Wanted: your junk mail

You open your mailbox. Peering into the dark recesses, you glimpse … could it be? Maybe someone really does love you! But no, it’s only another mountain of that modern scourge, junk mail.

The news is not all bad, however, because Asheville residents will soon be able to toss all that unwanted junk mail (along with magazines, soda cartons, cereal boxes and a host of other paper products) into the recycling bin, thanks to an upcoming expansion of the city’s curbside-recycling program.

Starting July 1, the city will add mixed paper to its successful recycling program. Keep an eye out for a new blue bin that’s due to arrive this month, along with information explaining mixed-paper-recycling dos and don’ts.

For more information, call Curbside Management at 252-2532.

Taking the valley’s pulse

Land-use issues always seem to get folks in Buncombe County fired up.

Members of a local task force hope to learn more about those passions during an upcoming forum at Ridgecrest.

The Black Mountain/Swannanoa Valley Land Use Task Force is sponsoring the forum, to be held on Tuesday, June 20 in the Ridgecrest Baptist Church fellowship hall, starting at 7 p.m.

“It’s not intended to be a focused debate about any one issue,” says Becki Janes, one of the organizers. “The focus of the forum is to educate the public about issues that might affect them in the community.”

Organizers will make a short presentation about the task force, followed by a facilitated session designed to gather concerns and inform area residents about various topics, including land use, environmental and development issues. An open — though civilized — discussion is expected.

“It won’t be just a free-for-all,” promises Janes.

A member of the Buncombe County Planning Department is also slated to be on hand to answer questions, she says.

This isn’t the first time the task force has taken steps to educate the public. A “visioning conference” in 1995 addressed some troubling aspects of WNC’s rapid development. And in 1997, the group produced a glossy brochure offering tips on how homeowners and builders can lessen the visual and environmental impacts of residential construction in the mountains, covering such topics as preserving ridge lines, fitting homes to their sites, building with aesthetically appropriate materials, and using landscaping to minimize runoff.

The forum is the first in a series to be held throughout the Swannanoa River Valley. Although this one targets Ridgecrest residents, anyone from the valley is welcome to attend.

For more information, call the Black Mountain-Swannanoa Chamber of Commerce at 669-2300.

Extra dry, on the rocks

The lesson of the last two drought-stricken summers might be that Western North Carolina needs to become water wise.

To that end, an upcoming workshop on xeriscape landscaping at the North Carolina Arboretum can help home gardeners and landscapers learn how to conserve water while creating a beautiful yard. The three-hour workshop (Saturday, July 8, starting at 9 a.m.) will cover planning and design, soil analysis, appropriate plant selection, use of mulches and efficient irrigation.

Although it’s not a new concept, xeriscape (landscaping for efficient water use) is more commonly associated with drier areas, such as the Southwest.

“A lot of people think it’s about yuccas and cactuses, but it’s more about water management through soil preparation,” explains Linda Blue of the Cooperative Extension Service, who will provide an introduction to xeriscape.

Sponsored by the Regional Water Authority, the Water Efficiency Task Force and the N.C. Arboretum, the workshop aims to teach people how to group plants in different areas of the landscape, according to their water needs. Drought-tolerant plants such as junipers and hollies, for example, would be kept separate from the thirsty azaleas, says Blue.

Xeriscaping, she notes, can:

• reduce outdoor water use by up to 50 percent;

• cut fertilizer and chemical use;

• save time and money through reduced maintenance; and

• increase home values by up to 14 percent.

Individual results, of course, vary depending on the particular gardener’s habits. “Some of us do a lot more watering than others,” confesses Blue.

The $5 registration fee covers refreshments, conference materials and a xeriscape workbook.

For more information, or to request a registration form, call Stephanie Birnie at 259-5414, or Rebecca Guggenheim at 259-5972. Space is limited to 100 participants.

Citizens fight Wal-Mart

East Asheville residents are mobilizing against the Wal-Mart Super Center proposed for the old Sayles Biltmore Bleacheries property, off Swannanoa River Road.

At a July 25 public hearing, City Council is expected to decide whether to permit construction of the massive 355,000-square-foot shopping center. Concerned citizens have formed a group called Community Supported Development, which they say advocates the kind of environmentally friendly projects promoted by the city’s Sustainable Economic Development Plan.

“We are not against development, per se; we are against development that degrades the environment, puts downstream properties at risk, and undermines efforts to create high-paying jobs and sustainable economic development,” proclaims CSD spokesperson Ned Guttman. “We support development that is, after careful study, shown to be beneficial to the city and in harmony with surrounding areas.”

The proposed Wal-Mart, says the group, is neither appropriate nor sustainable, since it will increase traffic congestion, air and river pollution, and sacrifice valuable real estate for low-paying jobs.

CSD has petitioned both the Historic Resources Commission and City Council to designate the property as a historic landmark. “The Sayles Bleachery is a unique example of the city’s architectural heritage and a historic link to the textile industry,” according tooa CSD press release.

