Filed under: City Facilities

WNC Nature Center wolf pups get names ***UPDATE*** Gray wolf exhibit open!


***UPDATE*** Nova and Wayah have acclimated to their new home and their exhibit is now open for WNC Nature Center visitors to view!

Calling them Wolf One and Wolf Two just won’t do, so the gray wolf pups that joined the WNC Nature Center in June have gotten their names. The female (and lighter colored pup) is named Nova, while the male goes by the name Wayah.


The two pups came to the WNC Nature Center from a facility in Bozeman, Montana when they were two months old. They have since been through a quarantine period and have been introduced to the gray wolf exhibit to meet and acclimate to the center’s existing gray wolf female Shalimar. Once that introduction period is through, the wolves will be on display to the public.


The search for the two pups came after the Center’s male gray wolf Cody was euthanized in April following his declining health due to cancer.

Gray wolves are highly social animals, says WNC Nature Center Director Chris Gentile, and introducing new animals to the exhibit was important of the health and well being of Shalimar.

And anyway, it is a pleasure to be able to welcome new guests at the WNC Nature Center. Alongside the wolf pups’ arrival, the Center recently celebrated the addition of two new barn owls, new baby goats and several young chickens.

Find out more about the WNC Nature Center at

Leave a Comment July 15, 2014

Checking in on the Lake Craig/Azalea Road project


Six months in and the Lake Craig/Azalea Road project is well underway as specialized contractors begin the highly visible streambed relocation along the Swannanoa River at Gashes Creek Road.

Despite the scale of this project to manage high waters during floods and install infrastructure improvements and roadway access, the facilities at Recreation Park such as the picnic area, pool and the WNC Nature Center remain open to the public.

“This is a big project, but we understand that as we move into the summer, people are going to want to use this park,” said Stormwater Services Manager McCray Coates. “There are designated construction areas in place which will allow the park to remain usable.” Access to the river at the park will be limited as work begins on the streambed relocation this week, Coates says. “We do want people to stay out of the construction area,” he said.

Keeping the project rolling involves managing several specific tasks at the same time:


One of the main fixtures of the project is the relocation of the streambed next to Recreation Park. The section currently has a sharp turn that, during high water, erodes and potentially undermines the embankment beneath Azalea Road. A contractor has already cleared vegetation along to site and begun moving fill from one bank to the other and over the next few weeks, work will increase at that site.


Straightening the bend in the river will ease erosion on the bank, while boulders placed in the streambed will slow water as it moves downstream.


Park amenities like picnic pavilions and the Recreation Park Pool are still open for the park’s most popular season.

bridge pilings

Crews have completed pilings for a bridge that will tie into the new roadway connecting the John B. Lewis Soccer Complex with Gashes Creek Road, a move that will introduce a smoother traffic pattern and incorporate infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists. Next, crews will begin building the bridge abutments for the 150-foot bridge span across the Swannanoa River.


The construction team is removing fill from a plain that runs along the river, a move that will allow water a place to go in cases of high flood waters.


On the other side of the Swannanoa River, trucks are compacting dirt along the future site of the road that will connect to the John B. Lewis Soccer Complex.


Work on phase one of the Lake Craig/Azalea Road project is anticipated to be complete in December. Click here more information.

Leave a Comment June 9, 2014

Green features earn recreation center LEED Platinum certification

The City of Asheville is pleased to announce that the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center at 285 Livingston Street has achieved Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification. The designation is the highest level of certification awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council in its recognition of building design and construction practices that reduce carbon footprint and environmental impact.

“This certification is great news,” said project manager Al Koph from the City of Asheville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department. “We’ve worked hard to make this project a flagship for the city and an example of what can be achieved in sustainable building.”
City of Asheville LEED Platinum Certification

Dedicated in October 2011, phase one of the recreation center was the first City of Asheville facility built since Asheville City Council’s 2007 direction that all new municipal construction achieve at least gold LEED certification. Council includes among its strategic goals that Asheville be a southeastern leader in sustainability.

Throughout the project’s first phase, project architect Jane Mathews, acting as the LEED certification administrator and working with her design team, submitted qualifying elements to the USGBC and confirmed that it was on track. Thanks to features like use of natural light and water-efficient fixtures, the project cleared the bar for gold certification and then some.

“The City of Asheville is to be commended for showing strong leadership in promoting a very high level of sustainable design for its new facilities,” Mathews said. “We were honored to assist the City in fulfilling this commitment and to furthering its environmental stewardship by providing a quality, affordable and sustainable new center for Asheville and its citizens.”

Mathews presented the LEED Platinum certificate to Asheville City Council at its December 11 meeting.

The Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center is probably most easily recognized by its roof, the shape of which channels rainwater into sediment reducing ponds and cisterns as well as the roof gardens. But the center also employs energy-efficient windows, geothermal temperature regulation and energy conserving insulation. In rating buildings for certification, the USGBC also factors in how far materials have to travel to get on site and the fact that most of the materials removed for the building were recycled.

Phase one of the center houses an auditorium, classrooms and office space. Phase two, which is currently in the planning stage, will include a gymnasium, a spray ground, playground, and a section of the Town Branch Greenway.

Click here for more information about the Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center or any of the City of Asheville recreation centers.

Click here for more about the City of Asheville’s sustainability initiative.

1 Comment December 18, 2012

Aloft hotel opening marks great public/private partnership

Beneath the bright and festive décor of the Aloft Hotel, which marked its grand opening Thursday, lies the City of Asheville’s most recent addition to its parking facilities. The 404-space parking garage is the fourth downtown deck operated by the City of Asheville and was built at considerable savings to the city thanks to a partnership with hotel developers McKibbon Group.

“It’s a great day here in Asheville,” said Mayor Terry Bellamy at Thursday’s ceremonial ribbon cutting. “We are happy to have a good community partner, and we appreciate the investment in our community.”

That partnership resulted in construction savings to the city of $2.66 million and design collaboration meant retaining maximum storefront potential along Biltmore Avenue.

The new garage addresses a need for additional parking identified in a 2008 parking study.

“This gives us additional parking that was sorely needed and identified for years,” the Mayor said.

Entrances to the parking garage can be found on Biltmore and Lexington Avenues. Parking is free for the first hour and $1.00 per hour thereafter. Monthly spaces are available by contacting the city’s Parking Services at (828) 259-5437.

For more information about the City of Asheville’s Parking Services, click here.

Leave a Comment August 27, 2012

New community center honors pastor’s legacy

The Rev. Wesley Grant, Sr. stands with his choir at Worldwide Missionary Baptist Tabernacle, 97 Choctaw St. He founded the church and served there for nearly 50 years. Grant, who was born in 1915, died in 2007. The City of Asheville is recognizing his legacy by naming its newest community center after him.

ASHEVILLE – In an atmosphere of cheers, love and celebration, the City of Asheville on Thursday night dedicated its newest community recreation space, The Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center, in recognition of a great local leader and an historic cultural neighborhood.

The center was standing-room only as city leaders, community partners and many members of the Grant family gave thanks for the collaborations that made the event possible.

It is the first community center built in the city since the Montford Center in 1974.

No one was more excited than the Rev. Louis Grant, who was overjoyed to dedicate “something in the legacy of my dear old dad.”

Louis Grant opened the evening’s dedication by asking everyone to give a rousing cheer — which they did.

“Now we see a big, bright light in the Southside community,” he said. “Lord God, we say thank you for this celebration.”

Wesley Grant, Sr. was a prominent leader in Asheville’s African American community during the Civil Rights era and Asheville’s urban renewal in the 1960s and 1970s. He founded the Worldwide Missionary Baptist Tabernacle Church in 1959 and served there for nearly 50 years.

He was born Jan. 31, 1915 in Sumter, S.C. and was a resident of Asheville for 75 years. He died in early 2007, leaving a legacy that included not only building a strong family at home and at church, but also working to achieve strides such as the election of Ruben Daley as the first African American Asheville city council member in 1969.

He attended Shaw University Extension Classes, Shaw University Summer Convention Classes, and received Honorary Doctorates from Covington Theological Seminary and Emmanuel Theological Seminary.

The center’s name also recognizes the Southside community, a large geographic area that once surrounded the new center. Southside was a predominately African American community of businesses, churches and neighborhoods that were for the most part demolished during Asheville’s urban renewal.

It is also the city’s first LEED certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) “green building,” demonstrating city government’s commitment to environmental stewardship and social responsibility.

“Our city council had the vision and foresight to want to build a center that not only serves the community, but that is also a model of sustainability,” said Roderick Simmons, director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts.

Some of the LEED features include a green roof, geo-thermal heating and cooling, storm water runoff management, and natural interior lighting. During construction, more than 75 percent of all construction waste was diverted from the landfill and recycled.

Mayor Terry Bellamy officiated Thursday’s event, noting many of the people who made this first phase of the center, the Cultural Art phase, a reality.

“Everybody who gave any money, any talent, any time – I want to recognize everybody who gave to this effort. I’m proud of you,” she said.

The Cultural Art phase of the center is 7,897 square-feet and features an auditorium, three classrooms, office space, storage, and parking.

The Physical Activity Phase will be constructed next and will include a gymnasium, a spray ground, playground, and a section of the Town Branch Greenway.

