Big Rock Creek Volunteer Work Day

On April 28, 2018, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and Nature Valley partnered with us for a volunteer work day at our Big Rock Creek Preserve, surrounded by national forest land and public recreation hotspots in the Highlands of Roan. In addition to the area’s rare habitats and unique species, SAHC’s Big Rock Creek Preserve – once the home of TrailRidge Mountain Camp — provides a great space for people to connect with protected conservation lands.  A total of 35 volunteers showed up for the work day and tackled a variety of tasks around the preserve to help better connect people with nature. The crew of volunteers represented programs from across the region, including Western Carolina University, East Tennessee State University, AmeriCorps Project Conserve, Conservation Trust for North Carolina, and Asheville Women Outdoors.

The volunteers broke into smaller groups to work on tasks, which included building a quarter mile loop trail, deconstructing an old camping platform, transplanting rhododendron, and seeding an open area with native grasses.  

Jeff Hunter of NPCA led one of the trail crews to clear and grade the first segment of the trail. Jeff has extensive experience in building trails and volunteers learned a lot by working with him.  

Building the trail was an eye opening experience, I have hiked on trails for years and years, but had no idea the amount of work and love that goes into making and maintaining them. Now, when I am looking at a trail I can identify the mineral soil, what is a good slope, and where water may end up pooling; all things I never would have noticed prior to the Big Rock Creek Workday.  It was definitely a Saturday well spent!” -Emily Adler

The trail crew also built two sets of steps and cleared fallen trees. By the end of the day, all major obstacles had been cleared from the trail, creating a strolling path for SAHC’s educational programs and guests to use to explore the property.

On another portion of the preserve, volunteers worked in the open area surrounding our new camping platform.  Volunteers cleared the area around the platform, then spread seeds and transplanted rhododendron along the border. We hope to see this area sprouting native grasses and wildflowers in the next few weeks.

In only 5 hours, all of the tasks were completed and everyone took a walk on the newly built trail together.  We shared stories about what led us to volunteer and reflected on the importance of environmental stewardship.  Thank you to everyone who participated or supported this work day. We couldn’t do it without you!

From Kudzu to Cover Crops

Our Community Farm continues to serve as a model — balancing agricultural production with environmental responsibility while providing educational opportunities.

Farmer Incubator Program

Will Salley and Savannah Salley of Headwaters Market Garden use a unique French method of bio-intensive vegetable production on small acreage. Currently in their first year of full-time farming, they have wholesale and restaurant accounts. They will return to the downtown Asheville City Market in the Spring, to host a booth on Saturday mornings. Next year, they plan to expand their operation with mushroom and egg production. Read more

Aloft Downtown Asheville Volunteers

We’d like to give a HUGE thank you to the terrific team of volunteers from Aloft Downtown Asheville who came out to work on our Community Farm on Tuesday, October 17. This energetic crew arrived ready to get their boots dirty and do some good! They helped our Headwaters Market Garden incubator farmers harvest carrots, beets and kale, wrapping up summer production in the fields and preparing to transition to cold-weather operations. Read more

Roan Highlands Story Map

Straddling the border of Tennessee’s Carter County and North Carolina’s Mitchell and Avery Counties, the Roan Mountain massif rises above the farms and villages of the valley below. Known as the Highlands of Roan, these mountain peaks and ridges, for the most part above 4,000 feet in elevation, are renowned for their exceptional biological diversity and magnificent beauty.

The Roan Highlands are home to grassy balds, rhododendron gardens, high-elevation rock outcrops, and rich spruce-fir forests. The Roan’s ecosystem is one of the richest repositories of temperate zone biodiversity on earth, including more federally listed plant species than the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Roan Highlands are home to more than 800 plant species and over 188 bird species.

This summer, Stanback Intern Sarah Sanford from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment created a Story Map of Grassy Balds management, using GIS data to catalog three decades of habitat management in the Highlands of Roan. Enjoy a virtual journey to the Roan through historic photos, scenic images, and interactive maps below — or feel free to visit and share the Story Map with this link. 

Roan Balds Management 2017

It takes a village to care for our mountains, and SAHC, our partners, and volunteers certainly made that happen this summer.  In less than four days of work, more than 25 volunteers cut blackberry from about seven acres of grassy and shrub bald habitat during our annual Grassy Ridge Mow-Off and Roany Boyz stewardship events. A big thank you to all the folks who came out to mow, to rake, to cook, and to photograph these events. They simply wouldn’t happen without you!