For details on both the petition and the CSD legal-action fund, check their Web site (

Rockin’ history

The Preservation Society is gearing up to present this year’s edition of its annual Griffin Awards, which recognize outstanding local historic-preservation efforts. The awards spotlight notable contributions in three categories: restoration, commercial and residential rehabilitation, and compatible reconstruction.

This year’s winners will be announced at the end of the silent auction that traditionally enlivens the group’s annual meeting, slated for Tuesday, June 20 at the Arbor Grille, in the Richmond Hill Inn.

This wild event gets rocking at 5:30 p.m.; for more information, call the Preservation Society at 254-2343.

Bele Chere the fun

The secret’s out! Sure, everybody knows about Bele Chere, which many consider to be the highlight of their summer, but fewer are aware of the extensive volunteer opportunities.

Why do it? Asheville resident/business owner Richard Mann, who’s volunteered at Bele Chere for the last two years and plans to be on hand once again this July, says, “it’s fun!” Besides meeting other volunteers (often people he wouldn’t otherwise get to know), Mann says: “You get an inside, behind-the-scenes perspective on this party. It’s being a part of it, as opposed to just going to it.”

This vast community endeavor depends on the efforts of hundreds of volunteers — more than 600 this year — who do everything from helping out at the McDonald’s Funland to staffing information booths.

Volunteers who work a three-hour shift receive a free Bele Chere T-shirt, a fanny pack with amenities, plus access to a special area (with refreshments) at volunteer headquarters, sponsored by Mission St. Joseph’s. All volunteers must attend one of three scheduled training sessions, with refreshments provided by La Paz Restaurante.

To learn about Bele Chere volunteer opportunities, contact the festival office at 259-5800.

A better way

Deciding child-custody issues is never easy. Often, both parents arrive in court in the grip of strong emotions that have more to do with their breakup than with what’s best for their child. Happily, however, there’s another option — the Child Custody and Visitation Mediation Program. Begun in 1983, the program now operates in 28 of North Carolina’s 39 district courts.

Mediators help parents understand their options and reach a mutually acceptable parenting agreement. Setting aside their emotions, parents create a clear plan for meeting such day-to-day responsibilities as transportation, homework and bedtime, and addressing major issues such as education, religious upbringing and visiting times for relatives. Signed by both parties, this written agreement is then presented to the court for approval.

In a recent study funded by the Governor’s Crime Commission, this program won high approval ratings from both parents and attorneys. Parents were more satisfied with mediated agreements than with either trial results or nonmediated agreements. And nearly three-fourths of surveyed attorneys said mediation reduces client costs.

Janet Harvey, family mediator at the Mediation Center in Asheville (one of the program’s pioneer sites), says she’s “been amazed with the program. Parents come in with a lot of hurt, anxiety and anger, but are able to come up with an agreement, a plan. The program helps to focus on children’s needs, one of which is the need to have each parent in their lives. A mediator helps each party to hear the other person, to communicate each person’s view without the emotional content.”

For more information, call the Mediation Center at 251-6089.

Changing the world one step at a time

The Trail of Dreams got under way on April 21, when a half-dozen walkers set off from Cumberland Gap, W. Va., heading south through the Appalachian Mountains toward their final destination: Dillard, Ga. Along the way, they’ve been stopping in local towns to explain their mission — and, in a few cases, they’ve even inspired the locals to join them.

The idea for the journey came to Audri Scott Williams while she was in Wales, England, last summer, at the lighting of the World Peace Flame. “The children are forgetting to dream,” explains Williams, who is of African-American and Cherokee descent. “And when dreams cease, a people perish. We must connect [the people] to their greatness, connect them to dreams of a people over 150 years ago who walked these mountains as they dreamed of a world where they could be free. We must return the dreaming to the children.”

The author, musician and former college dean points out that, as the walkers journey along the AT, they are following the paths of their ancestors — including some who set out in search of freedom to the north through the Underground Railroad, and others, Native Americans, who escaped the Trail of Tears by hiding out in the Appalachian Mountains.

The Trail of Dreams hikers will arrive in Asheville on Thursday, June 15 and remain here through Saturday, June 17. On Friday, the hikers will take part in a noon “Be Who You Are” parade, starting at the French Broad Food Co-op and ending at Montford Park; later, they’ll be on hand for a potluck meal and drumming ceremony. Then on Saturday, at noon, they’ll gather at City/County Plaza to discuss their experiences.

The public is welcome to join in the festivities, as well the actual journey itself, although for that you’ll need to bring your own provisions. There is no cost for any of this, although donations are welcome.

For more information, contact Forrest Green at 658-8095, or e-mail him at The hikers maintain a Web site at

— collegially compiled by Matthew Dickens, Tracy Rose, Lisa Watters and Jeff Fobes

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