The Community Phase will be the final piece of the project and will include space for community partner operations.

Future phases will be constructed as funding becomes available.

The center was designed by Mathews Architecture, P.A. and built by H&M Constructors.

The $2.9 million center construction was funded by a number of contributors including the Eaton Charitable Fund, Glass Foundation, Janirve Foundation, Junior League of Asheville, the Raise the Roof at the Reid Community Campaign and the City of Asheville. Construction of the new center matches priority goals for each funder in that it serves children and their families, and provides a strategic public facility for the Asheville community.

During the dedication ceremony, Geoff Ferland, of the Asheville Parks and Greenways Foundation, presented city leaders with a check for $2,075 in personal donations from foundation members to kickstart the “splashpad” element of the Physical Activity phase.

Mildred Nance-Carson, chair of The Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center’s board, thanked attendees for sharing in the event.

“I’m so glad to see you all, but even more glad to see each and every one of the Grant family,” she said. “We are here to honor a man who set a foundation not only for his family, but for the many families he touched. We worked hard for this.”

City leaders, partners, donors, program speakers and members of the Grant family cut the ribbon to the mark the center's official opening.

A youngster stands outside the new community center, the city's first to be built since 1974.

The Dr. Wesley Grant Sr. Southside Center's dedication ceremony was met by a capacity crowd.

To view more photos from the dedication, click here.

*Top photo credit:

Photo credit: Heritage of Black Highlanders Collection, UNC Asheville Ramsey Library

Rev. Wesley Grant, Sr:  bhcP77.

4 Comments October 14, 2011

Phone book recycling drive focuses on community centers

ASHEVILLE – The City of Asheville, Curbside Management, and AT&T are partnering for a phone book recycling drive that highlights area community centers.

Residents are encouraged to bring used telephone books to any of the 11 Asheville area community recreation centers from now through Aug. 18.

The center that collects the most used telephone books will win a $500 cash prize, funded by AT&T.

It’s the first time the city has conducted this contest, said Wendy Simmons, solid waste manager in the city’s sanitation division.

The winning center will use the money for a community event, according to Charles Lee, program supervisor for the city’s recreation centers.

“Each community has multiple events in which they gather to celebrate the uniqueness of that particular community,” Lee said. “Once a winner is determined, the center director will work with their community advisory board to determine what particular event [the center may have] and how best to use funds.”

The local drive is one of about 70 “Project ReDirectory” initiatives operated by AT&T. These are community-based recycling programs designed to promote the collection and recycling of directories. The directories are made from recycled paper waste and wood fiber, such as sawdust and wood chips that would otherwise go unused.

Directories are also recycled into animal bedding, bathroom tissue, cereal boxes, roofing shingles and new phone books.

To find a list of city recreation centers, visit:

4 Comments July 13, 2011

Testing phase begins for Smartphone parking app

ASHEVILLE – Starting today, iPhone and Android users can begin using a free app that will assist in locating available parking downtown.

“Parker” shows real-time parking availability and is being tested in 50 downtown spaces now through September.

Parker’s sensors communicate wirelessly, signaling to Smartphone users whether spots are occupied or vacant. The app will also collect data that reveals local parking patterns.

Parker was developed by the San Francisco-based company, Streetline, Inc.  It functions hands-free, automatically following a user’s position and orientation, similar to GPS navigation applications.  No interaction with the phone should be necessary once the application is started.

The app debuted in December in Los Angeles, and is also being used in New York City; Fort Worth, Texas; and Washington, D.C.

Check out the video for more information.

3 Comments July 1, 2011

Groundhog Day at the WNC Nature Center

The word everyone was waiting for came out of the WNC Nature Center on Wednesday afternoon, as Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy and Nibbles the Groundhog had a Groundhog’s Day conference to predict the coming of Spring.

The media event fell on the same day as the nationally-followed prediction by Punxsutawney Phil, but as Education naturalist Eli Strull explained, “We wanted to get the scoop as close to home as possible.”

Asheville Groundhog DayAsheville Mayor Terry Bellamy, taking on the role of “Groundhog Whisperer” conferred momentarily with 5-year-old Nibbles, the WNC Nature Center’s resident groundhog, before declaring that, though it may take its time, Spring will indeed arrive in Western North Carolina. “It’s coming. It’s going to be a little delayed, but it’s coming,” the Mayor said, adding thats she hopes people take advantage of good weather to visit the center.

The previous weekend’s warm spell brought huge crowds, said WNC Nature Center Director Chris Gentile.

The WNC Nature Center has observed Groundhog’s Day for the past eight years, and Nibbles is the second groundhog to have the honor of being front and center at the event.

