A former sod farm on the banks of the French Broad River in Mills River has become new public land thanks to the work of Hendersonville-based Conserving Carolina. The nonprofit transferred the 87-acre property known as King’s Bridge to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission after purchasing it for $440,000 with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and longtime North Carolina environmental philanthropists Fred and Alice Stanback.
Members of the public can currently access the property for fishing, birding and wildlife observation via a small parking area on the east side of N.C. Highway 191; hunting is not permitted. Plans for recreation on the site include a public boat launch.
Nick Shaver, mountain region supervisor of the NCWRC’s Land and Water Access Division, says the commission aims to restore “an ecologically healthy and functioning river bottom” to the land. By allowing parts of the property to fill during flood events, the restoration effort will provide habitat to the native muskellunge fish and reduce the severity of flooding downstream.
Shaver notes that the timeline for work at King’s Bridge depends on the planned upgrade and widening of NC 191, which will likely not occur for several years.
- Asheville resident Mel Skiles received the Blue Ridge Parkway’s 2021 Individual Volunteer award in recognition of his work maintaining the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Meanwhile, the Appalachian State University chapter of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity received the parkway’s 2021 Volunteer Group award for its contributions to the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park and Julian Price Memorial Park near Boone.
- Sandy Mush landowner Brandee Boggs received the EcoForester of the Year award from Asheville-based nonprofit EcoForesters, honoring her dedication to fighting non-native invasive species. New Belgium Brewing Co. also received the nonprofit’s Root Cause award for its support of local forestry efforts and climate initiatives.
- Western North Carolina-based agricultural projects received over $1.1 million in the latest round of grants from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. The largest award, nearly $850,000, went to WNC Agricultural Options, a program administered by Asheville-based WNC Communities. An additional $100,000 went to the EnergyCAP Ag Energy Program, an effort to promote efficiency and renewables in WNC agricultural production.
- Many WNC nonprofits and municipalities received awards from a $60.4 million funding round announced by the N.C. Land and Water Fund, previously known as the Clean Water Management Trust Fund. Significant grants include more than $824,000 to the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy for land acquisition at Mount Pisgah and $400,000 to Conserving Carolina for restoration of the Pleasant Grove flood plain. The complete list of projects and awards is available at avl.mx/b2q.
The city of Asheville named D. Tyrell McGirt as its next Parks & Recreation director, succeeding Roderick Simmons. City Manager Debra Campbell praised McGirt, who most recently served as parks and recreation head for a suburb of Birmingham, Ala., as “someone driven to incorporate diversity and inclusion into his processes.” His first day with the city will be Monday, Jan. 24.
- On Dec. 14, Asheville City Council approved the voluntary annexation of nearly 11 wooded acres adjacent to Carolina Day School in South Asheville for a new city park. The city purchased the land from the school in September for $1.5 million using part of $17 million in parks and recreation bonds approved by voters in 2016. Public engagement on the future of the property will take place throughout 2022.
- The town of Burnsville and city of Hendersonville both received funding in the most recent award cycle of the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Planning Grant Program. Burnsville got $31,500 and will contribute a local match of $3,500; Hendersonville received $36,000 and will spend $9,000 in local funds. The resulting plans in each municipality will “represent a comprehensive strategy for expanding bicycle and pedestrian opportunities,” according to the NCDOT.
- The WNC Regional Air Quality Agency has changed its name to the Asheville-Buncombe Air Quality Agency. The new designation better reflects the body’s scope, as it hasn’t monitored air quality outside of Buncombe County since 2000.
- The Old Fort Trails Project celebrates its groundbreaking 1-2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 15, at 1450 Curtis Creek Road, Old Fort. The initiative aims to establish 42 miles of new trails on U.S. Forest Service lands surrounding the town. Registration and more information are available at avl.mx/b2o.
- Hood Huggers International is coordinating a day of community sustainability service projects in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day starting 1 p.m. Monday, Jan. 17. Work will begin at 47 Bryant St. in the Burton Street neighborhood and include garden tasks, trash pickup and creek cleanup. More information is available by emailing Catherine Siravantha at Catherine@HoodHuggers.com.
- The WNC Sierra Club hosts Drew Jones, co-founder and co-director of Climate Interactive, for a free webinar at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb 3. Jones will present his En-ROADS interactive simulation, which helps participants explore the effects of climate proposals such as renewable energy, carbon removal and electric vehicles. Registration is available at avl.mx/b2n.
- Early-bird tickets for the Outdoor Economy Conference in Cherokee, taking place Monday-Thursday, April 4-7, are available through Monday, Feb. 28. Conference tracks include sustainable outdoor recreation tourism, outdoor-driven economic development, responsible outdoor product innovation and balancing conservation and the outdoor economy. More information is available at avl.mx/9zb.
- The National Park Service reminds visitors to the Blue Ridge Parkway that winter weather conditions and seasonal maintenance can lead to sections of the road being closed to vehicle traffic. The most up-to-date information on parkway conditions is available at avl.mx/7tw.
- Asheville’s Parks & Recreation Department has released its guide to winter and spring programs. Outdoor offerings include low-impact hiking for seniors, youth archery and a nighttime stargazing hike. The full guide is available online at avl.mx/b2p, as well as in print at city community centers.