Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Coastal waterfront access the topic of panel

According to the News & Observer, each week a commercial pier, campground marina or fish house is sold along the North Carolina coast. But a legislative panel that began work yesterday is looking into protecting public access to the coast "before it disappears."

"Land values on the coast have soared in recent years, making the idea of selling out ever more tempting for people whose businesses may be earning only modest profits," says the paper.

"A News & Observer tally last spring found that more than 34,000 homes in more than 100 subdivisions and condominium projects were planned along the mainland coast, where the state's crab processors and most of its fish houses -- wholesale and retail operations that buy fishermen's catches -- are located.

"The legislative panel, called the Waterfront Access Study Committee, was created by the legislature this summer. It has 21 members, including representatives of the commercial and recreational fishing industries, marine trades, environmentalists, state agencies and local governments."

Click here for more on the panel.

Update: Wilmington growing, but losing some too

Yesterday, we linked to a Wilmington Star-News article about just how much that city is growing and how some (depending on perspective) think Wilmington is getting too big.

Well, today's paper has an interesting piece on the flight of some African-Americans from the Port City.

"When Nakia Byles leaves Wilmington on Saturday she doesn't plan to come back," says the article.

"She'll make trips to visit relatives, but living in the Port City isn't for her anymore.

" 'I can't stay here,' she said.

"Byles, 26, moved to Wilmington from Brooklyn, N.Y., when she was about 5 years old.

"She's decided to move somewhere that's a little more city, but not too much, where there is more for young blacks like her to do and more job opportunities. She's moving to Charlotte."

The Queen City is quickly becoming a very inviting place for African-Americans. Unfortunately, Wilmington does not appear to have that same cache.

"Charlotte - voted one of the Top 10 cities in the country for blacks to live, work and play in 2003 - has experienced a 16.5 percent increase in its black population from 2000 to 2005, according to new census data," says the Star-News.

"The same data show Wilmington losing more than 2,000 of its black residents.From 2000 to 2005, Wilmington's black population decreased from 19,579 to 17,302, an 11.6 percent drop. The city's Hispanic population grew 92 percent, and the number of whites increased by 28.4 percent. The 2005 American Community Survey questioned Wilmington residents, though people living in universities, long-term care facilities or prisons were not included."

Click here for the rest of the article.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Quick hits: Ladies and links

Wooing women to golf
Ashley Brooker seemed oblivious to the silver-haired men teeing up next to her on this humid North Carolina afternoon[, writes the Associated Press]. She raised a golf club over her right shoulder, swung and watched the small white ball disappear in the sun.

"You have to concentrate. When you think about other things it can mess up your swing," the 15-year-old said as the ball landed on the driving range at Pinehurst Golf Resort, bouncing beyond many of the men's hits.

On the course for the fourth time in as many days, the teenager from nearby Southern Pines is part of a surge in female interest in golf in recent years. More and more, young women are picking up the sport in high school, where the number of players increased by 1,000 last year. Some then go on to play in college, where Title IX has helped fuel a boom in women's golf programs. ...

Though women remain a relatively small part of the multibillion dollar golf market, the upward trend in female interest has caught the attention of resorts looking for new ways of attracting customers. A number of them, including Pinehurst, are courting women through gender-specific classes and programs designed to introduce golf as a fun challenge.

Women make up just 18 percent of what the National Golf Foundation defines as "core" golfers -- the 12.5 million golfers who play at least eight times a year and average 37 rounds annually. At the same time, the number of occasional female golfers -- women who play between one and seven times a year -- jumped from 2.6 million in 1997 to 4.3 million last year.

From Arizona to North Carolina, golf resorts are taking the advice offering everything from multi-day getaways that combine golf and spa time to daylong crash courses. ...

Port City really is a big city

It's probably happened since the day began, but the next person who calls Wilmington home will up the city's population to 100,000, meaning the Port City truly is a big city.

At least, it is depending on your perspective.

"The answer likely depends on your frame of reference," says the Star-News

"[New Jersey transplant Catherine] Fox, for example, said that the pizza was better in Jersey, but Englishtown didn't have festivals every weekend, a vibrant cultural arts scene or a university. 'I have a sort of list of things I'm going to do' in Wilmington, she said.