Nibbles the Groundhog at WNC Nature CenterThe tradition, Strull explained, comes from European stock, and is timed to coincide with groundhogs coming out of their winter hibernation. Nibbles, who was raised as a pet and therefore cannot be released back into the wild, has recently moved into a new exhibit and habitat facility at the center’s red barn that allows for comfortable hibernation in the winter and activity in the warm months. Glass viewing windows mean visitors can better observe Nibbles in her new home.

The new exhibit is one in an ongoing series of improvements and upgrades at the WNC Nature Center, Gentile said.

The WNC Nature Center’s mission is to increase public awareness and understanding of the natural environment of Western North Carolina. Featuring over 150 animals including otters, black bear and red wolf, the Center is open from 10:00 – 5:00 daily.

The Center is operated by the City of Asheville and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)

Leave a Comment February 3, 2011

Volunteers repaint Stephens-Lee gym in recognition of MLK weekend

44 volunteers showed up at the Stephens-Lee Community Center on Saturday, January 15, to give the center’s gymnasium a new coat of paint in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. day. The service project, organized by the City of Asheville’s Volunteer Program, saw participants from the community as well as the city’s Parks Maintenance division, cadets from the Asheville Police Department, students from Christ School and teens participating in the City of Asheville Youth Leadership Academy (CAYLA). It took the group only two hours to complete the job, reported the city’s Neighborhood/Volunteer Coordinator Marsha Stickford.

Stephens-Lee volunteers

Stickford said Saturday’s event was the first in what she hopes will become an annual volunteer service effort celebrating the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “We would like to identify opportunities every year for Martin Luther King Jr. day that will benefit the community,” Stickford said. The event, she continued, compliments the city’s participation in the Day of Caring held in September and coordinated by Hands on Asheville-Buncmobe, an organization that was also a driving force behind the MLK Jr. weekend event. “They have been instrumental in the community with regards to a day of service on Martin Luther King Jr. day,” Stickford said. A third volunteer project will be planned for the spring, she said.

The roster of volunteers for the Stephens-Lee project filled quickly, as participants invited friends and relatives to be part of the volunteer day. “A lot of the APD cadets brought extra volunteers,” she said.

Superintendent of Parks Kathleen Connor, who alongside Park Maintenance staff set up volunteers with paint, rollers and brushes, said the new coat of paint is an important step in the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department’s priority of revamping of the center’s gym that will eventually include new lighting and floor resurfacing.

CALYA students at Stephens-Lee

Christ School at Stephens-Lee

APD cadet and friends at Stephens-Lee

volunteers paint Stephens-Lee gym

Click here to find volunteer opportunities in the City of Asheville.

Leave a Comment January 18, 2011

City Hall energy efficient lighting retrofit means $15,000 annual savings

The recently completed replacement and retrofitting of nearly 1,000 lights and fixtures in Asheville City Hall will mean an annual savings to the city of $15,000, says Linda Fowler, Project Manager for the Office of Sustainability.

The $125,000 installation, completed in mid-December, was funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and was identified by Asheville City Council as a way to advance its goals of reducing the city’s municipal carbon footprint.

Asheville City Hall lighting

The upgrades will not only result in savings in operating costs, but are also anticipated to bring in about $31,000 in rebates from Progress Energy Carolina’s Energy Efficiency for Businesses program, which rewards energy efficiency measures in non-residential buildings.

“We changed every light in the building, with the exception of the historic chandeliers like those in City Council Chambers,” Fowler says. That includes offices, stairwells, restrooms and basement facilities. The new lights not only reduce power usage but also provide better light throughout Asheville City Hall. “This is much closer to full-spectrum light. The whole building looks different,” she says.

The retrofitting also included about 150 automatic light switches that turn off lights in offices if no movement is detected, and automatically turn lights on and off in restrooms and other parts of the building to reduce unnecessary use of electricity.
City hall lighting

Removed lighting fixtures will be recycled, Fowler says, and thousands of old fluorescent bulbs have already been disposed of using the city’s own crushing unit which removes and stores mercury from the bulbs. With shipping and disposal of fluorescent bulbs typically an expensive procedure, being able to handle them in-house also reduces costs to the city.

“This is a money saver just like the new lights are a money saver,” Fowler says.

The City Hall lighting retrofit project is one of four such projects that were identified to best reduce energy use and stretch taxpayer dollars. Other energy retrofit projects include Civic Center Banquet Hall HVAC system redesign, solar thermal hot water systems for Asheville Fire Stations 6 and 8, and weatherization upgrades for Fire Station 8. Click here to see more information on the City of Asheville’s initiatives and projects to reduce its carbon footprint.

2 Comments January 4, 2011

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