How cool is that?
The cove forest that surrounds Bat Cave is verdant and thick with rare plants like Carey’s saxifrage and broadleaf coreopsis. Natural vents wheeze air from the bowels of the earth, cool and moist. Deep underground, little-known creatures — spiders, crevice salamanders, millipedes, amphipods — skulk about, only too happy to be left in the dark. And then, of course, there are those bats, all papery wings and pug noses. Cute!
In 1981 the Nature Conservancy assumed management of the delicate preserve, which today is co-owned by the organization and Margaret Flinsch. And while it remains off-limits to visitors most of the year, this summer the curious can experience the 186-acre parcel during weekly tours that will run through Saturday, Aug. 5.
During the warm months, the Nature Conservancy trains students from Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa to help steward the preserve. This year their job description includes showing off the place to guests. The tours, which take place Wednesdays and Saturdays, depart from the Bat Cave Apple House at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Maria Sadowski of the Nature Conservancy describes the hike as “steep but not super long” and “appropriate to most age groups.”
The hikes stop short of the cave entrance, and there’s no guarantee you’ll see a bat (“They’re mostly sleeping during the day,” Sadowski says), but the views from the trail and the plant diversity promise to make the trip worthwhile.
The tours are in support of the organization’s goals at the preserve, which include re-establishing the endangered Indiana bat, a formerly common denizen of the cave. But rare flora and fauna are not the property’s only distinction: With its 300-feet-long and 85-feet-high main chamber, Bat Cave ranks as North America’s largest granite fissure cave. Now you know what all the flap is about.
The Bat Cave Preserve tours are $10 for adults, $5 for children under 12. Space is limited, and preregistration is required (call the conservancy’s local office at 749-1700, Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.). Bat Cave is 22 miles south of Asheville on winding U.S. 64.
— Kent Priestley
High on the hog
That low rumble over Swannanoa June 8-10 won’t be the thunder of a summer storm or another rogue earthquake rattling the cupboards but the sonic growl of thousands of Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
For the first time in more than a decade, the annual North Carolina Harley Owners Group is coming to the area for Mountain Thunder, setting up camp for three days of revved-up revelry in a field just off exit 59 on Interstate 40. Registration for the members-only event begins Thursday, June 8, and the weekend will feature concerts, motorcycle demonstrations and rides round the area.
By now, it’s common knowledge that the demographics of Harley riders have changed since the days of Marlon Brando in The Wild One, with today’s riders sponsoring charity events and taking up social causes. According to HOG’s own numbers, the average age of Harley owners is now about 45; 68 percent are married, and 40 percent hold college degrees.
The HOG rally media coordinator is none other than Buncombe County Schools Superintendent Cliff Dodson, a 30-year motorcyclist and HOG member for half that time. He said an estimated 2,000 people will attend this year’s rally, spending an average of $1,000 each and collectively racking up some 4,000 to 6,000 hotel-room nights.
— Brian Postelle
The unkindest cut of all
Mark Antony said it well in describing the stab wound inflicted on Caesar by his most loyal follower, Brutus. “Ingratitude, more strong than traitors’ arms/ Quite vanquish’d him.” And as it goes with a fallen leader, so it may go with fallen causes.
Alas, oh brutal Ashevillites, your ingratitude may have killed (or at least culled) the Kindness Campaign. I have been assigned to burial duty, but I will yet praise it — though in the way of all things, the good it has done may be interred with its bromides. It was a pleasant campaign, probably the most completely benign effort this reporter has ever witnessed. It comprised an army without opposition waging a war without an enemy, and was everywhere greeted by sincere murmurs of, “Oh, how nice.”
The bad news came last week, when Volunteer Coordinator Cathy Holt issued a press release forlornly titled “The Kindness Campaign Scales Back its Asheville Operations.” The release said the campaign will now be relegated to a Web site offering Kindness Campaign products and school program-support materials (www.thekindnesscampaign.org).
Retiring Executive Director Barry Weinhold said a lack of funds to pay for a replacement director and a shortage of volunteers made a continued campaign untenable.
The campaign leaves behind more than 15,000 circular buttons, awarded to individuals spotted practicing random acts of kindness, as well as good feelings abetted by the contributions of numerous area churches and local businesses. Holt will continue to offer “Kind Communication” classes and will work with the Mediation Center on teacher training.
Ah, Asheville, if you were kinder, you would not need mediators.
Weinhold said, “I am confident that the seeds that were sown here in Asheville and Western North Carolina during the one and one-half years of our operation will continue to grow through the efforts of all those who are living kindness everyday.”
