Archives – June, 2012
What’s cheaper than gasoline, burns cleaner than gasoline and reduces dependence on foreign oil? The answer is compressed natural gas, and the Asheville area now has even more access to it thanks to the City of Asheville’s newly expanded CNG fueling station at 45 McCormick Place.
That news came June 27, as the City, alongside partners Land of Sky Regional Council and Mission Health, held a joint media event to announce a successful collaboration that resulted in an increase of CNG vehicles and CNG fueling accessibility in the region.
A grant award of $1.5 million allowed the City of Asheville to double the station’s storage capacity and add 25 new CNG vehicles to its fleet, bringing the city’s total count of its CNG fleet to 37 vehicles. The upgrades were funded through grants from the Carolina Blue Skies and Green Jobs Initiative, led by the Triangle J Council of Governments and supported by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding. In all, $12 million was distributed among 40 alternative vehicle projects across North and South Carolina. Mission Health was able to add five vehicles to its CNG fleet, including two shuttles.
Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy praised the partnership effort for its leadership in supporting cleaner air in North Carolina, reducing fuel costs and backing green jobs in the area.
“This partnership project is a great example of organizations working together to build a more sustainable community,” Bellamy said. “These are the kinds of steps that make us a more sustainable, healthy and environmentally sound city.”
The City of Asheville’s CNG station, one of only four in the region, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, open to the public, and counts among its customers Mission Health, Land Of Sky Regional Council, Buncombe County’s Mountain Mobility system, UNC-Asheville and AT&T.
Compressed natural gas costs an average of $1 less per gallon and emits roughly 23% less greenhouse gasses than gasoline and using CNG fuel in fleet vehicles furthers Asheville City Council’s strategic priorities to be fiscally and environmentally responsible.
For more about the City of Asheville’s sustainability initiatives, click here.
June 29, 2012
Eight years after the inception of the West Riverside Operation Weed and Seed initiative, neighborhoods in and around the area are transitioning to a new chapter. With the U.S. Department of Justice-funded program drawing to a close at the end of June, the focus will be on building on the momentum and relationships created during the operation and moving from a site specific strategy to a regional one by joining forces with initiatives like the Changing Together crime prevention collaboration.
The Weed and Seed initiative addressed areas of elevated crime by creating and nurturing community driven programs, providing prevention and intervention options, restoring neighborhoods and dedicating supplemental law enforcement in high crime areas. The momentum came out of the communities themselves and was steered by a committee of residents from the neighborhoods most impacted. The result, says Mayor Terry Bellamy, is a healthier and safer neighborhood.
“You were committed to being part of the change that would grow your community in a positive way,” Bellamy said at a recent barbeque and party at Pisgah View Apartments. The party was held in honor of the neighborhood and the Weed and Seed partners, and was attended by Pisgah View neighbors, service providers, Asheville Police officers and others who have given their time and enthusiasm to make Weed and Seed happen.
“It’s impossible to overstate the amount of involvement, energy and ideas represented here,” said the City of Asheville’s Weed and Seed coordinator Rebecca Byrne. “The level of participation by non-profits and other organizations has been amazing. With those systems and programs in place, the community can keep moving forward.”
“This doesn’t happen easily,” said Fred Hudson, the Western District U.S. Attorney’s Office Law Enforcement Coordinator. “It requires collaboration. We’ve had some incredible success in this community.”
Since Weed and Seed began, the West Riverside Weed and Seed area has seen job training for 75 residents, baby sitting programs for teens looking for positive ways to earn money, the formation of a Girl Scout troop and the development of mentoring programs. The Burton Street Community Center got much needed improvements and an entire building of apartments was renovated in Pisgah View Apartments to create a stimulating and safe environment for afterschool programs and resident support services. The DOJ grants provided $148,000 to local non-profits meeting community defined goals.
“But the biggest thing I am proud of is that the community came together to reduce crime,” Bellamy said.
Focused law enforcement and community policing was crucial in the effort to get criminals off the street. Since 2008, some 109 individuals have been charged as habitual felons and several investigative operations have targeted large-scale drug dealing in the community. Asheville Police Department and Drug Enforcement Agency collaborations resulted in 30 arrests related to a major cocaine trafficking organization in the area. All told, the APD spent approximately 6,000 additional hours in the Weed and Seed area.
“We’ve seen residents become more engaged in community affairs and work together to ensure they have safer neighborhoods,” said APD Capt. Tim Splain. “That, and the relationships that have been forged with their police officers will help sustain a lower level of crime and better quality of life.”
