Clean and simple

Every once in awhile, an idea comes along that redefines the way we think about problem-solving … reminding us that surprisingly elementary answers to life’s quandaries lie all around, if only we could rethink our approach. Case in point: The city of Carrboro’s use of near-boiling water to kill weeds. A special machine superheats the water and dispenses it in a carefully controlled fashion, eliminating the need for toxic, chemical herbicides.

Made by Waipuna International, Ltd. of Auckland, New Zealand, the equipment is in use in several other countries but is almost unknown in the United States; the trial in Carrboro is the first in the Southeast. The self-contained machine is mounted on a small truck with hoses connected to long-handled applicator wands. The hot water melts the waxy outer coating on the leaves of weeds, which darken almost immediately and turn brown within a few hours. A quick once-over with the low-flow device is enough to do the job; the water quickly cools, and the only runoff into ground or surface water is … water.

In one of the city’s parks, a crew operated under the watchful eyes of several mothers supervising their children at play. Noting a small cloud following the applicator, one of the mothers came over to ask what they were spraying. When told it was just water and the cloud was merely steam, the women reportedly cheered. “That’s what it is all about,” said Allen Spalt, Director of the Agricultural Resources Center and a member of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen. “We want to find ways to reduce the use of pesticides, to eliminate the risk of any child being poisoned. Carrboro already uses only small amounts of pesticides; we believe that this hot-water system may be part of the solution to [eliminating] use completely.”

For more information, contact the ARC at (919) 967-1886, or see them on the Web at

Necessity is the mother of invention

Innovation and limited resources make great bedfellows; a number of Western North Carolina organizations were recently honored by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, for finding creative ways to optimize their use of resources. HUD’s Best Practices Awards celebrate programs, projects or techniques that: have a positive impact, can be replicated in other areas, involve effective partnerships and/or display particularly creative problem-solving. Some 106 Best Practices Awards were given in North Carolina.

Among the local programs honored were: Interlace (which helps victims of domestic abuse achieve independence, gain skills and self-confidence — and even accumulate some savings); the Affordable Housing Coalition’s Homebuyer Education Class (which offers a sliding-fee scale, on-site child care for participants, and the help of trained, certified housing counselors); and the In-Home Aide Training Program (a collaborative effort involving the Mission St. Joseph’s Health System, the Buncombe County Department of Social Services and the Asheville Housing Authority, which helps low-income women find work and get trained as nursing assistants).

Other local award recipients include the city’s Affordable Housing and Rankin Heights programs, the Givens Estates retirement community, a joint project (involving the city and the Blue Ridge Center) to create affordable housing for people with special needs, the Tri-State Housing and Civil Rights Conference, and the Woodbridge Apartments.

To learn more, call HUD’s Public Affairs Office at (336) 547-4003.

Wage war globally, suffer locally

Folkmoot, the international music-and-dance festival held in Asheville, Waynesville and other Western North Carolina venues each summer, is one of the largest such events in the country. But even the big guys have problems — unforeseen difficulties, changed plans, and other sudden obstacles. This year, Folkmoot’s plans were notably disrupted by the war in Kosovo.

It seems that a planned appearance at the festival by a dance troupe from neighboring Bosnia and Herzegovina has been derailed by the conflict. Contributions from the troupe’s supporters and government backers have raised only one-third of the roughly $30,000 needed to bring 33 musicians and dancers here. The group appealed to various sources, including Folkmoot Director Jackie Bolden, to find the rest. The trip hasn’t been ruled out yet, but Bolden concedes that things don’t look good for the troupe.

“All of us have heard that every person’s actions affect people everywhere,” said Bolden, speaking from Folkmoot’s offices in Waynesville. “This is another example of actions and reactions in the world literally impacting the entire world. What happens on the North American continent does affect Europe. And, certainly, what happens in Europe affects not only Folkmoot, but other things here.”

The 16th annual Folkmoot runs July 12-25, with the traditional opening Parade of Nations promenading down Waynesville’s Main Street on Friday, July 16 at 1 p.m. First-time participating nations in this summer’s line-up include: Ecuador, the Ivory Coast, Russia’s Kalmyk Republic, Malaysia and Nepal. Marching alongside them will be relative old-timers Italy, Mexico, Peru, Turkey and the Ukraine.

To learn more, call 452-2997 (in Waynesville), or (877-FOLK-USA) toll-free. You can catch them on the Web at:

Riparian friends

The Land-of-Sky Regional Council recently bestowed this year’s “Friends of the River” awards, which recognize recognize individuals, civic groups and/or public agencies in Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania counties for their “significant contributions toward the enhancement or restoration of the French Broad River as a cultural, economic, natural or recreational resource.”

Transylvania Times Editor/Publisher Stella Trapp was honored for consistently focusing attention on the French Broad River and its tributaries in Transylvania County, by writing or assigning dozens of articles regarding efforts to protect and enhance the river. Buncombe’s Slim Ray also got the nod: He wrote the first river-rescue book for paddlers in 1985 and has since become a nationally prominent swift-water rescue and safety advocate, despite having suffered a paralyzing boating accident himself. Also in Buncombe, the Partners of Riverside Business Park was cited for donating 5 acres of riverfront property, valued at $90,000, to the town of Woodfin to be developed and maintained as a riverside park.

The other award recipients were: Henderson County volunteer extraordinaire John Humphrey (who is a member of ECO, serves on the Water Quality Committee, acts as president of the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, and helped organize the Mills River Partnership); Transylvania County’s Bill Baum (who was instrumental in helping establish and find funding for his county’s Volunteer Water Information Network); and Madison County’s Straight-Pipe Elimination Project (which, among other things, designed and administered a $1.5 million loan-and-grant program to correct local wastewater disposal problems).

For more information, call Bill Eaker at 251-6622.

New hopes

Doing good work in quality fashion has its rewards, but success may bring new challenges, as well. That’s what’s happened to the Mountin’ Hopes Therapeutic Horseback Riding program, which has outgrown its present space. Now, the program is looking for a few good acres — 10 of them, in fact.

Formed in 1997, Mountin’ Hopes helps people with disabilities such as Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida and MS discover the joys (and therapeutic benefits) of riding. The organization — a member of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association — involves 60 volunteers, three qualified instructors and two therapists; riders participate in weekly one-hour sessions, which include both riding and care of the horse, to encourage developing a relationship with the animal.

A suitable new home for Mountin’ Hopes would offer: at least 10 acres, three of them flat; sufficient level, rolling pasture land; and reasonable access for volunteers, staff and clients. Even better would be: an old barn; accessible trails, an additional five to 10 acres, and a nominal lease or gift.

To learn more, contact Mountin’ Hopes at 649-3537 or 649-9226.

— circumstantially compiled by Paul Schattel

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