, and community service.

To find out more, call Noel at 669-4419.

Come on in, the business is fine

Western North Carolina is an outdoors-lover’s paradise: It’s not surprising, then, that this water-rich region would inspire a pair of outdoor-recreation-equipment manufacturers to join forces and locate a new company here. Lotus Designs Inc. plans to set up shop in Weaverville. The new company is born of the merger of the Weaverville-based Lotus Designs with the paddling line of industry giant Patagonia.

Both companies specialize in high-quality outdoor equipment: While Lotus Designs makes swim vests, rescue jackets and other paddling accessories; Patagonia has offered innovative products for paddlers, as well as outdoor-clothing designs. “Lotus Designs is a company built on passion and doing what feels right,” said Bob Holding, the new company’s general manager, in a recent news release. “Patagonia shares this passion, and that’s exactly what drew us to Lotus. We’re going to be working in one of the best paddling playgrounds in the country, combining two of the best product lines. Any paddler who shares our reverence for rivers and personal connection to water should be stoked.”

Lotus Designs founder Philip Curry is also stoked: “I speak for the entire Lotus Designs team when I say we’re excited about this new venture. Patagonia and Lotus are a natural fit — we share an unwavering commitment to product quality, leading-edge designs, and having fun in the water. By hooking up with Patagonia, Lotus Designs will be able to reach its full potential faster, while remaining true to our soul.”

For more about Lotus Designs, call Brad Brock at 689-2470.

A hidden crime

Sexual violence, though perhaps not as much a “dirty secret” as it once was, is still often either ignored or downplayed by the media and public officials, due in part to the difficulty of statistically categorizing the crimes. An even murkier area is when women inflict violence on other women.

Now, however, Warren Wilson College sociologist and community activist Dr. Lori Girshick has launched a nationwide study of “woman-to-woman” sexual violence, aimed at lesbians, bisexual women and transgendered/transsexual women. Using a widely distributed questionnaire, Girshick hopes to do for woman-to-woman sexual violence what other researchers and activists have done for marital rape — challenge the invisibility of the act and seek public and legal recognition of its consequences. One of the primary aims of Girshick’s work will be to understand what labels women use who are sexually assaulted by their female partners or dates: Do they call the violence sexual assault, sexual coercion, or rape?

Fliers about the study have been sent to thousands of agencies, community centers, therapists and others across the country. Girshick hopes her work will contribute to the development of outreach efforts and support services by rape-crisis centers and domestic-violence agencies, and will help therapists and others who work with survivors of sexual violence. Girshick also hopes to challenge existing laws. Questionnaires will be collected over the summer.

Women interested in participating may request a copy of the questionnaire by calling Girshick at 298-3325, ext. 376.

Down on the farm

The WNC Nature Center is always a great place for parents and kids to discover some interesting animals. But on Saturday, May 15 they’ll be hosting “Farm Fun Day,” giving visitors an extra-special chance to experience traditional farm life and come face to face with horses, oxen, sheep … and even a llama. A variety of other attractions will also be featured, including farm-life displays, the Asheville Police Department’s Mobile Crime Lab and a Camaro Z-28 patrol car, plus traditional mountain music, dancing, clogging and more. Food and soft drinks will be available. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $3 for children ages 3 to 14.

Call 250-4260 for more information.

Hearing on widening of Brevard Road

The N.C. Department of Transportation will hold a public hearing on the widening of N.C. 191 (Brevard Road), from the Blue Ridge Parkway ramp to N.C. 112 (Sardis Road) in Asheville.

The hearing will be held on Tuesday, May 18, from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. at the N.C. Arboretum, 100 Frederick Law Olmstead Way, in Asheville. For more info, call toll free (877)-DOT-4YOU.

— capybarically compiled by Paul Schattel

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