Changing Together Director Missy Reed hopes those relationships will find a new home in the regional crime prevention initiative. Coordinating with community members, federal, state, city and county law enforcement agencies, the initiative gives the most violent habitual offenders notice that they have an opportunity to participate in programs aimed at moving them out of a criminal lifestyle. At the same time, they put offenders on notice that any further criminal actions will be prosecuted with the intent of pursuing the strongest conviction possible.
“The community has to be at the heart of everything we do,” Reed said.
“Like Weed and Seed, Changing Together is driven by the concerns and desires of the neighbors who live in this community.”
June 26, 2012
Sustainability directors from 22 cities across four southeastern states met in Asheville June 14 and 15 to share notes and exchange strategies for creating greener and environmentally sound organizations. The Southeast Sustainability Directors Network kicked off its first conference with a series of workshops and sessions designed to spotlight energy and waste reduction techniques that work across southern cities.
“Sustainability looks different in different regions. It’s implemented differently in Boston than it is in Los Angeles,” said Maggie Ullman, Energy Coordinator for the City of Asheville’s Office of Sustainability. “But within our region, we can find a lot of similarities. This network provides us with a forum where we can compare notes and talk about what’s working in the south and what isn’t.”
In January 2008, the City of Asheville became the first city in the region to establish an office of sustainability. Since then, cities across the southeast have established their own sustainability offices. Nationwide, some 100 cities, including Asheville, participate in the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, a large-scale platform for sharing information. The SSDN is designed to do the same thing on a regional basis, and sustainability directors from North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee attended the launch event.
“This is a new field, but there is a lot of innovation that is happening on the ground,” Ullman said. “Peer to peer communication is the best way for us to learn from one another’s successes.”
From here, network founders Asheville and Knoxville will join seven other cities on a steering committee to work out the best opportunities for shared projects, like LED streetlights and community energy conservation.
One of Asheville City Council’s strategic goals is to be the southeast leader in green energy and environmental sustainability, and regional cooperation is one of the objectives outlined in achieving that goal.
See more about the City of Asheville’s Office of Sustainability here.
June 21, 2012
In 1961, as a civil rights movement swelled nationally, a group of high school students calling themselves the Asheville Student Commission on Racial Equality (ASCORE) set out on a campaign to peacefully desegregate Asheville’s lunch counters, libraries, pools and parks. Though the teens were the public face of Asheville’s own civil rights victories, they were given assistance and support by adults, parents and business owners who remained in the background. This month, members of that 50-year-old movement sat down at UNC Asheville with current high school students and talked about issues surrounding race, social equality and non-violent change.
The conversations were part of the two-day Me2We summer conference, held June 14 and 15, the first in a planned four-year series of events focusing on civic engagement organized by a partnership of the City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy, the Center for Diversity Education and UNC Asheville’s AVID Summer Bridge.
The conference consisted of workshops and talks that ranged from self respect and school success to problem solving and conflict resolution, but a highlight was the opportunity to hear the stories and legacies of the members of ASCORE. Those testimonies told the tale of a group of teens who decided to stand up and challenge inequality.
“The kids in ASCORE, these were top students who got together and said ‘We’re going to make a difference in Asheville,’” said Al Whitesides, who participated in sit-ins and non-violent demonstrations.
For William Young, the protests were a part of life as a teenager. “It was just something we thought needed to be done. It was always about human dignity,” he said.
Students were able to share their thoughts with the civil rights pioneers on contemporary challenges to equality. Meanwhile, CAYLA alumni, all of whom have moved on to college since taking part in the academy, led workshops and team-building activities for the conference’s 100 participants.
The City of Asheville’s Educational Coordinator Erika Germer said the conference gave incoming CAYLA students the chance to see the academy’s alumni in pivotal leadership roles “Peer-to-peer mentoring and role modeling were key components of the conference design,” Germer said. “Seeing that kind of leadership in action inspires teens and shows them what is possible.”
Or as ASCORE veteran Etta Whitner Patterson put it, “Someone older than you has been down roads you haven’t been down. You never stop learning. The moment you become unteachable, you have failed.”
For more information about the City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy, click here.
June 20, 2012
For 28 youths, this week was a chance to fill the boots of firefighters at the City of Asheville Fire Department’s Fire Escape camp.
For the third year in a row, AFD hosted the three-day camp for boys and girls in grades six through eight. Attendance at the camp, held at the Asheville Firefighters Association Camp off Clayton Road, has grown since it began in 2010.
“We got some repeat campers, and a few told their friends. Word is getting out and we filled up pretty quick this year,” said AFD Public Information Officer Kelley Klope.
The department’s interaction with students at Asheville Middle School through the In Real Life partnership also contributed to the turnout, Klope said.
