Buzzworm news briefs

Rolling like a river

If you sit awhile beside a river, or, better still, float down one in a canoe or kayak, you quickly see that the whole is composed of many parts: side currents rolling away from the bank as it meanders, standing waves downstream from unseen boulders, a mix of colors where branches conjoin with the main flow. RiverLink, the Asheville-based nonprofit focused on revitalization of the French Broad River and its tributaries, sometimes seems as multifaceted as the waterway it attends.

In addition to its most visible accomplishments — the French Broad River Greenway system and the Wilma Dykeman RiverWay — RiverLink projects cover the spectrum from hands-on work to education.

Its ongoing volunteer clean-up project has enlisted more than 400 helpers and collected almost 1,000 bags of trash since January, and the organization is looking for more work. (Contact RiverLink to suggest stretches of local waterways that need attention and are accessible for boat launch and trash pick-up.) Cleanup events are slated for the second Saturday of each month.

RiverLink’s larger-scale remediation work includes demonstration rain gardens (catchments that retain the first inch of rainfall along with most of the runoff pollutants from parking lots and other impervious surfaces), replacement of riffles in waterways that have been channelized by developers and restoration of stream banks damaged by erosion.

“Hiking through an Urban Watershed” is a part of RiverLink’s new Docent Program. The program seeks to raise environmental and watershed awareness in the community through hands-on outings and river walks that explore different aspects of the French Broad River Watershed. Other projects within the Docent Program include guided river-rafting trips, in-school water-based education and special presentations and lectures.

You can join RiverLink for the series of hikes through the French Broad River Watershed, starting Saturday, June 25, at 11 a.m. The first hike will offer a “bird’s eye view” of the watershed and cover topics such as ground-water movement and watershed hydrology. The hike will last about two-and-a-half hours.

Follow-up hikes on the fourth Saturday’s of July and August will discuss stream impairment within the Swannanoa River Watershed, restoration, plant diversity and morphology. This series is dedicated to bringing the community closer to the French Broad River and its watershed and to raising awareness about the processes, impacts upon and functions of an urban watershed. Space is limited, so reservations are suggested.

In recognition of RiverLink’s work, the Mountain Laurel Garden Club selected the nonprofit, together with Quality Forward, as the beneficiary of the club’s annual auction. Each spring, the club hosts a luncheon and auction to raise funds for significant local projects. This year’s event netted more than $16,000. RiverLink announced it will use its portion of the proceeds to landscape Hominy Creek Park on Brevard Road — site of a new small-dog park and improved river access being built in cooperation with the Buncombe County Parks and Recreation Services and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.

The Progress Energy site on Riverside Drive also will be landscaped with these funds. The energy giant recently completed a $3 million cleanup at the former manufactured-gas site, facilitated by RiverLink. More than 10,000 tons of contaminated dirt were removed, and the now-clean site will become an integral part of the Greenway/RiverWay system.

For project information, phone 252-8474, ext. 110; for hike and cleanup information, dial extension 113. Or visit the Web site at www.riverlink.org.

— Cecil Bothwell

Clean the air, go to college

Seven $1,000 scholarships are waiting for college-bound high-school seniors who research and suggest potential solutions to Buncombe County’s air-pollution problems. The funds are part of a $35,000 grant that the Western North Carolina Air Quality Agency awarded June 7 to the Clean Air Community Trust (CACT).

The nonprofit trust, whose mission is to educate the public about air pollution and encourage innovative approaches to cleaning it up, is asking bright young minds to identify, investigate and explain the sources of an air-quality issue in a 5-to-7-page paper. Then it asks the students to create a solution-focused educational tool — such as a Web page, mural, PSA video or PowerPoint presentation — that will be a useful contribution to the community.

“This project is really exciting, and moving forward,” says trust director Margie Meares, following a middle-school air-quality contest that brought the trust into contact with several hundred school kids. The trust has also created a presentation for the Asheville Board of Realtors called “Environmental Issues: Resources for Healthy Choices.” (For full details of the Air Pollution Solutions contest, visit www.airtrust.org, e-mail info@airtrust.org or call 258-1856. The deadline for entries is Nov. 30.)

The air-agency grant marks a milestone for the clean-air trust, which got off to a rocky start four years ago when a local business group sued the air agency over its original plans to fund the trust with money from penalties levied on polluters. The lawsuit helped lead to a far-reaching court ruling that has forced all fines collected by state regulators to be turned over to public schools.

Another honor the agency’s board announced on June 7 was an Excellence in Public Service Award that Buncombe County bestowed on agency staffer Ashley Featherstone, who initiated a popular indoor-air-quality inspection and education program for local homeowners. Although indoor air pollution — from mold and cleaning chemicals, for example — in houses and schools isn’t subject to environmental regulations, notes Featherstone, it can be a more serious health threat than outdoor pollution when its concentration builds up in an enclosed space. Concerned homeowners can call the air agency at 255-5655 to schedule a free voluntary inspection of their homes.

