Green in brief: Black Folks Camp Too gains national partners, Hendersonville kicks off bee mural project

Earl Hunter Jr. of Black Folks Camp Too
SUNNY OUTLOOK: Earl B. Hunter Jr., right, recently landed several national partners for his Black Folks Camp Too digital platform. Photo courtesy of Black Folks Camp Too

Black Folks Camp Too partners with national outdoors brands

Brevard-based Black Folks Camp Too has announced new partnerships with Adventure Ready Brands, Backcountry Gear and Apparel, GSI Outdoors and Nemo Equipment to help further its mission of equity and inclusion in outdoor recreation. Founder Earl B. Hunter Jr. said marketing collaborations with those brands would help him develop more interest in camping among the Black community.

“Our mission is to remove generational fears, provide knowledge about the outdoor lifestyle and continue to invite more Black folks to camp,” Hunter stated in a press release announcing the move. Partner brands will be featured on the Black Folks Camp Too website, described as a digital platform for outdoors education and inspiration.

Hunter also delivered the keynote address at the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority’s annual meeting on Oct. 7. He noted that America’s Black population spends roughly $63 billion on travel each year and represents a market segment that’s been largely untapped by Western North Carolina’s outdoor tourism leaders.

Brevard official charged with illegal waste disposal

David Lutz, director of public works for the city of Brevard, was indicted Sept. 17 on three counts of improperly handling and storing hazardous waste by a federal grand jury in the Western District of North Carolina. According to the indictment, Lutz allegedly dug up 20 truckloads of lead-contaminated soil from Brevard’s firing range and moved it to the city’s public works operations center, which is not certified to contain such waste.

The indictment alleges that Lutz had previously been warned by city consultant CDM Smith about the high levels of lead in the firing range soil. “The consultant company specifically advised Lutz that the material was ‘hazardous’ and that it ‘will have to be disposed of at a Subtitle C Landfill, with the closest one I’m aware of in Alabama,’” the document reads.

Lutz is currently scheduled to appear at the federal courthouse in Asheville on Monday, Nov. 2, at 9 a.m. Although he has yet to enter a plea, reporting by Carolina Public Press notes that Brevard leaders support Lutz and are suing CDM Smith for failing to create a plan for the contaminated soil.

Hendersonville kicks off bee mural project

Insert your own “buzzworthy” pun here — Matthew Willey is about to start painting a bee mural in downtown Hendersonville. From late October through November, the Asheville-based artist will adorn the exterior walls of the Hands On! Children’s Museum with giant renditions of the vital pollinators.

Willey is the founder of The Good of the Hive, which aims to paint 50,000 honey bees in public locations across the world. As Xpress reported in 2019, he views his art as “creating scenarios that really bring people into connection with how fascinating the natural world is.”

Before the work begins, Bold Rock Mills River Cidery will host a kickoff party noon-6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17. Free offerings include a honey tasting, live music from the Apple Country String Band and a 3 p.m. presentation on pollinators by local entomologist Gretchen Pettis. More information at

Buncombe proclaims October as Oak Awareness Month

As if the seasonal explosion of color weren’t enough to make trees top of mind, Buncombe County has officially declared October to be Oak Awareness Month. A proclamation by Brownie Newman, chair of the county Board of Commissioners, extols the ecological benefits of oak trees and notes that 30 native oak species — a third of all found in the U.S. — grow in North Carolina.

Community organizations and businesses including AshevilleGreenWorks, Asheville Nuttery, Blue Ridge Audubon Society, Coven Oldenwilde and Eagles Nest Outfitters are holding special events throughout the month to help residents engage with the trees. More information is available on Facebook and Instagram by searching “OAKtober Celebrations.”

Community kudos

  • Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute radio telescope
    TWINKLE TWINKLE: The Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute in Rosman was recognized as an International Dark Sky Park for the exceptional quality of its nighttime views. Photo courtesy of PARI

    Judy Mattox, chair of the WNC Sierra Club, received the Madelyn Pyeatt Award from the nonprofit’s national leadership. The award recognizes her role in organizing young people to support renewable energy commitments from Asheville and Buncombe County governments.

