Notepad

Timber sale withdrawn

It could be just another aspiring garage band out of Athens, Ga.: Velvet Covert Snail. But it seems that this one really is a snail (Inflectarius subpallitus, to be exact), and it’s alive and well in Western North Carolina.

In fact, the prognosis for the snail’s well-being just got rosier: On Nov. 28, District 8 Ranger Paul Bradley of the U.S. Forest Service canceled plans to allow logging on 60 acres of the Pisgah National Forest in the northern reaches of Yancey County. The area includes snail habitat.

“We are obviously pleasantly surprised by Ranger Bradley’s decision to withdraw this sale,” said Stephen Novak, a staff attorney with WildLaw, one of several citizens’ groups fighting the proposed logging. “The presence of the velvet covert snail in portions of the surveyed areas indicated to us that this project area was not suitable for timber harvesting,” continued Novak.

WildLaw’s Southern Appalachian office had filed an administrative appeal with the Forest Service on behalf of the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project, the Western North Carolina Alliance, Appalachian Voices and Wild South. According to a recent press release from the consortium, “The appeal alleged, among other things, that the surveying, monitoring and inventorying conducted for this species was inadequate.”

In a recent interview, Novak noted that the snail is not a federally protected species and does not appear on the endangered- or threatened-species lists, but it is included in North Carolina’s own list of rare species. Additionally, a section of the Appalachian Trail runs adjacent to the proposed logging area. These factors prompted Andrew George, the executive director of the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project, to declare, “We will actively oppose this commercial logging — whether they jeopardize rare species or important recreational areas like the Appalachian Trail — until we permanently shut down the federal timber-sale program in our state and across the region.”

Although the decision to cancel the sale seems like a victory for the environmental groups, George cautions that “District Ranger Bradley’s withdrawal leaves open the possibility that the same or [a] similar sale could be proposed again in the future, to the detriment of our national heritage.”

For more information, contact Andrew George at the Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project, 258-2667; Stephen Novak of Wildlaw’s Southern Appalachian office, 232-1157; or District Ranger Paul Bradley at 682-6146.

Pawndemonium

Even as the holiday season sparks a run on local toy stores for the latest in high-tech gadgetry, one classic game is being touted as not only fun but also good for developing minds. It’s called chess — and it doesn’t require batteries. What’s more, studies have shown that playing chess improves cognitive abilities and can help enhance young players’ academic performance.

As part of a program to foster chess in local schools, the Kiwanis Club of Asheville and the city are co-sponsoring a chess tournament for young people in grades K-12. The tournament will be held Saturday, Dec. 30, at the Montford Center.

Pawndemonium 2000 will feature play in four divisions. Tournament director Kevin Hyde reports that players will be paired according to a combination of age and ability (determined by their U.S. Chess Federation ratings, based on the points each player has accumulated in prior tournaments). For first-time participants who are not yet rated, USCF membership will be available, and the $12-$17 membership fee will be waived. The tournament fee is $10 in advance, $15 on the day of the event. Registration closes at 9 a.m. on Dec. 30 and the tournament will kick off at 9:30 a.m., so participants are strongly encouraged to preregister.

Tournament organizer Ned Cabaniss hopes that young people with any degree of chess experience will jump at the chance to push some pawns around the board. “Rather than create future grand masters, our goal is to develop all young minds. We want everyone playing chess, not just a few elite kids,” he noted.

Win or lose, tournament players are guaranteed a full day of games, and there are 33 trophies up for grabs (as well as T-shirts for the first 100 entrants).

Registration forms and more information are available at the Buncombe County Scholastic Chess Web site (www.main.nc.us/bcsc), or by contacting Cabaniss at (828) 628-0061, or Kevin Hyde (828) 749-1625.

Big Adventures come in small packages

Across the U.S., more than 300 small science centers and children’s museums offer youngsters interactive, hands-on lessons in the wonders of our world. One of those 300 is downtown Asheville’s Health Adventure, in the Pack Place Education, Arts and Science Center. The challenge facing these small museums, says Health Adventure Senior Vice President Ashly Maag, is finding traveling exhibits that require less than 1,500 square feet of display space. At the moment, there are only 12 such exhibits circulating among all these institutions.

The solution: Design new traveling exhibits. But the high cost and time-consuming nature of such efforts makes it difficult for individual museums to pull off alone. Thanks to a $1.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation, however, The Health Adventure will partner with six other U.S. museums to develop, evaluate and produce (over the next 36 months) four new traveling exhibits based on basic science principles. The Health Adventure will team up with the Catawba Science Center in Hickory to produce an exhibit focusing on the mechanics of the human body. The other three exhibits will focus on sound, the physics of motion, and the science of sport.

