It takes a village

For most kids, there’s nothing like a great playground: With slides, jungle gyms, catwalks and even — in the more ambitious parks — tunnels and telephone systems, there’s no shortage of opportunities for imaginary play. And for parents, there’s nothing like a quiet rest on a nearby bench, watching their little ones enjoy the equipment. That’s why most parents quickly figure out where the best playgrounds are in town. But in Asheville, such facilities are rarer than they should be.

So, when the planning of the Ira B. Jones Primary School Playground was announced recently, you could almost hear an audible sigh among parents. With such engaging amenities as mazes, castles, climbing walls, trails and even a small amphitheater for puppet shows and other such events, Jones Park is set to become one of the city’s most innovative playgrounds. The project was coordinated and designed by Leathers and Associates, a New York-based architectural firm that has designed playgrounds around the world; they even spent a day here brainstorming and interviewing local kids about what they really want at Jones Park.

Like a traditional barn-raising, the playground will be built quickly by a large numer of local volunteers. Construction is scheduled for Nov. 10-14, and about 500 volunteers are needed each day. A park of this size requires a significant amount of community-donated funding, too.

“The success of this park depends entirely on the financial and personnel support of the citizens of Asheville,” said Tom Knoebber, co-chair of the Jones Park Project, in a recent media release. To find out how you can help, contact Dina Wiggins at 250-0706, or Ann McKibbin at 252-4631. Donations (100 percent tax-deductible) should be made out to Quality Forward, c/o Jones Park, and sent to P.O. Box 22, Asheville, NC 28802.

If you have any questions about the park, please contact Susan Smith at 258-3659, or Tom Knoebber at 253-1884.

Fresh air

The WNC Regional Air Pollution Control Agency has had a rough time of it lately: In the wake of intense scrutiny by both state regulators and the discerning local public, the embattled agency has recently seen both its director and its attorney resign and has acquired several new board members. Now, the agency is inviting the public to a festive get-acquainted event. The “Air Fair,” slated for Saturday, Oct. 23, will be a family-friendly day of demonstrations, displays and guest speakers providing up-to-date information on air quality.

“We just had a hard summer, in terms of air quality,” said Nelda Holder, the new chair of the agency’s board, in a recent media release. “We’re inviting the public to join us for some fun, and for some useful information about what we can do about air pollution in the mountains. We want to provide some money-saving ideas for folks that will reduce pollution. We’d also like for people to see exactly what goes on at our agency.”

The presenters will include local architect David Hill discussing “Design Ideas for Your Home” at 10:15 a.m.; Kim Carlyle and Steve Parrish will present “Energy (and $$): Saving Ideas for Home Use and Construction” at 10:45 a.m.; at 12:15 p.m., “The Job of a Regional Agency” will be discussed, and at 1:45 p.m., Bill Jackson will present “Visibility Deterioration in the WNC Mountains.” Other presentations and events — including children’s activities, progressive technologies and even free food — will take place throughout the day.

“People have been extremely generous with their time and talents in creating the fair,” said Holder. “We hope a lot of individuals and families will come and spend a couple of hours with us, and enjoy these activities together. We’d like to see it become an annual event, for ongoing communication about our air quality.”

For more information, call 255-5655.

Harvest time

Late October is a special time in various Earth-centered religions. Samhain, the Celtic New Year, is a richly traditioned holy-day with many layers of meaning: A time of harvest and of preparing for the lean winter months ahead, it’s also an occasion to think of lost loved ones, and to look beyond the standard perception of things into a world suffused with the mysteries and possibilities of nature. Many pagan spiritualities, however, still suffer from stereotyped images — wart-nosed witches, black magic, satanic rituals. But the reality is at once more benign and more interesting, and to underscore that fact, Asheville Mayor Leni Sitnick has proclaimed Oct. 24 to Nov. 1 as Earth Religions Awareness Week, in honor of the many local individuals who follow these faiths.

The proclamation isn’t just honoring Wiccan or Celtic-based spiritualities, however.

“When they say Earth religions, what they’re talking about are global, indigenous, pagan religions,” explained Lady Passion, high priestess of Coven Oldewilde, in a recent interview. “It’s the first religion on any given continent, or group of people, that was paganistic and Earth-based, from a standpoint of animism and revering nature.”

Thus, the celebration embraces Native American religions, African religions, and Aboriginal religions. Still, it’s not exactly coincidence that the designated week includes a major Wiccan holiday. “It’s due to a lot of the Wiccan influence around town for a while now,” said Passion. “We’ve been doing an annual Samhain ritual, and [the various Wiccan communities] have been raising awareness with lectures and different things … for many years now. And it’s gotten to the point where even the mayor can see that. I think it’s spectacular to honor the truth about the Samhain season, to honor the spirituality there.”

Among the scheduled events around town are a WHISPER memorial at Unity Church in Arden (Sunday,. Oct. 24, 6-9 p.m.); a reading/book-signing with Marijo Moore and Byron Ballard at Mysts of Avalon bookstore (Wednesday, Oct. 27, 5-7 p.m.); a Candlelight Vigil for the Ancestors at City/County Plaza (Friday, Oct. 28, 7-8 p.m.); and a Closing Ritual and Earth Blessing at the Asheville Botanical Gardens (Sunday, Nov. 1, 5 p.m.).

For more information, call the MotherSongs Project (253-6842), or visit Oldenwilde’s Web site (

The meek shall inherit the earth

Violence is taking a terrible toll in our families and schools. To highlight that fact, and to promote positive strategies for problem-solving, the YWCA is co-sponsoring its fifth annual Week Without Violence, Oct. 17-24. This unusual event challenges people to live for seven days without perpetuating, participating in or even observing violent activities. Designed to raise awareness of violence in society, and focusing on practical and sustainable alternatives to violence, the week aims to make individuals, families and communities safer.

Sunday, Oct. 17 will be a Day of Remembrance of those lost to violence; on Monday, the YWCA will host a violent-toy exchange for children participating in the after-school and day-care programs. Tuesday’s slogan will be “Making Our Schools Safe,” while Wednesday’s focus will be “Confronting Violence Against Women.” That day’s activities will include a “Walk Away From Violence Against Women” walk from City/County Plaza to Pack Square, starting at 5:30 p.m. A reception will follow, with speakers and music by WomanSong.

Thursday’s theme will be “Facing Violence Against Men,” and on Friday, the topic will be “Discrimination and Racism: Institutional Bullying?” with a 7 p.m. panel discussion in Pack Library’s Lord Auditorium, featuring prominent African-American, Native American, Jewish and Latino community members.

To learn more about these and other Week Without Violence activities, call the YWCA at 254-7206.

From their perspective

If you’ve ever felt confused or irritated by the Native American “mascot” controversies — whether it’s the Atlanta Braves, the Washington Redskins, or the Erwin High Squaws — here’s a chance to learn what all the fuss is about. On Thursday, Oct. 21, the award-winning documentary “In Whose Honor” will be shown at Pack Memorial Library. The film takes a close look at the practice of using American Indian mascots and nicknames in sports; a panel discussion will follow the screening. The program is sponsored by the Buncombe County Intertribal Association and WNC Citizens for An End to Institutional Bigotry.

The film follows the prominent Native American activist Charlene Teters from her beginnings protesting against the Indian mascot at the University of Illinois to the rebirth of the movement nationwide. Teters, who spoke here in Asheville last year, is often called “the Rosa Parks of American Indians.” The film has received several accolades, including the Golden Apple Award from the National Educational Media Network, the leading organization for educational videos.

To learn more, call 254-0010, or 669-6677.

— choplogically compiled by Paul Schattel

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