Open Letter: We Stand with the City of Asheville in Opposing Cascading Section A of the I-26 Connector Project

Open Letter: We Stand with the City of Asheville in Opposing Cascading Section A of the I-26 Connector Project

Open Letter: We Stand with the City of Asheville in Opposing Cascading Section A of the I-26 Connector Project

This rendering by the Asheville Design Center shares our vision for the Patton Avenue/Bowen Bridge corridor to be a multi-modal, urban boulevard that serves as a gateway to downtown. 

June 18, 2018

French Broad River MPO

339 New Leicester Highway

Asheville, NC  28804

 

Dear MPO leaders:

 

On behalf of our members and supporters, Asheville on Bikes and MountainTrue write in opposition to cascading Section A of the I-26 Connector Project from the statewide to the regional tier of projects.  We firmly believe that negotiations between the City of Asheville and NCDOT on outstanding design questions related to the Connector Project should be completed and incorporated into the final Environmental Impact Statement before the project moves forward. We cannot support cascading Section A until this occurs.

We recognize that the City’s negotiations with NCDOT to date have produced several good outcomes including new bike/pedestrian facilities, good greenway connections, a Section A with six lanes instead of  eight, and a much-improved redesign of the Amboy Road interchange (though no one has yet seen revised maps that reflect these design improvements).  However, there has not yet been success in determining the number of lanes going across the river and in the design of the Patton Avenue/Bowen Bridge corridor.  The City of Asheville remains committed to making this corridor a multi-modal, urban boulevard that serves as a gateway to downtown, but NCDOT is not yet committed to these outcomes.

Until negotiations with NCDOT are complete and the drawings are updated so that the City can say with confidence that the project will increase livability for the residents of Asheville, advance active transportation, and meet the City’s vision for the redevelopment of Patton Ave, we stand with the City of Asheville in opposing cascading Section A.  We strongly encourage NCDOT to continue to work with the City of Asheville to reach agreement on these critical design issues.

 

Sincerely,

 

            Mike Sule, Executive Director                                                                Bob Wagner, Co-Director

            Asheville on Bikes                                                                                    MountainTrue


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Sign Up for our Richmond Hill Invasives Removal Work Day March 10!

Sign Up for our Richmond Hill Invasives Removal Work Day March 10!

Sign Up for our Richmond Hill Invasives Removal Work Day March 10!

MountainTrue has worked for the past six years to restore Asheville’s only forested park, Richmond Hill. A favorite of dog walkers, mountain bikers and disc golf fans, the park has unfortunately become overrun with non-native invasive plants like multiflora rose, which has very sharp thorns that can harm our canine companions. The invasives crowd out native species and prevent them from growing, reduce valuable habitat, and diminish the natural beauty of the woods.

We have seen incredible improvements at Richmond Hill since holding invasive species removal days, with a 95% reduction of invasive species in some areasWe hope you’ll join us for our next restoration workday on March 10th, and we will subsequently host work days at Richmond Hill on the second Saturday of every month for the rest of the year.

 

Where: Richmond Hill Park, 280 Richmond Hill Drive, Asheville, NC 28806

When: Saturday, March 10 2018 from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm

Other Info: Be sure to wear long sleeves and pants as well as closed-toed shoes to this event. Bring a snack and water. We will provide all other equipment necessary! We ask that you leave your pets at home for this work day.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Community Planning For All: Trolley Tour Reportback

Community Planning For All: Trolley Tour Reportback

Community Planning For All: Trolley Tour Reportback

On January 27, the rain held off just long enough for our Community Planning For All Trolley Tour led by Chris Joyell of the Asheville Design Center (ADC). Nineteen attendees packed onto the trolley to learn about infrastructure projects that were all designed in collaboration between communities in Asheville and the ADC.

 

West Asheville Bus Shelter

Our tour began at the West Asheville bus shelter across from New Belgium Brewery at the intersection of Haywood Road and Craven Street. For this project, ADC’s volunteer architects held outreach events, listening sessions and design workshops to incorporate the voices of transit riders in the shelter’s design, and even held a public vote online to decide what materials would be used to build the shelter. The result was a “Mix & Match” design using three salvaged materials from the stockyard that once stood at New Belgium Brewery: wood slats, metal, and a bottle cap mosaic. The final design will include an interpretive panel with history about the surrounding neighborhoods.