— Steve Rasmussen

Cool seniors

Operation Fan/Heat Relief, a special project that provides electric fans to seniors, is now underway across North Carolina.

The project, which began in 1986, is managed through the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Division of Aging and Adult Services. Fans are purchased through donations from the Duke Energy Foundation, Progress Energy Service Company, Dominion North Carolina Power and Valassis Communications Inc.

Karen Gottovi, director of DAAS, notes that seniors are particularly vulnerable to heat exhaustion in the summer temperatures and humidity. “Chronic health problems in older persons require medication which affects the body’s natural defenses against heat,” she says. “These fans provide the comfort and relief to cope with the heat and allow seniors to remain healthier in their own home.”

Locally, DAAS has allocated funds to the Land-of-Sky Regional Council’s Area Agency on Aging, which is working with other area agencies to provide fans to seniors. In some cases, air conditioners are available for individuals who have extreme medical conditions and whose doctors make a request. The program will run through September.

If you are or know of an older adult in need of a fan, call Council on Aging of Buncombe County (277-8288), Henderson County Council on Aging (692-4203), Western Carolina Community in Action in Hendersonville County (693-1711) or Transylvania County (884-3219).

— Lisa Watters

Festival celebrates clinic’s successes

Asheville’s 20-year-old Chinese Acupuncture and Herbology Clinic is celebrating its two decades of service with an anniversary festival on Saturday, June 25.

Established by Mary Cissy Majebe, O.M.D., in 1985, the clinic was an early pioneer in providing Eastern-style medicine to the community, and the business has since grown to include clinics in Hendersonville and Waynesville.

The clinic, which is located in the Montford neighborhood, now employs eight licensed acupuncturists and 25 staff members, and provides the largest herbal pharmacy in the Southeast. The clinic was raided by the State Bureau of Investigation in 1990 (Majebe was threatened with criminal prosecution for practicing medicine without a license), and the ensuing legal battle and public awareness resulted in the establishment of the North Carolina State Acupuncture Licensing Board in 1993, with Majebe as chair.

The clinic’s celebration is taking place on the Montford campus of Daoist Traditions College of Chinese Medical Arts, a school Majebe helped establish three years ago for training acupuncture practitioners in classical Chinese medicine, and one of three acupuncture schools now established in the region.

Activities at the festival will include topical presentations by clinic practitioners, participatory classes on practices such as yoga and qi gong and free massage by faculty members of the Asheville School of Massage and Yoga.

Live music, dancing and other activities for children and adults are also on the agenda, and light refreshments will be offered.

Anniversary festivities will take place from 1 to 5 p.m. on Saturday at 382 Montford Ave. The event is free and open to the public.

— Nelda Holder

Arming kids and young adults with awareness

Statistics provided by Helpmate and Our Voice are sobering: One in three girls and one in five boys will be the victim of sexual abuse by the age of 18. One in five students will experience violence in a dating relationship before graduating from high school. And 44 percent of rape victims are under the age of 18.

Helpmate, a domestic violence agency, and Our Voice, formerly the Rape Crisis Center, are trying to help local kids and young adults avoid becoming just another statistic. The two agencies are offering a joint education program called A.W.A.R.E. (Armed With Abuse and Rape Education) for kids in their middle- and high-school years.

The program is available for free to summer camps, youth groups, church groups or any other gathering of young people, explains Megan Paceley, community educator with Our Voice, who will be teaching the class with Christy Price, the volunteer and outreach coordinator with Helpmate.

The program is designed to be taught in four sessions. And although “that’s the best way to get all of the information across,” says Paceley, she and Price are willing to tailor the program to a one-time visit if that’s all the time available.

The first session involves plenty of getting-to-know-you exercises, an introduction to the topic, and getting the participants “used to talking about dating violence and sexual assault because it’s not something most people are used to talking about on a regular basis,” explains Paceley.

Later sessions go over statistics, definitions and lots of myth busting. “There are so many myths in our society that surround dating violence and sexual assault,” she notes.

One of these myths is that the victim must have done something to ask for it. “It’s a big thing — and it’s definitely not true,” says Paceley.

Another myth is that men can’t be victims. “We know that men can be and are victims of both sexual violence and dating violence — more so sexual violence,” she declares.

Participants also talk about the societal reasons behind dating violence and sexual violence. “We talk about gender roles and the stereotypical qualities men and women are taught they’re supposed to have” — and how that affects teenagers as they grow up, says Paceley.

The sessions also include plenty of prizes, snacks and games, Paceley adds. “It’s really hard taking a serious and uncomfortable topic and making it fun,” she notes. “We really try to do that so that the students can feel engaged and retain the information better.”