"But to David Carnell, a retired DuPont employee who moved from the Philadelphia area to Wilmington to retire 26 years ago, Wilmington can't be compared to large northern cities, like the City of Brotherly Love. 'It's a medium-size city at best, I would say,' Carnell said.

"According to the U.S. Census, reaching 100,000 residents will put Wilmington in a category with 254 other U.S. cities with populations of at least that size - from Cambridge, Mass., with 100,135 people, to New York City with 8,143,197. ..."

Perhaps newly-named Mayor Bill Saffo puts it best: Wilmington is a "big town growing into a city."

Monday, September 25, 2006

N.C. blues guitarist Baker dies

North Carolina lost one of its great musical treasures on Saturday when blues guitarist Etta Baker passed away at 93.

Baker died in Fairfax, Va., while visiting a daughter who had a stroke, according to the Associated Press.

"She just had to go; she just had to see my sister," Darlene Davis, another daughter who lives next door to Baker's house in Morganton, told the AP. "She was a great mother and a tower of strength for the family. We always looked up to her."

Baker was raised in a musical family in Western North Carolina [according to the AP]. She made her first mark in music in 1956, when she appeared on a compilation album called Instrumental Music of the Southern Appalachians. The recording was very influential on the growing folk revival, especially her versions of "Railroad Bill" and "One-Dime Blues."

She worked for 26 years at a textile mill in Morganton before quitting at age 60 to pursue a career as a professional musician.

Baker became a hit on the international folk-festival circuit, playing Piedmont blues, a mix of clattery rhythms of bluegrass and blues.

Baker raised a family that eventually numbered nine children. She also suffered great losses. Her husband had a debilitating stroke in 1964. That same year, she was in a serious car wreck that killed one of her grandsons. In the span of a month in 1967, her husband died and one of her sons was killed in the Vietnam War.

"She embodied everything we love about the South," said Tim Duffy, who worked with Baker through his Music Maker Relief Foundation.

"She was strong, warm, witty, gentle, a gardener and also the world's premiere Piedmont-style blues guitarist," he said. "Like B.B. King and single-string blues, anybody who has picked up acoustic finger-style guitar has been influenced by Etta whether they know it or not."

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Passion of the Sweet Potato

Whether it's a casserole at Thanksgiving or a hand-held "pie" from Bojangles, the sweet potato is one of North Carolina's most versatile staples.

The Wilmington Star-News' Wilmington Magazine has a great feature article about various sweet potato recipes.

"The question down South is not 'Why would people want marshmallows on their sweet potatoes?' but instead 'Why would they not?'," the publication correctly asserts. "In an area where sugary iced tea pours like syrup and cake is but a vehicle for the frosting, something sweet with something even sweeter on top is a pure delight.

"Still, every year as fall stirs Thanksgiving thoughts, celebrity chefs bemoan marshmallow-topped candied yams and endorse sweet potato casserole covered with Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs or, heaven forbid, nothing at all. Even the N.C. Sweet Potato Commission tells readers at its Web site, “And just so you know, sweet potatoes and marshmallows are not married.” And well, perhaps they’re not, but they’re a darned good couple. ..."

Well, said.

Clicking on this link (and scrolling down a bit) will lead you to recipes for Contemporary Candied Yams (with streusel topping) and Cornwallis Yams. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Main Event: Lexington vs. Eastern-style

If there's one topic that just will never go away when discussing N.C. heritage, it is barbecue.

And, in N.C., there are basically two "parties" when it comes to the delicacy: eastern-style or Lexington.

A recent event in Lexington gave food writers from across North America the opportunity to sample both.

"Cecil Conrad of The Barbecue Center on North Main Street provided the Lexington-style portion of the menu: chopped sandwiches, red slaw and hushpuppies," writes the Lexington Dispatch. "Ed Mitchell, a well-known barbecue caterer from Wilson, provided eastern North Carolina-style barbecue, coleslaw, corn sticks and Brunswick stew. Barbecue expert Bob Garner, author of the book 'North Carolina Barbecue: Flavored by Time,' presented a short history of barbecue in the state and explained the different traditions.

" 'What you're eating is sort of North Carolina's official food of celebrations, whether it's East or West,' he told the crowd. 'It has always been that way. ... Why? Because it was a cheap way to feed a big crowd.'"

Of course, I'm partial to eastern-style. But Garner goes on to make a great point: people think the best barbecue comes from wherever they grew up.