Burton Street Peace Garden

Formerly a vacant, overgrown lot, the Burton Street Peace Garden was a positive response by the Burton Street community to the war in Iraq and heavy drug activity and crime in their neighborhood in 2003. The site now has vegetable and flower gardens watered by rainwater collection barrels, a fire pit and a cob pizza oven. It also features sculptures and visual art by local artists including Dwayne Barton, telling stories of African-American history and social and environmental justice.

ADC’s 2011 DesignBuild Studio helped design the garden’s 300-square-foot pavilion. Constructed out of salvaged materials from the neighborhood, like an old Texaco gas station sign as the door, the pavilion serves as a gathering and educational neighborhood space.

Photo Credit: Hood Huggers International

13 Bones Pedestrian Bridge

From there we visited the innovative 13 Bones Pedestrian Bridge created by the ADC’s 2013 DesignBuild Studio. Built near the old 12 Bones Barbecue location in the River Arts District, the title is a playful nod to the site’s history. Currently, the bridge is a peaceful place to gather along the French Broad River, and will also be the first piece of infrastructure for the upcoming Wilma Dykeman greenway project along the French Broad.

 

Triangle Park Mural

Photo Credit: Michael Carlebach 

Our tour ended at the Triangle Park Mural, a memorial to the historic African-American business district in the heart of “The Block” in downtown Asheville. The Block was once the cultural and economic hub for Western North Carolina’s African-American community from Reconstruction until the late 1960’s, when close to 500 acres of majority-black neighborhoods were cleared in the East-Riverside Redevelopment Project.

The Triangle Park Mural is a tribute to that history. Its design is the culmination of community interviews, family stories and donated photographs, and celebrates the people of the Block, East End and Valley Street neighborhoods. ADC artist Molly Must painted the mural alongside six local artists and nearly 100 community volunteers, many of whom had their own stories about the Block’s heyday.

MountainTrue believes that creating livable communities in Asheville’s built environments is key to protecting our natural environment too. When we have attractive and functional bus shelters, neighborhood gardens that create food security and strengthen community, places to gather along our region’s waterways and green spaces that celebrate marginalized communities, we come closer to the region we want to live in: one where the health of our natural environment is a priority, and our communities thrive within it. Stay tuned: more community-powered design to come!

Learn more about MountainTrue's recent merger with the Asheville Design Center

Are you an architect or designer in Western NC with an interest in equitable, community-driven design?


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

‘Let’s Turn Our Community Into A Demonstration Plot’: A Faith Spotlight on Piney Mountain United Methodist Church

‘Let’s Turn Our Community Into A Demonstration Plot’: A Faith Spotlight on Piney Mountain United Methodist Church

‘Let’s Turn Our Community Into A Demonstration Plot’: A Faith Spotlight on Piney Mountain United Methodist Church

Members of Piney Mountain United Methodist Church during their light bulb drive, August 2017. 

It was something you don’t see every day: in the Hominy Valley just east of Candler, NC, a man pulls a wagon of light bulbs while another drags a wheelbarrow full of green peppers, okra and tomatoes. Winding around the neighborhood, the small group knocks on the doors of 35 homes, and when their neighbors open, they do not ask for money or signatures. Instead they hand out 16 energy-efficient LED light bulbs to each home free of charge along with some fresh produce, and invite them to a community cookout and a series of free classes on creation care.

These generous visitors were congregants of Piney Mountain United Methodist Church for their LED light bulb drive last August. Piney Mountain, known for being a “working church” that serves in the Hominy Valley community, breaks the mold of what may be expected of rural congregations: the church has been incredibly active in the mission to protect our mountains.

“There are a lot of blessings of the rural community,” says Piney Mountain Pastor Kevin Bates. “My people love their land, they love their mountains, and they do a lot of farming. One of my parishioners raises cattle, and he loves every one of those cows and names them all.”