For more information, call Paceley at 252-0562, ext. 10, or Price at 254-2968, ext. 12.

— Lisa Watters

Buy Local Bash

Food consumed in Western North Carolina travels an average of 1,500 miles to reach our plates, according to Charlie Jackson, director of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP). But, he notes, research shows that interest in buying locally produced products is growing.

To celebrate that interest and spread the word about local food, ASAP and Greenlife Grocery will sponsor a Buy Local Bash. Local farmers, bakers, chefs and crafters will fill the grounds of the grocery for the event, Saturday, June 25, from noon to 6 p.m. The Bash will feature everything from health and beauty products to fruits and vegetables, dairy products, baked goods, meats and herbs. Attendees can expect to find food samples, cooking and crafting demonstrations, music and games for the kids.

ASAP publishes the Local Food Guide, which lists nearly 200 family farms and three dozen tailgate markets and has sections on U-pick farms, Community Supported Agriculture and apple orchards. “We publish this guide because people want food from local farms,” Jackson says. “The Buy Local Bash is a great place to meet many of the farmers listed in the guide.”

— Cecil Bothwell

Follow the root route

Local agriculture is blossoming. Thanks to the snowballing organic-food revolution, the slow-food movement, the conversion of farms following the tobacco buyout and the Buy Local campaign, Western North Carolina farms are the focus of rising attention. Since 1979, the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association has been a significant player in educating farmers, gardeners and the public about organic methods, regulations and results, as well as in making connections between consumers and producers.

CFSA’s 10th Annual Mountain Farm and Garden Tour will continue that effort June 25 and 26, from 1 to 6 p.m. each day.

The self-guided tour features 22 sustainable farms and gardens in Buncombe, Madison, Yancey, Transylvania and Henderson counties. Visitors will be able to pick their own blueberries and purchase fresh farm produce, meat, eggs, flowers and more.

To take the tour, load up a car with family and friends, pick up a map from a local natural-food store, pick the first farm you’d like to visit and pay there. The cost is $25 per car for all 22 farms or $5 per individual farm. Maps can also be downloaded at www.carolinafarmstewards.org.

Admission buttons for all farms can be purchased in advance for $20 per car at the following locations: Haywood Road Market, Grove Corner Market and French Broad Food Co-op in Buncombe County; Fox’s Country Store in Yancey County; Zuma Coffee in Madison County; and from Holly Hill Farm at the Transylvania County Tailgate Market on Saturdays.

Proceeds from the tour will benefit CFSA’s efforts to build a local-organic-food system in the Carolinas.

Volunteers are needed to greet visitors, help with publicity and help farmers prepare for the tour, the group says. Volunteers will receive a free Farm Tour button.

For more information or to volunteer, contact Julie Eubanks at (919) 542-2402 (e-mail: julie@carolinafarmstewards.org).

— Cecil Bothwell

AIDS awareness: a handshake instead of a kiss?

In the course of investigating conditions at the Buncombe County Detention Center (see “High Pressure Zone,” May 18), Xpress was told by a former jail employee that at least one medical technician at the facility is wary of entering the cells of HIV-positive inmates, for fear of becoming contaminated.

If a medical technician is indeed misinformed about HIV, it’s no wonder that the general public is apt to believe myths concerning the condition.

HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, is the virus that causes AIDS.

According to Ron Curran, director of the WNC Aids Project, you can’t get HIV through casual contact. That is, you can’t get AIDS by being in the same room, living in the same house, hugging or even kissing someone with the disease. HIV isn’t transmitted by touch or through saliva. You can’t get it through insect bites or from pets, in a swimming pool or hot tub, or via using the restroom. The virus is transmitted through sexual activity or through the sharing of intravenous needles.

When it comes to sexual contact, caution is indeed an urgent matter. A person can have HIV for years and not show any symptoms — the only way for you to know for sure is if you and your partner are tested.

There is no cure for HIV. “While current treatments for this deadly disease are better than ever, such treatments only help prolong life,” according to information provided on the University of Pennsylvania Health Systems Web site. “When the treatments work, there’s so little virus in the blood that blood tests can’t detect it. However, research on patients with this ‘undetectable’ level has shown that the virus is still there. People whose HIV is in this state are probably in something similar to remission, and they must continue taking their medications to stay well. They can also still give HIV to someone else, so they should still practice safe sex.”

Nor is the risk confined to gay men or intravenous drug users. “HIV rates continue to rise among heterosexuals,” according to UPHS. “People who have multiple sexual partners are at the highest risk.”

People are often reluctant to tell potential sexual partners that they’ve had a lot of past encounters. According to Curran, the best defense is to practice safe sex, get yourself tested and get your partner tested, too.

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