Lost lobos

After 2,169 miles, 15 lectures, 150 packets of ramen noodles and more than $3,000 in donations, Marcas Marx — outreach coordinator of the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project’s red wolf program — has finally returned to Asheville. Last month, he completed the “Wolves and Wilderness Appalachian Thru-Trek,” a six-month effort to raise awareness about the plight of endangered red wolves in the Southern Appalachians. Marx hiked the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain, Ga., to Mount Katahdin, Maine, only to come back to bad news: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has decided to terminate efforts to re-establish the endangered red wolf in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Throughout the Appalachian Mountains, Marx says he found that red wolves and other mega-fauna have little hope for survival at a time when unfragmented, roadless “wild” forests are themselves becoming an endangered species, increasingly succumbing to the pressures of industrial forestry and overdevelopment. “The hike was a great chance for me to talk to thousands of people about the need for wolf recovery in the East,” he asserts. “Everyone agrees that if the Southern Appalachian ecosystems can’t support top-line predators, we’re in major trouble.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service red-wolf project unsuccessfully tried to re-establish a self-sustaining wolf population within the national park’s boundaries. But the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project maintains that the program would have a better chance for success if it were allowed to expand its range into the public lands surrounding the park — national forests which, the group maintains, are under constant pressure from road building and commercial logging.

“When top-line predators like red wolves can no longer survive in mountains they evolved in for millions of years, we are reaching the threshold of unsustainable development and overlogging,” proclaims Andrew George, executive director of the Biodiversity Project. “The people of this region overwhelmingly support the reintroduction of the red wolf in these mountains. It’s time we started protecting public lands, so red wolves can survive.”

For more information, call Andrew George at 258-2667.

From roaring engines to quacking ducks

Last week, RiverLink — an Asheville-based nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and enhancing the French Broad River basin — announced the acquisition of a 30-acre stretch of riverfront property along Amboy Road in Asheville. The group plans to donate the property, the former site of the Asheville Motor Speedway, to the city’s parks-and-greenways system.

The deal came about when Speedway owner Roger Gregg decided he wanted to spend more time with his family; Gregg’s father died earlier this year, and he felt the permanent preservation of the property would be an appropriate way to honor the elder Gregg’s memory.

The Gregg family had already made quite a few significant charitable contributions in the Asheville area — including the fourth floor of St. Joseph’s Hospital, known as the Gregg Restorative Unit — but Roger Gregg felt this gesture was particularly important. “It seems only fitting to memorialize the contributions of my father and my grandfather to this community in some tangible way,” he said in a recent RiverLink news release. “It’s the least I can do.”

The negotiations were kept completely confidential until the racing season ended and all of the funds were raised; the $1.1 million purchase was made possible through a $250,000 grant from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, a $250,000 donation from the Janirve Foundation, a $50,000 donation from the Stanback Family Foundation and two anonymous donations totaling $550,000. In addition to the sale, Gregg also donated a portion of the Speedway site to RiverLink.

Asheville Mayor Leni Sitnick welcomed RiverLink’s donation of the property, thanking the group’s board of directors “… for the vision and hard work that went into crafting this major addition to the city’s parks and greenway system.” Plans for the property include bike paths, walking trails, fishing and boating stations, ballfields and other recreational facilities.

For more information, call Karen Cragnolin at 252-8474.

Grants — low calorie, great taste

In other Janirve Foundation news, the group recently reported that the value of the grants it made in 1997 represented a 34 percent increase over the preceding year. Last year’s grants totaled more than $3.5 million, a nearly $1 million increase from the year before. The grants went to 73 nonprofit organizations, mostly in western North Carolina (more than half of the recipients are based in Buncombe County).

Formed in 1954 by retired executive Irving J. Reuter, the foundation has supported such groups as the Autism Society of North Carolina, the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County, the Literacy Council of Buncombe County, Quality Forward, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, the Alzheimer’s Disease & Related Disorders Association of Asheville, Henderson County Habitat for Humanity, and the Mitchell County Animal Rescue.

Two other local philanthropists recently gave the Presbyterian Children’s Home a much-needed $350,000 donation. The couple, who chose to remain anonymous, had reportedly met the home’s president, Earl Kreisa, and some of the children at a service earlier this year, and were impressed with the institution’s mission and needs.

The home, which admits girls and boys between the ages of 5 and 21, is in the midst of a $3 million fund-raising campaign to build four new houses, convert the main building to accommodate new programs, and add a wing to its gymnasium. The grant will fund one of the houses.

For more information about the Janirve Foundation, call 258-1877; to learn more about the Presbyterian Home for Children, call Tracy Schneider at 686-3451, ext. 29.

Hey, you’re reading this, aren’t you?

It’s no secret that reading is one of the keys to success in life. But many children fall behind in school because they don’t learn to read during their early years.

If you’re a retired senior (55 years or over), you have a chance to help a child in your community learn to read — through the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP). Since 1985, RSVP, a program of the Land-of-Sky Regional Council, has recruited and placed senior volunteers in more than 100 public, nonprofit and charitable agencies throughout Buncombe, Henderson and Transylvania counties.

Remember — one volunteer, one hour each week, can make a big difference in the life of a child. Keep reading.

For more information about this volunteer position (and many other opportunities for service in public and nonprofit agencies), call Nicki Benatan at 251-6622.

— cribbingly compiled by Paul Schattel

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