TO THE RESCUE: The willingness of U.S. Army pilots to make dangerous maneuvers in heavily forested mountain terrain ultimately rescued more than 100 people in the aftermath of the March 1993 blizzard. Photo courtesy of Great Smoky Mountains Association

How to not die in the Smokies

When you think about the Great Smoky Mountains, your thoughts might not immediately jump to death and destruction. But that is exactly what adventure travel writer David Brill of Morgan County, Tenn., dives into with his new book, “Into the Mist: Tales of Death and Disaster, Mishaps and Misdeeds, Misfortune and Mayhem in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

IN THE BEGINNING: Reputed to be the third oldest river in the world, the French Broad has gone from a polluted industrial dumping ground to a key cog in Western North Carolina’s outdoor and tourism industries. This renaissance is a result of government, nonprofit, and individual efforts to improve water quality throughout the watershed. Photo by Mike Belleme; courtesy of Transylvania Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Development Authority

Communitie­s along Upper French Broad work to restore water quality

In this two-part series, Xpress invites you on a guided a trip down the river as we examine the work of various communities to write the next chapter in the French Broad’s history, beginning with Transylvania and Henderson counties.

LIVING THE DREAM: “It’s a wonderful thing to wake up and stand in your underwear overlooking the mountains,” says van-lifer “Mr. Wolf,” embracing the great outdoors beside his van on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo by Hokey Pokey

Van life: What happens when the road leads to Asheville?

Rising housing costs, a longing for travel, the opportunity to leverage technology to work remotely: It’s not any one trend alone that’s driving a resurgence of interest in life on the road. Our correspondent looks at the van life phenomenon through the lens of its connections to Asheville and Western North Carolina.

BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER: While community members largely spoke out in favor of Alternative 4B for Section B of the I-26 Connector Project, several aspects of NCDOT’s design, such as the three bridges that would span the French Broad River near Montford (above), have a coalition of Montford neighbors and others questioning the scale and scope of the design. Image via NCDOT; courtesy of DWAC

Despite progress, concerns about the I-26 Connector persist

When the DOT finally decided on a design for Section B of the Connector project in 2015, many stakeholders thought they saw light at the end of a very long tunnel. Other residents, however, see serious flaws in Alternative 4B, questioning whether the project’s long-term benefits will justify the sacrifices their neighborhoods must make to see it completed.

The site of a 112-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel on Meadow Road. The Planning & Zoning Commission unanimously approved the hotel application. Graphic courtesy of the city of Asheville

P&Z approves its final big hotel

Asheville’s Planning & Zoning Commission heard the last hotel zoning application submitted under the city’s previous zoning rules, which changed on Feb. 14. The commission approved a 112-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel planned for 26 Meadow Road. Moving forward, any hotel project with more than 20 rooms will have to make its case to City Council as a conditional zoning application. The conditional zoning process gives the elected officials more discretion than P&Z’s guidelines allow.

GET MOVING: The newest section of the French Broad River Greenway — open and ready for action. Photo by Cindy Kunst

Asheville’s newest section of greenway opens next to New Belgium Brewery

The ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newest section of the French Broad River Greenway was held Friday, April 21, at the foot of the New Belgium brewery as part of the city of Asheville’s Earth Week Celebration. Representatives from the many public and private partnerships that had a role in the development of this section, called […]