"I think North Carolinians like to talk about barbecue even more than they like to eat it."

Update: More on the IBX parkway

A couple of weeks ago we discussed the proposed IBX scenic parkway. The New Bern Sun Journal has a newer article about the project; not much new information is provided, but it does further illustrate how such a project could gain momentum.

"Paint a picture of eastern North Carolina for posterity, let the world drive by and enjoy: Cypress knees knobbing up at the edges of strong, sleepy rivers; bridges crossing and flat roads winding through pine forests; open farmland dotted with classic tobacco barns; and byways leading to the surging shores of Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds," says the article.

Some of the peaceful picture could generate some controversy before a two-lane, 55 mph road is paved, however.

As proposed, it would eliminate the Cherry Branch-Minnesott and Bayview-Aurora ferries and replace them with bridges, and bypass some developed areas with potential ill effects. And, another regional branding effort claims the name “Inner Banks” already with a different map of a larger region.

Giving credit for the concept to Ron Toppin of Washington, N.C., spokesman Dean Stephens told commissioners the proposed parkway from Gatesville to Havelock offers eastern North Carolina an opportunity to provide a north-south artery for tourism development and local traffic.

It would use current highways N.C. 32, N.C. 45 and N.C. 306 in Craven and Pamlico counties to form a corridor to connect with the parkway.

“It would allow easy navigation of a key tourist area that focuses on history, natural resources and environmentally desirable development in a relaxed, small town environment,” Stephens said of the plan that also proposes state parks associated with the road.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The most colorful time of the year

Fall has always been my favorite time of the year -- and it has less to do with it being football season as it does with it just being autumn. The crispness in the air ... the smell of smoke coming out of chimneys ... the knowledge that Thanksgiving (and then Christmas) is right around the corner ...

... And, of course, the colors.

North Carolina is normally blessed with a beautiful and radiant fall. The western part of the state, in particular, is famous for its fall vistas.

And this year could be particularly beautiful -- which could be a boon for tourism.

“We should expect brighter color than last year,” Kathy Mathews, assistant professor of biology at Western Carolina University, told the Asheville Citizen-Times. “Overall, it should be a colorful fall.”

In 2005, a warm fall led to late and muted color, with many leaves turning brown in lieu of their normally vibrant palette.

“This fall, it seems more on track to have typical colors start at the beginning of October and peak in the middle of the month,” she said.

With the varied elevations, temperatures and rainfall in the mountains, color arrives at different times and with varying brilliance.

Sounds -- or rather, "looks" -- good to me.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Quick hits: War boats, wild horses and wetlands

State group wants to move CSS Neuse
"The State Historic Sites will be asking for more than $3 million next year to renovate and move the CSS Neuse from Vernon Avenue to a museum on Queen Street," according to the Kinston Free Press.

"Keith Hardison, director of state historic sites and properties, said Thursday at a tourism conference in Lenoir County that $250,000 was awarded by the state to start infrastructure and remedial construction on a museum, which will soon become the new home for the gunboat.

" 'This is priority of the division to execute this project because of the fragile nature of the artifact,' Hardison said. ..."

Challenges face Corolla wild horses chief
"The Corolla Wild Horse Fund's first-ever full-time executive director is no stranger to horses or to challenges," according to the Elizabeth City Daily Advance.

" 'I have been a horsewoman all my life,' Karen McCalpin says. 'That's pretty much my passion. I have owned horses, showed horses, trained horses and given riding lessons.'

"In her new job as head of the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, McCalpin will be around horses again. She'll also face a number of challenges, including one that's already presented itself.

"A recent aerial survey indicates Corolla's famous herd of wild horses is almost twice as large as it should be. With the help of the Virginia Beach Police Department and one of its helicopters, Steve Rogers, the Wild Horse Fund's herd manager, counted 119 horses — nearly double the 60 the group's management plan is set up to handle. ..."

Mine plan would erase wetlands
"A massive Beaufort County strip-mining operation wants to expand its extraction of phosphate ore in one of the state's most environmentally fragile areas," according to the Raleigh News & Observer.

"The proposal by PCS Phosphate, if approved, would represent the single largest destruction of wetlands permitted in the state -- 2,500 acres including the headwaters of seven creeks near the Pamlico River.