Pastor Bates was determined to connect his parish’s love of the land with an understanding of how climate change affects the earth and how they care for their neighbors. In 2016, Bates received a $1,000 Thriving Rural Communities grant for the neighborhood light bulb drive from the Duke Divinity School Endowment. Piney Mountain has now distributed over 1,300 energy efficient LED light bulbs to help lower their neighbors’ energy bills and reduce carbon emissions at the same time.

“I’d watched people come into the Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Mission (ABCCM) crisis center in Candler saying, “I need help with my heating bill. I need help with my heating bill,” Bates says. “And [ABCCM Site Coordinator] Ian Williams and I decided we need more than a Band-Aid fix for this issue. So the LED light bulbs were a beginning: we thought, let’s start moving people in the right direction so that instead of them asking for $100 come December, let’s save them $100 over the course of the year.”

LED light bulbs are 80% more efficient than regular incandescent light bulbs, and even more efficient than the spiral-shaped compact fluorescents (CFLs.) They’re also safer than CFLs since they do not contain mercury. On top of the energy savings, the LED light bulbs will eliminate about 1,000 pounds of carbon emissions per year the carbon equivalent of planting 15,000 trees in their community over the next ten years.

“We need more than a Band-Aid fix for this issue. So the LED light bulbs were a beginning: we thought, let’s start moving people in the right direction so that instead of them asking for $100 come December, let’s save them $100 over the course of the year.”

–Pastor Kevin Bates

Piney Mountain goes door-to-door in the neighborhood surrounding their church in the Hominy Valley, east of Candler, NC, to build community and create energy savings for their neighbors. 

Pastor Kevin Bates (left) and a Piney Mountain congregant (right) load boxes of LED light bulbs into a wagon at church.

Pastor Bates’ passion for connecting faith with care for the environment is clear, and for him, the effort began with preaching. He did a six-part sermon series on creation care through the lens of Biblical passages from the Genesis creation story to the Book of John, Job, and Revelations, Bates points out that the Bible is full of references to our connection to the earth and the image of God as a gardener. “Other times, my sermons were more focused on the justice elements of what it means when we don’t care for the land,” he says. “There are plenty of places in the Minor Prophets where people are abusing the land and the prophets speak out against it because it’s hurting people, especially the poor. We know that’s the case now, and my congregation responds, ‘we’re farmers too – we get what’s happening.’”

Bates adds that the deep connection to the land felt by many parishioners allows them to feel and respond to climate change on an emotional level. “My people have noticed that they have changed when they plant in the ground, and they have even changed the way they fertilize because of changing snow patterns,” Bates says.

Piney Mountain offered free public classes last fall on home energy savings, composting and canning to keep fostering creation care, and used local knowledge to teach the classes. “I think canning was the best class that we had. I don’t know how many older grandmothers have said ‘I wish my grandchildren and kids knew how to can, but they just bring their tomatoes over here and make me do it,’” Bates laughs.

Many residents of the Hominy Valley make lifestyle choices that, while sometimes considered part of a recent wave of trendy “green” practices, are actually long-standing traditions in rural communities that just make sense economically. In the home energy savings class, Bates realized that most of the participants still used clotheslines and didn’t need to convert back to them to save energy like they might in more urban areas.

Bates serves on the Steering Committee for the Creation Care Alliance, and hopes Piney Mountain will offer more classes in the spring. Piney Mountain also plans to work more closely with the Energy Savers Network and to help make Buncombe County’s recently adopted resolution for 100% renewable energy by 2042 a reality.

Fittingly, Bates’ personal call to this work also connects to an agricultural vision. He speaks of the Koinonia Farm in Georgia that was founded in the early Civil Rights Movement by Clarence Jordan, who believed that black and white people need to live and work together in order for true reconciliation to occur.

“Now obviously there’s a lot of hard work that goes into living together with people,” Bates says. “But with Koinonia Farm, Clarence Jordan spoke about creating a demonstration plot for the kingdom of God, because it demonstrated to the world a different way, the way of the Beloved community. And it was also a protest against the way the world works now. So I turned that language to my congregation and said ‘let’s turn our community into a demonstration plot. Demonstrating to the world a different way: a way of reconciliation with people and land.’”

Are you clergy and interested in bringing creation care back to your faith community?