“After expecting rainy weather the weekend of the mow off, it was a pleasant surprise to have sunny skies and great views for much of the Grassy Ridge Mow-Off,” said Sarah Sanford, Duke Stanback Intern. “I really enjoyed meeting and working with such a wide variety of people, from folks who were there for the very first Grassy Ridge Mow-Off to brand new SAHC members. My favorite part was the views from our campsite on Grassy Ridge. Being part of the Grassy Ridge Mow-Off gave me a better perspective on the large scope of work that SAHC and its volunteers do to maintain the Roan Highlands.”

We would like to give a special thanks to the NC BRIDGE crew this year. In addition to hauling equipment to Grassy Ridge and Engine Gap for our volunteer events, they cleared 3.5 acres of grassy bald habitat and maintained 1.76 acres of early successional habitat on our Roan Mountain Gateway preserve. The BRIDGE (Building, Rehabilitating, Instructing, Developing, Growing, Employing) Program is a cooperative effort between the NC Forest Service and the NC Division of Prisons based out of Western Youth Institution in Morganton, NC. The primary goal of the program is to provide well-trained and equipped forest fire fighting crews ready at a moment’s notice. A secondary, but important, goal is to develop a strong work ethic and work skills so inmates will be able to secure a job when they are released.  For more than 20 years, BRIDGE has been crucial to our habitat management work. Every year, we are always privileged to witness the hard work, dedication, and professionalism exhibited by this crew.

Thank you all!

Poem below contributed by Bill Ryan, Roany Boyz Volunteer 2015-2017

The Roany Boyz  2001-

once a year
in one gap on the AT
in high summer
they gather

to work
to eat
to talk
to lay down ever wearier bodies to camp

some poetry
some stargazing
no campfire out of respect for the land

drinks just cool enough from the spring
work measured in tanks
dream images of blackberry and alder leaves interlacing

coming back to the same places
still trying to figure out why the balds were bald before them
eating a few early blueberries and seeking the elusive Gray’s lily

Asheville Greenworks’ Water Bar Workday

This summer, we partnered with Asheville Greenworks’ Youth Environmental Leadership Program (YELP) for a service day on our Robinson Rough property in Sandy Mush. The youth volunteers created water bars to prevent erosion and protect water quality.

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XploreUSA Volunteers Help Shortleaf Pine

On Thursday, July 13, we welcomed a group of XploreUSA students to our Community Farm for a workday in the Shortleaf Pine reforestation area. The teen volunteers consisted of international exchange students along with some of their American host siblings. XploreUSA is a day camp which offers several language classes, fun activities, and meaningful weekly volunteer projects. The volunteer projects for this day included thinning of non-native invasive plant species and seeding Kentucky 31 Fescue grass and perennial flowers.

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OM Sanctuary Clean-Up

SAHC staff recently had the rare opportunity to work on protected conservation land inside the City of Asheville boundary. Stewardship Associate Sarah Sheeran, AmeriCorps member Anona Miller, and intern Leigh Bost teamed up with a youth group from the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly of Black Mountain to clean up trash on a portion of the Oshun Mountain (OM) Sanctuary property on Richmond Hill. Read more

Decorating for the Birds     

Thanks to the efforts of Sarah Sanford, a Duke University Stanback Intern with SAHC this summer, our new office has been outfitted with window decals to help protect our winged friends.

Sarah worked with her professors at Duke University on a project to prevent birds from fatally colliding with reflective windows. The Bird Collision Project at Duke uses patterned film to break up reflective surfaces seen by birds while retaining visibility for people inside buildings. Sarah suggested a similar idea for SAHC’s new office, taking the initiative to line our front windows with stickers of bird silhouettes. The use of the stickers will help the birds to avoid those windows. Read more

Girl Scouts Lead Farm Tour for Silver Award Project

On Wednesday, July 5th, SAHC AmeriCorps member Haley Smith and communications interns Tamia Dame and Fisayo Bashorun helped two local Girl Scouts fulfill a special goal – earning their Silver Award, the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette can ear. Scouts Kylie and Gates had only one task left to complete before obtaining the award: leading a project which would leave a lasting impact on their community. The most meaningful way to do this, they decided, was to pass down the valuable lessons about land trust work to younger generations in a hands-on environment. Read more