Maag is excited about both the project and the possibilities for involvement by Asheville residents. “More than 30 community members have volunteered to participate on the local advisory committee,” she reports. “Teachers from local schools, professors from UNCA, physicians, members of the museum and graduates of the museum’s summer science camp are providing invaluable assistance.” And that includes the youth contingent, she notes, adding, “The kids on the committee have already contributed some very creative ideas.”

Upon completion, one copy of the exhibit will remain on permanent display at The Health Adventure, and one will travel the country.

For more information, contact Maag at The Health Adventure, 254-6374.

Teens to make a joyful noise

A $12,000 grant from the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will enable more than 100 local teen musical groups to play concerts and dances on Friday and Saturday nights in the county’s seven high schools and middle schools. The grant recipient, Our Next Generation — a nonprofit organization established to develop youth centers — has lined up promoters to work with bands, small ensembles and individual singers.

ONG President Dr. Gene Rainey hopes the program will help solve two problems. “First, it will offer opportunities for talented young musicians to perform before the public,” he said, adding, “By law, they cannot perform where alcohol is served.”

The program will also give Buncombe’s youth something else to do on weekends, in addition to skating, bowling and movies. “ONG’s program will provide a safe, drug-free and alcohol-free environment for weekend entertainment,” he said.

Income from ticket sales, as well as CDs and tapes made and sold at the events, will be divided between the promoters and the bands. “The teens will be paid for their performances,” explained Rainey, “if they are good enough to attract a crowd.” ONG will receive 10 percent of the gross, to help build youth centers.

The overall project promoter is Rob Stimson, who also has his own local band. UNCA management major Isaac Grant will help with promoting musical groups in the faith community.

“All types of music and all religious groups are invited to participate,” stresses Rainey, adding, ” We [also] need adult volunteers to help us with this project.”

Adult volunteers and teen musicians or groups can e-mail Rainey at OurNextGen@cs.com or call him at 258-0922.

Volunteer and party

What to do on New Year’s Eve? A vexing question as we approach the true turn of the millennium. And if last year found you hunkered down in a fortified bunker with a year’s supply of freeze-dried tofu, awaiting Armageddon, this year’s celebration may provide the perfect opportunity to reach beyond the purely personal and help others — while still sharing in the revelry.

Some 30,000 people are expected to converge on downtown Asheville for First Night — the annual, family-oriented New Year’s Eve celebration — and the city’s Parks and Recreation Department is seeking volunteers to help make the event a smashing success.

“Volunteering is a great way to be a part of the action, get involved with the community, and meet many new people,” said Festival Coordinator Paul Clark of Parks & Rec. “We also encourage families and friends to volunteer together.”

To sweeten the deal, each volunteer will receive a limited-edition First Night mock turtleneck, free admission to the festivities (volunteer shifts are only three hours, allowing plenty of party time), and an invitation to a post-fireworks “cast party” featuring a DJ and food from Rio Bravo Cantina.

To volunteer, contact Asheville Parks and Recreation at 259-5800.

Keeping kids busy

Now that the presents are all opened and the candles melted into gooey puddles, what’s a kid to do to fill those endless days till school starts up again? There’s always TV, of course — but for more interesting (and interactive) options, check out the Asheville Parks and Recreation Department’s many offerings at your local community-recreation center. From arts and crafts, board games and interactive games to daily field trips (including movies, ice and roller skating, holiday shopping, laser tag, Climbmax, mountain biking, hiking and even Kwanzaa celebrations), city rec centers are serving up a wide variety of doings over the winter-holiday break.

For information on dates, times and costs, call the following community centers: Burton Street Center (254-1942); East Asheville (298-4990); Harvest House (252-6021); Montford Center (253-3714); Oakley Center (274-7088); W.C. Reid Center (254-8008); Shiloh Center (274-7739); Stephens-Lee Center (252-6233); West Asheville Center (258-2235); and YMI Cultural Center (252-4614).

Thinking in an interconnected universe

Not even major medical setbacks have been able to stop Dr. David Guerin, who’s at it once again, teaching his much-lauded “Critical Thinking” course at Haywood Community College.

The course is being offered in both credit and noncredit versions. Both begin by establishing the paradigm that “Everything in the universe is totally interrelated, interconnected and interdependent,” notes the ever-sanguine Guerin, 84, who recently bounced back from two major surgeries.

The course features the film Mindwalk, guest presenters and discussions of such topics as “How do we know what we know?” and “What does it mean to be human?”

Enroll in the credit course at the college on Thursday, Jan. 4, or join the noncredit version simply by calling the college at (828) 627-4667 or Guerin at 452-6211.

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