Would you like to connect to the Creation Care Alliance’s network of faith communities caring for our mountains in Western NC?


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Help shape the future of WNCA – ECO – and JMCA! Board members sought

forestview

Would you or someone you know like to be considered for a leadership position at the only grassroots environmental advocacy group focused solely on conserving Western North Carolina’s natural heritage?

We are looking for candidates to fill four positions on the board of this newly merged organization that includes the Western North Carolina Alliance (WNCA), the Environmental and Conservation Organization (ECO), and the Jackson Macon Conservation Alliance (JMCA) beginning Jan. 1, 2015.

Board members ensure that the organization continues to be well managed and remains fiscally sound. Members also support the organization by raising money, bringing contacts to the organization and acting as ambassadors to the community.

We are seeking candidates who:

  • Bring geographic and much-needed racial diversity to the composition of our leadership
  • Are well networked in the community
  • Are strategic thinkers
  • Have skills and experience that will benefit the organization especially in accounting/finance, fundraising, communications, and legal
  • Will commit the necessary time (i.e. attend bi-monthly meetings, serve on subcommittees and attend events)

Nomination Guidelines:

Nominations must be submitted to WNCA Co-Director Bob Wagner at BobW@WNCA.org by Aug. 31.

In your nomination, please include the person’s name, contact information (email, phone), county they live in, and one to two paragraphs describing why you are nominating this person.

It is not necessary to contact the person prior to submitting their nomination. The Governance Committee will follow up with you and the nominee.

Get the latest news on political efforts to seize Asheville’s water system

avlwatershedNorth Carolina’s General Assembly is about to take the unprecedented step of seizing a municipal-run water system from a city, which in this case has owned and operated it for more than 100 years.

Members of the NCGA have signaled their intention to introduce legislation in early 2013 that would force the city of Asheville to turn over not only its water distribution system, but control of its pristine 20,000 acre watershed, to the Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County (MSD).

Indications are that the city of Asheville will likely receive no compensation for the taking of these assets.

Let state leaders know you oppose any mandated takeover, as it sets a bad precedent for the future of all cities owning and operating municipal assets and undermines the confidence of municipalities to move forward to invest in their systems.

This takeover  also calls into question the authority of state legislatures to arbitrarily transfer assets from one local government entity to another.

ISSUE UPDATES

March 28: In a bill that doesn’t mention Asheville at all, Reps. Tim Moffitt, Chuck McGrady and Nathan Ramsey have a initiated HB 488 to regionalize public utilities. The bill also does not mention compensation to Asheville for the hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars-worth water treatment/distribution system, or the pristine 22,000-acre watershed that produces the water 

The City of Asheville releases analysis of the impact of losing the Sullivan Act Transfers.

  • HB 252 would harm regional economic development efforts
  • HB 252 would limit investment in transportation infrastructure
  • Revenues have been used judiciously for regional investment
  • Water system continues to demonstrate strong financial performance
  • Asheville has not diverted revenue from the water system to subsidize its general fund.

March 6:  Reps. Moffitt, McGrady, and Ramsey introduce legislation repealing the ‘Sullivan Act Transfers’. The Sullivan Transfers allow the City of Asheville to use up to 5 percent of water revenues for street and sidewalk repairs related to water system maintenance. Losing the transfers will cost Asheville taxpayers approx. $1.5 million annually.

Read the bill here. 

Feb 26: Rep. Tim Moffitt co-sponsors legislation to create an “Infrastructure Oversight Commission.” Read the bill here.

Feb 22: Greensboro News & Record Op-Ed by Barry Summers: The time is now for North Carolina towns and cities to adopt the League of Municipalities resolution opposing such seizures, and for citizens to contact their legislators to oppose this radical reshaping of our shared resources. More here.

Feb 6: Charlotte Airport may be stripped from the city’s control by the General Assembly, placed under independent authority. The House bill stripping the Charlotte airport from the City of Charlotte is co-sponsored by a majority of the Asheville water Study Committee members including Rep. Tim Moffitt. More here.

SIGN THE PETITION HERE.

READ MORE ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THIS ISSUE AND MORE WAYS TO GET INVOLVED HERE.