Helping A Member Save the Trees of the Asheville Muni Golf Course

Helping A Member Save the Trees of the Asheville Muni Golf Course

Helping A Member Save the Trees of the Asheville Muni Golf Course

On Saturday, December 3rd, 2022, I got an email from Nancy Casey, a MountainTrue member, about a proposal to cut 157 trees from the Asheville Municipal Golf Course. Nancy Casey is a resident of the Beverly Hills neighborhood and is active with the Blue Ridge Audubon. Nancy frequently walks and birds around the golf course. She can tell you what birds to expect at various times of the year at each hole and has documented some rare species, like brown-headed nuthatch and pine siskins, using the trees on the course, and knows where the local hawks nest there.

Nancy Casey

The Asheville Golf Course is a local treasure. It was constructed in 1927 and was the first golf course in the southeast to integrate in 1954. It remains an affordable and accessible course today. The old trees that line the golf course add historical significance. Trees over 100 years are common on the course, and some are over 200 years old. 

In addition to golf, the Municipal Course is a wonderful place to take a walk along shaded streets in the Beverly Hills neighborhood and is used by walkers, runners, and birders. I know the Asheville Golf Course as a nice place to forage for mushrooms amid the mature oak trees that line the course, so I was concerned when I looked into the details of the proposal. There were some very large trees on the list, and from what I know of the Municipal Golf Course, I suspected that some of them probably didn’t need to be removed. 

With a comment deadline looming on Dec 5th, I wrote a letter to the City Council and the Urban Forestry Commission asking for them to reconsider the plan. I also watched a recording of the December 5th Urban Forestry Commission meeting to learn more about the specifics. I then emailed Mark Foster, the Arborist for the City, and Chris Corl, general manager of special facilities for the City, and requested a site tour. Chris and Mark obliged, and Nancy, Bob Gale, and I met them for a tour on December 13. 

On the tour, we learned that the previous concessionaire for the Municipal Golf Course had been negligent with the grounds. The paved paths were in bad condition, and many of the greens and fairways were eroded with compacted soil and lacked grass. The city had received a large grant to spruce up the course, and part of that was to do needed tree work. Where reasonable minds differed on the proposal was that some of the trees were to be cut to allow more light for grass to grow. It seemed to me that most of the grass issues were due to poor soil conditions and trampling.

Josh Kelly takes a tree core sample to determine the age of a 120-year-old white oak that was saved from removal.

We also learned that the City Arborist did not nominate each tree for removal. As we visited each green and checked on the trees, Mark was disappointed to find that some of the trees had been misidentified and the reasons given for removal were not always accurate. There were some trees that needed to be removed for safety reasons that were not marked, and others marked for removal that were in good condition. At the end of the tour, Mark and Chris let us know that the list would be updated. 

In early January, a new list of tree work at the Municipal Golf Course was released, and 46 trees — mostly large, old oak trees — would no longer be cut down. While I still don’t agree with some of the trees that were removed, I think the final outcome was acceptable and a big improvement. Overall, the interactions with the City Staff were positive, and I was very impressed with their professionalism. Nancy’s activism and leadership were key for raising awareness in the community and turning out more than 100 concerned letters and emails. I would have been unaware of the controversy if not for her efforts. I think MountainTrue brought more expertise to the conversation.

While Nancy is the hero of this story, I’m glad I was able to help. Nancy said, “your work really helped turn the tide!” MountainTrue’s history is filled with normal people who banded together to make a difference. Even now, when MountainTrue’s paid staff is larger than ever, a big part of our job remains helping normal people protect the shared resources of their communities.

Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

Jackson County Wins the 2021 Bioblitz

After two weeks of hard-nosed competition, Jackson County has won the 2021 Bioblitz over Watauga and Transylvania Counties. Overall, 46 people contributed 2,947 observations and 317 people helped with the identification of 1,228 species. While Jackson County had 1,403 observations to Watauga County’s 1,068, the competition for the most species was much tighter – Jackson county prevailed 738 to 681. Transylvania County came in a distant third with 472 observations and 279 species.

There were several notable performers in the Bioblitz, with 14 people making over 50 observations! The top three participants were Max Ramey (643 observations, 455 species; Watauga and Transylvania), Tim Lewis (408 observations, 323 species; Jackson), and Janaye Houghton (289 observations, 276 species; Jackson).

MountainTrue staff selected several people for recognition for their outstanding participation in the Bioblitz. Winners will receive gift certificates for local conservation-friendly businesses.

Max Ramey, as previously noted, was stellar and took home awards for Most Observations, Most Observations in Watauga County, and Best Observation for a stunning image of a Hellbender (

Tim Lewis was recognized for Most Observations in Jackson County and Sherry Downing won Most Observations for Transylvania County. Scott Persons got the award for Best Bird Observation for a crisp image of an Indigo Bunting. (

Erin Martin won Best Fungal Observation for a marvelously textured photo of the Common Toadskin Lichen (

Janaye Houghton won Best Arthropod Observation for an otherworldly image of a Spittlebug ( 

The participation in the 2021 MountainTrue Bioblitz was phenomenal! It’s inspiring to see so many people learning about and appreciating the incredible diversity of the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains. If you enjoyed this year’s MountainTrue Bioblitz, stay tuned for next year. We plan to have many more group and in-person opportunities at the next Bioblitz. 

Public Lands Are More Popular Than Ever, And They Need Your Help

Public Lands Are More Popular Than Ever, And They Need Your Help

Public Lands Are More Popular Than Ever, And They Need Your Help

Based on what I’ve seen this year, local public lands are sure to break some visitation records. I’ve never seen the trails of Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests as crowded as they have been this year. With the pandemic preventing most international travel, and outside being the safest place for people to be, folks have been looking closer to home for travel and recreation options, which has led people to local public lands in droves. Many of those people are getting into the outdoors for the first time. This could be a great thing for public lands and our culture, as more people fall in love with nature and become advocates for conservation. The downside is that many of the newcomers to public land have not yet been educated on how to be good stewards, and that’s where you, our MountainTrue members, come in.

MountainTrue members are conscientious people. You care enough to advocate for clean water, resilient forests, and public lands that are managed for people and native species. Most of you are familiar with Leave No Trace Principles and you follow them. At this particular moment in time, there is a need for you to pick up some slack for the newbies, and also for you to kindly mentor people who are not as educated as you.

The “kind” part is important, because it is essential to grow the constituency for public lands and wild nature. Fewer and fewer people are exposed to nature through their everyday lives, so I am encouraged that so many people are getting exposed to something other than a virus this year. If you see folks that aren’t behaving well in the woods, let them know what they are doing wrong, and how to do it right. Not everyone knows to pack their trash out, or to keep their noise down to respect other people. If you can communicate all of that in a way that’s not condescending or angry, we’ll all gain allies for the places we love.

Just as important (and a whole lot easier!) than the needed social work is to hit the trail ready to leave the land better than you found it. I like to hike with a trash bag and gloves so that I can pick up any trash I find along the way – and there’s a whole lot of trash in the woods this year. I also hike with hand pruners and a hand saw so that I can cut brush or any small trees that fall across the trail. For those of you that are advanced in your identification of non-native invasive plants, it’s a huge help for you to pull the bittersweet, Japanese honeysuckle, privet and garlic mustard you find on the trail.

MountainTrue will highlight particular places that need your help throughout the fall, winter and spring, so keep an eye out for some “choose your own adventure” cleanups we’ll be organizing. Contact MountainTrue Forest Keeper Coordinator Tamia Dame for more information.