In a sedimental mood

Most of us don’t usually think of loose soil as a pollutant. But soil erosion and the resulting sedimentation are growing problems in Western North Carolina, according to the Raleighl-based Water Resources Research Institute.

Each year, the WRRI, a nonpartisan think tank associated with N.C. State University, meets with its advisory committee to discuss priorities for water-resources research; this year, sedimentation in mountain lakes and streams tops the list. According to the institute, the state’s sedimentation-control regulations are not adequately protecting sensitive mountain waters from the effects of the region’s current development boom.

Any type of land disturbance can lead to soil erosion — especially where steep slopes abut surface waters. Soil, of course, is a valuable resource that we can’t afford to lose. And the resulting sedimentation can reduce aquatic habitat and reservoir storage capacity — not to mention the beauty of mountain streams. In the January/February 1999 issue of the WRRI News, Philip Gibson blamed insufficient state funding for a scarcity of inspectors, which he said leads to a lack of enforcement of sedimentation regulations. More research and evaluation, says the WRRI, could help secure increased federal and local funding to address the problem.

Enter Western North Carolina Tomorrow, a 100-member board of community leaders concerned about key issues facing the state’s 17 westernmost counties. The group has received a $35,000 grant to help build local partnerships among the agencies involved with the sediment problem.

The money, provided by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, will be used to fund workshops and develop materials to raise awareness of the problem, with the hope of establishing local sedimentation-control programs. Interested local homebuilders’ associations, county commissioners, city councils, boards of realtors or other groups should contact Philip Gibson, WNCT’s community-development specialist, at (800) 621-0008.

To learn more about WRRI and its research, call (919) 515-2815 (e-mail: To learn more about grant opportunities through WNCT, call (828) 277-7492 (e-mail:

Putting the “fun” back in fund raising

Anyone who thinks fund raising is a hassle should take a lesson from two local groups that know how to gather cash and have a good time doing it. Local restaurant Hannah Flanagans will host its first annual Charity Golf Classic on Sunday, Sept. 19, when participants can play a round of golf, eat as much barbecue as they want and contribute to Interlace, a local organization providing transitional housing for battered women. The golf will be at Reems Creek Golf Course, the barbecue back at Hannah Flanagan’s, afterward, and the tickets are $75 per person. To register, simply sign up at the course by 9:30 a.m. that day.

Another upcoming local event — the Vance Elementary Fall Festival — brings a cultural and educational slant to both the fun and the fund raising. Besides the usual favorites (music, games, raffles, storytelling and a parade), cultural demonstrations will make the day truly memorable. The festival will celebrate cultural diversity ( both in the community and at Vance Elementary) while raising money to benefit the school. The event takes place at Vance on Saturday, Sept. 25 from 9:30 a.m to 3 p.m.

For more information about Hannah Flanagans Charity Golf Classic, call the restaurant at 252-1922 (or catch them on the Web at To learn more about the Vance Elementary Fall Festival, call 255-5369 or 251-5354.

Common ground

Fighting to protect the environment can be tough enough, without also having to butt heads with community institutions. That’s why the Western North Carolina Alliance, a local environmental group, recently launched the Sabbath Project, a two-year program designed to promote better understanding between church congregations and environmental organizations.

Headed up by Brian Cole, a seminary graduate who served with the Appalachian Ministries program in Berea, Ky., the project will focus on creating opportunities for joint action with local congregations. “Folks tend to see churches as only being involved [in environmental causes] in a very conservative way, or having a negative attitude,” said Cole in a recent phone interview. “I’m interested in finding ways in which the church can invest in more public, more progressive efforts.” Those efforts may include such things as day hikes and focus groups for youth.

Cole feels that religious beliefs can mesh with environmental concerns. “Parish leaders really need to be more articulate and more involved in helping people think about how faith informs their understanding of nature and creation,” he explained. “Some of the skepticism [toward churches] is in reaction to several negative opinions [about] faith and nature, where you had the more conservative, fundamentalist traditions implying we were supposed to hate the world. And some of it is a response to the sense that there’s a distance between the environmental community and churches and parishes. A lot of it involves folks just not knowing each other.”

For his part, Cole says he first became involved in the environment while training seminary students in rural eastern Kentucky, when he witnessed firsthand the effects of logging and strip mining on the Appalachian landscape. That moved him to become involved in local activist groups, and from there, he says, it was just a matter of applying his faith to the conditions of the natural world around him.

“There’s a lot of writing about environmental theology that’s happening at the seminary level right now, and also a lot of [lay people] are writing about it,” Cole explains. “For most of the major religious traditions, we talk about God or Yahweh being a source of creation. But if we really begin with the premise of God being the god of creation, and having an interest in the act of creation, then what you end up with is God continuing to care about creation and nature. How folks view nature, and how we view creation, really goes a long way toward [determining] how we end up relating to each other.”

To learn more about the Sabbath Project, call Cole at 669-8366, or e-mail him at

Good help is hard to find

Each year, a team of inmates from the Black Mountain Correctional Center for Women helps restore a local home in need of TLC. As part of their annual community-service project, the inmates spend a week replacing carpet and cabinets, tearing out and replacing bathrooms, repairing the roof, replacing the windows, and cleaning and painting the house itself. This year, they worked on the home of Delmar and Linda Williams, in Black Mountain, Aug. 23-27.

The Black Mountain Correctional Center for Women — the first prison in the state to participate in an annual community-service project of this kind — has been doing it for nine years. Various local organizations support the project, including the Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministries, which selects the home, coordinates the meals (provided by 15 different local churches), provides cleaning supplies and clothes, and even sponsors an end-of-the-week banquet.

This year’s banquet, held in the Christmount Christian Assembly’s dining hall on Aug. 27, featured Gill McGregor, the broadcast analyst for the Charlotte Hornets.

For more information, call the Black Mountain Correctional Center for Women at 669-9165.

–cuddlingly compiled by Paul Schattel


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