Kids got to learn how to use turnout gear, the suit and equipment firefighters use when entering burning buildings, unroll and connect hoses and take a turn in the 100-foot-tall aerial bucket. They even got a taste of the obstacle course training that Asheville’s firefighters use to stay in top form.
“They get to learn the skills we use,” Klope said. “The kids just love it.”
The camp also serves as an introduction to other opportunities the AFD offers, including Asheville Fire Explorer Post 77, which trains young adults ages 14-21 firefighting skills. Several current firefighters with the department got their start in Post 77.
Fire Escape camp was provided free of charge, thanks to the participation of the Asheville Firefighters Association and Asheville firefighters who volunteered their time over the three days. The AFD also wants to thank Firehouse Subs and Asheville Pizza and Brewing for donating lunches.
Apply to attend Fire Escape Camp here: http://www.ashevillenc.gov/Portals/0/city-documents/fire/fire_education_and_prevention/ASHEVILLE%20FIRE%20CAMP%202013%20Application.pdf
For information about future camp opportunities, contact Kelley Klope at (828) 251-4011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 14, 2012
The Asheville Police Department, in partnership with BikeSafe NC, will give a free Rider Skills training session June 23 at the APD’s downtown location.
The training session addresses safety issues and rider skills that allow motorcyclists to better avoid accidents and enjoy the ride. APD motor officers will assess riders’ skill levels and give advice customized for all levels of expertise and any style of bike. The day will cover professional riding techniques, causes of collisions, hazard perception, first aid, gear selection and a system of motorcycle control.
“This is a great opportunity for motor officers to engage with recreational motorcyclists and talk safety, talk motorcycles, and then go out and ride together,” says Lt. Stony Gonce. “It is another way to build community partnerships and make our roadways safer.”
The BikeSafe Rider Skills Day is offered free to the public but registration is required. Since this is the first year the Asheville Police Department has participated in BikeSafe Rider Skills Day, the department is currently assessing interest in the class and will schedule classes based on community interest. Visit bikesafenc.com or email email@example.com with questions.
BikeSafe is a partnership between the NC Governor’s Highway Safety Program and local law enforcement agencies.
June 6, 2012
Rising to the challenge: City of Asheville employees get fired up for the Chamber Challenge 5K run on June 1. Despite looming rain clouds and some showers, 54 employees from 13 departments participated in Friday’s run. Way to go for everyone involved!
June 4, 2012
The WNC Nature Center announced June 1 that the center’s resident female red wolf Mayo has given birth to four pups, a larger than average litter for a first time mom. The pups, two males and two females, were born May 9 and, at a few weeks old, are healthy and developing normally. The birth brings the number of red wolves at the WNC Nature Center to seven.
The four red wolf pups in their whelping box.
“This is a fantastic announcement to be able to make,” says Chris Gentile, the center’s director. “It’s a great thing to have happen in Asheville, a privilege for us at the nature center and a real boon for the red wolf breeding program as a whole.”
The red wolf, Canis rufus, is a federally protected endangered species native to the southeastern United States. Only about 400 are known to be in existence. The Red Wolf Species Survival Program, a partnership between the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, keeps track of all red wolves in zoos worldwide and makes recommendation on which wolves should breed to increase the health of the population. That’s how, six months ago, a male red wolf named Phoenix arrived at the WNC Nature Center from Albany, GA as a possible breeding partner for three-year-old Mayo.
The four new red wolves are being kept in a special 1/3-acre enclosure outside the public view for at least the next six months. At a few weeks old, the pups have just opened their eyes and are still nursing, says WNC Nature Center veterinarian Ross Prezant, and it is important to their development that they interact with people as little as possible. The pups stay in a whelping box designed under the specifications of the FWS officials and are handled only for veterinary purposes. Mayo cleans the box herself. “It’s spotless every time we go in there,” Prezant says.
Like the pups, Mayo was born at the WNC Nature Center. Her father, Rufus, will remain on display during the time that she, the pups and Phoenix are in the off-exhibit habitat. A renovated red wolf exhibit is scheduled to begin construction soon. Once completed, the wolves will go on view for Nature Center guests.
Mayo, a three-year-old female red wolf, is the new mother of four pups.
The WNC Nature Center is part of the City of Asheville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department and features over 250 animals native to the Southern Appalachians including red wolves, otters, birds of prey, black bears, and reptiles. The Nature Center is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
Regular admission to the WNC Nature Center is $6 for adults ($8 for non-Asheville residents), $5 for seniors ($7 for non-Asheville residents), $4 for youth ages 3-15 and children age 2 and under are free.
June 1, 2012