Some observers may think the campaign just wasn’t ambitious enough — never pressing too hard for compliance, never ranting at City Council meetings or haranguing passersby in Pritchard Park. Perhaps, as Antony observed, “Ambition should be made of sterner stuff.”
— Cecil Bothwell
If you hold it, they will come. Such has been the lesson of city-hosted public forums lately. In an effort to harvest the bounty of public opinion, the city held yet another public-input session at Asheville High School May 30, drawing an enthusiastic crowd of about 100.
The meeting focused on planning-and-development issues in the city. Some of the concerns would be familiar to anyone involved in such matters. Other ideas were more unusual, such as giving neighborhoods control over design decisions affecting them. These and other suggestions made at the meeting will be included in a report Planning and Development Director Scott Shuford is slated to deliver to the Asheville City Council at its June 20 work session.
The format of the May meeting was similar to a January forum held in Montford, with participants separated into focus groups and city staffers jotting down ideas. Suggestions were then boiled down by vote, and each group’s leader presented their top three priorities. The chief concerns turned out to be: parks and green space, urban density and affordable housing, and preserving downtown’s character while accommodating business needs.
During the breakout sessions, a few participants called for stronger enforcement of the Unified Development Ordinance, claiming that several recent business developments violated the UDO but slipped through the cracks somehow.
Such enforcement, charged one participant, is in the hands of people who “either don’t understand what they are doing or they have a different view of the UDO’s aspects.”
Others complimented the city’s efforts to gather input but took a wait-and-see attitude toward the final outcome.
“It’s always important to get focus groups together,” said group leader Bill Jones. “Hopefully someone will listen to us.”
Mayor Terry Bellamy stressed that the city will continue to collect input via mail and e-mail up until the week before the work session.
Suggestions and concerns about planning and development in Asheville can be submitted via e-mail to email@example.com.
— Brian Postelle
WestFest fetes Asheville’s “other” downtown
In case you were wondering, there’s more to Asheville than its lively downtown core. West Asheville’s Haywood Road corridor constitutes a slightly funkier, edgier version of its big sister.
If downtown is the smokin’ hot elder sibling who makes the best grades and gets all the attention, West Asheville is the slightly gawky little girl with braces who shows distinct signs of blossoming into a stunning young woman.
Each year, the neighborhood celebrates its continuing transformation into a lively enclave of entrepreneurs, artists and young families with a party thrown in its honor. This year’s WestFest is slated for Saturday, June 10, from noon to 7 p.m., rain or shine. Spread along Haywood between Oakwood Street and Vermont Avenue, the event, sponsored by the West Asheville Business Association and Asheville’s Parks and Recreation Department, will feature an array of food and drink, music, special fun for the kids and interactive booths to keep attendees entertained throughout the day.
An expanded kids’ zone will include an obstacle course, bounce house, Chuggy the Choo Choo, face painting, crafts, sidewalk drawing and a bubble station. And the community stage will focus more on community members and groups than on the small musical acts of past years, says business association President Lewis Lankford. The stage will feature kid karaoke, dance, clogging and martial-arts demonstrations, ending with a performance by pop troubador Chris Jamison at 6 p.m.
The number of vendors and other booths is also up this year, with about 66 planned as of press time, according to Lankford. But with more applicants than could be accommodated, some were left out. And at least one rejected applicant, President Stewart David of Carolina Animal Action, isn’t happy about it. The animal-rights group has failed to land booth space at WestFest for the past four years, says David, who feels organizers simply don’t want his group there. In the interim, he notes, Carolina Animal Action has had booths at Bele Chere and other local events.
But Lankford says the group’s failure to make the cut merely reflects space limitations and a poor fit with the festival’s focus on West Asheville. CAA, he says, failed to fill out its application completely, isn’t based in West Asheville, and hasn’t offered the kind of interactive, community-based booth the WestFest favors.
In other changes this year, the main stage will be moved to the Bledsoe Building parking lot. “That will make it a little more contained and easier for folks to enjoy the music there,” notes Lankford. This year’s entertainment roster will include Spitfire, The Swills, Davenport, Crooked Routes, Stephanie’s ID, and Sidney Barnes.
Wachovia Bank and the Second Gear retail shop are co-sponsoring the WestFest 5K Fun Run/Walk, which will begin and end at the Vermont Avenue Wachovia branch. Walkers will start at 8:50 a.m., runners at 9 a.m., with registration and packet pickup from 8-8:45 a.m. Participants will receive a free T-shirt and will be eligible for special prize drawings.
For more information, go to www.ashevillewestfest.com.
— Hal Millard