  • The Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute in Rosman was named an International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association, becoming one of only two such facilities in the state. The certification recognizes “the exceptional quality of the night sky over PARI” and the site’s clear view of the Milky Way and other celestial objects.
  • Three area water treatment plants received a gold star honor from the N.C. Division of Water Resources. The Maggie Valley Sanitary District, Waynesville-Allens Creek and Weaverville-Ivy River facilities were acknowledged for demonstrating 10 consecutive years of outstanding water quality.
  • Rep. Brian Turner, D-Buncombe, was named Legislator of the Year by the N.C. League of Conservation Voters at the group’s Green Tie Awards on Oct. 7. Former Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, also received the Jane Sharp Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • UNC Asheville’s Dining Services earned an annual recycling award from the Carolina Recycling Association. In a press release announcing the honor, the CRA noted the university’s 2019 Sustainable Dining Summit and Project Clean Plate to cut food waste.
  • Despite the cancellation of the N.C. Mountain State Fair, the WNC Youth Livestock Expo took place in September at the WNC Ag Center in Fletcher. Local winners included Beulah Crain of Buncombe County for champion standard chicken, Haley Hargus of Henderson County for champion wool breed sheep and Cole Williams of Haywood County for grand champion Angus beef heifer.

Follow the money

  • Conservation projects in the Xpress coverage area netted nearly $1.44 million from the N.C. Land and Water Fund, formerly known as the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Highlights include over $625,000 for land acquisition in Transylvania County’s East Fork Headwaters, $310,000 for land at Pinnacle Park in Jackson County and $131,000 for work at Asheville’s Mills River water treatment plant in Henderson County.
  • The Clear Creek Greenway in Hendersonville was awarded $376,000 from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. Once complete, the path would connect the Carolina Village retirement community to the existing Oklawaha Greenway.
  • The Organic Growers School received a $25,000 grant from the Community Foundation of WNC to support local farmers. Early-career growers will receive “advanced education and mentoring services” to help them build sustainable businesses.
  • WNC farmers looking to diversify or expand their operations are encouraged to apply for grants of up to $6,000 from WNC Agricultural Options. The application deadline is Friday, Oct. 23; more information is available at

Save the date

  • Guests can soon howl alongside the wolves at the WNC Nature Center. Adult-focused educational presentations on the predators take place Friday, Oct. 16, and Monday, Nov. 9, with a kid-friendly version Friday, Oct. 30, all from 6-8 p.m. Tickets are $30 for adults and $20 for children. More information and registration at
  • UNC Asheville holds a virtual teach-in on climate science, impacts and solutions on Tuesday, Oct. 20, noon-1 p.m. Students, faculty and community members will cover topics such as carbon pricing and resilience planning. More information and registration at
  • Ike’s Hauling hosts a free drop-off electronics recycling event at the Weaverville Town Hall Saturday, Nov. 7, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., as well as Monday-Tuesday, Nov. 9-10, 3-5 p.m. Items accepted include computers, scrap wiring, car batteries and similar hazardous electronic waste.

Do your part

  • CiderFest NC toast
    RAISE A GLASS: Attendees toast at a previous CiderFest NC; this year, the benefit for Green Built Alliance will take place through small-group tours due to COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Green Built Alliance

    Early voting begins Thursday, Oct. 15, and continues through Saturday, Oct. 31, with more information for Buncombe County voters available at The nonpartisan WNC Sierra Club has issued its endorsements of candidates based on their support for environmental justice and climate action at

  • The French Broad River Partnership seeks participants in a study to assess the environmental and economic value of the French Broad River watershed. Visitors and residents can complete the survey at, while those who own or manage businesses that depend on the river should complete it at All responses are due by Saturday, Oct. 31.
  • Every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday in October, CiderFest NC offers private tasting experiences at three local cideries to support Asheville-based nonprofit Green Built Alliance. Groups of up to 14 can book a four-hour tour, with transportation arranged by Leap Frog Tours, for $85 per person at
  • The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission asks WNC residents to report any sightings of hellbender salamanders and northern pine snakes. Photos of those species with accompanying date, time and location information should be sent to or, respectively.

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About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

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