The Green Scene

Rain gardens boost water quality

The kids at Francine Delany School have been learning about water quality in hands-on fashion lately. The youngest ones got to pitch in with a recent Adopt-A-Stream project, while the eighth-graders got down and dirty: They dug out, prepped and planted a rain garden at their West Asheville school on Nov. 13. A few days later, a group of older teens and young adults from Asheville Green Opportunities worked on another rain garden.

Streaming kids: While the eighth-graders built a rain garden, the elementary-school kids worked on RiverLink's Adopt-A-Stream project. Photo courtesy RiverLink

According to the folks at RiverLink, which coordinated the projects, a rain garden is a shallow depression that allows storm water to collect and soak into the ground. The plants and soil help break down pollutants washed off of impervious surfaces (such as the parking lot at Francine Delany). The result is cleaner water and a recharged ground-water system.

These projects are a good example of grassroots organizations partnering with local schools, says RiverLink Director Karen Cragnolin. But they're also part of a bigger effort: improving water quality in Hominy Creek. Grants from North Carolina's Clean Water Management Trust Fund help the nonprofit group "educate, empower and inspire folks throughout the watershed about the French Broad River," she notes.

The streams in West Asheville Park and Malvern Hills Park flow directly into Hominy Creek and then the French Broad River, Cragnolin details. Ongoing stream-restoration work — aimed at fixing eroding stream banks, planting native species to improve habitat, and reducing storm-water pollution — is under way.

Talking trash

Adopt-A-Street volunteers have already collected more than 1,684 bags of trash along Asheville roadways this year. Now Asheville GreenWorks, the city of Asheville and the state Department of Transportation are asking individuals, families, groups and businesses to pitch in and pick up some more.

That means committing to at least six trash cleanups over the course of a year. And if you or your group or business want a sign recognizing your efforts, you have to sign on for a minimum of three years. After two cleanups, the city will provide the sign identifying you, your group or business.

Asheville GreenWorks, a local nonprofit, will provide all needed supplies, including bags, vests, gloves, traffic-calming signs, first-aid kits and litter pickers. They'll also coordinate with the city to ensure prompt pickup of the trash collected. Now more than a decade old, the program is limited to roads maintained by the city of Asheville, and volunteers have considerable flexibility in choosing when to do the work.

"The Adopt-A-Street cleanups have been so much fun for our company!" says Anna DellaGuardia of Zona Lofts. "It's a time in our day where we can shut down our laptops, stretch our legs and enjoy some fresh air and employee bonding. We chose to adopt Coxe Avenue because of the Zona Lofts project going up right next to our sales center. It is a commitment to our buyers, the city and ourselves that we will take pride in and care for our environment, and it begins right outside our front doorstep — literally."

Adopt-A-Street volunteers are currently caring for 132 local roadways.
For more information, call 254-1776, or e-mail

One, two, tree

Asheville GreenWorks' 2010 "Treasured Tree" calendar features 12 of the most beautiful trees around town in a postcard format, says Susan Roderick, the nonprofit's director (and official "tree lady"). After enjoying the month's "calendar girl" tree, you can tear it off and send it to a friend, she explains. It's a nifty way to recycle.

The $12 calendar, designed and photographed by Dana Irwin, includes Kenilworth resident John Cram's yellowwood overlooking the lake, the Murray's walnut trees near Thomas Wolfe's historic writing cabin, and more. The calendar is available at local businesses including Mountain Made, Woolworth Walk, The Compleat Naturalist and Accent on Books.

Barking up the right tree: Highland Craftsmen Inc., which manufactures bark siding and other "rustic indigenous products," was recently recognized as a Green Innovator by the North Carolina Board of Science & Technology. The Spruce Pine-based company won the award, in part, for a job-training seminar it sponsored earlier this year on sustainable forestry and bark harvesting.

"By localizing the supply chain with certified-local products, we are increasing the market share for local individuals, creating new jobs in high-unemployment areas, and retaining the flow of capital within local economies," Highland owner Chris McCurry explains.

The goal of the seminar was to link small landowners directly with organizations promoting sustainable forestry management.

Gov. Bev Perdue, who presented the award at a recent state Energy Policy Council meeting, said: "Strong leadership and smart investments are essential to laying a foundation for North Carolina to create green jobs, support green innovation and promote a sustainable future for our state's economy and environment. … Turning green into gold is a central part of my JobsNOW initiative and of my vision to grow North Carolina's long-term economy."

To learn more about Highland Craftsmen Inc. and Bark House brand products, visit the Web site (

Send your environmental news to or call 251-1333, ext. 152.

About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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