"The rich deposit of black phosphate rock, left by ancient oceans and buried 100 feet beneath the surface, has been extracted from the site by various companies for about 40 years. PCS has worked the mine since 1995 to get phosphate for fertilizer and for use in food additives. In food, it's turned into phosphoric acid -- a flavor enhancer in such products as Coca-Cola, jellies and vegetable oil. ..."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

EI one step closer to purchasing pier

The town of Emerald Isle is one step closer to preserving one of North Carolina's fast-vanishing resources: ocean piers.

"The town of Emerald Isle’s efforts to acquire Bogue Inlet Pier and improve water quality in the area have taken a major step forward," said the Jacksonville Daily News. "The Board of Commissioners took action Tuesday night approving a purchase agreement between the town and Mid-Atlantic Real Estate and Development of Raleigh that will allow it to acquire the pier and remove three nearby stormwater outfalls that drain into the ocean.

"The $3 million contract is contingent upon the N.C. Clean Water Management Trust Fund’s approval of the town’s grant application for the proposed project.

"That decision is expected at the trust fund’s board of directors meeting Nov. 12-13.

" 'We think this is a very strong project and believe we have a good chance,' said Town Manager Frank Rush, who presented details of the agreement at the town board’s meeting. ..."

" 'The town is extremely pleased to announce this agreement, as we believe it is a major victory for water quality, public beach access and the preservation of the ocean fishing piers in Emerald Isle and North Carolina,' said Mayor Art Schools in a news release on the agreement. ..."

This agreement is a major victory for a number of Crystal Coast residents and visitors who joined together in an effort to preserve the pier.

"Emerald Isle wouldn’t be the same without it," one Raleigh resident told the Daily News recently.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lake Lure 'Dream Home' becomes a nightmare

HGTV's coveted "Dream Home" may be more of a nightmare for the man who won it.

Donald P. Cook was one of 40 million who entered the contest to win the beautiful new home in Lake Lure. But according to published reports, the house has become a "tax nightmare."


"Cook won a $3 million-plus house in HGTV's Dream Home promotion in April. While the 5,700-square-foot house was free, Cook has to pick up the tax bill.

"He said taxes on the North Carolina lake house run $19,396.64 a year, plus maintenance costs.

" 'It's a dream that anyone would love to have — owning a house like the Dream Home,' he told HGTV. 'But then reality sets in.'

"He said the electric bill on the dream home is more than 10 times what he currently pays."

The article goes on to say that Cook will sell the house even though he loves the area. He plans to take the money from teh sell and buy a house "a little more his style" in the area.

Friday, September 08, 2006

N.C.'s best pizza?

Anchor Bill Leslie of WRAL has an interesting discussion going on on his blog about the best pizza joints in North Carolina.

Among the locations Leslie lists:
-The Loop (Cary)
-Amedeos (Raleigh)
-Cinelli's (Raleigh)
-Mellow Mushroom (various locations)

"I hear Lilly's at Five Points in Raleigh is top notch although I have never had the pleasure of tasting it," writes Leslie. Bill, you don't know what you're missing.

What are some other great recommendations? I would add Moonlight Pizza in Raleigh and Big Oak in Salter Path. Tell us what are your favorite pizza places.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

N.C. scores low when it comes to college affordability

North Carolina has long been considered a beacon of light in the nation when it comes to affordable higher education. That light appears to be dwindling.

"North Carolina is a solid B student when it comes to college preparation, participation and completion, but it is failing in its ability to provide affordable education," according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

That is according to the latest report card on the state of American college education being released today by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, a nonpartisan research group. The center issues such a report every two years. It examines states' secondary-school preparation and the cost of two- and four-year private and public schools.

Affordability was just one factor, but it's the one on which states did most poorly overall. Of the 50 states, 43 scored an F in keeping college costs down and providing financial aid based on need. Utah and California received C-minus, the best grades.

States that did best tended to balance tuition increases with financial aid based on need, Callan said, or have low-cost community-college alternatives. Despite a rise in both in North Carolina, the state does not offer "low-priced college opportunities," the report said. But Callan couldn't give a number to clarify what that amount might be.

Click on the link (above) for the rest of the article.

Proposed scenic parkway would link the IBX

They're still not as prevalent as the "OBX" stickers, but you're starting to see more and more "IBX" stickers -- honoring the increasingly-popular Inner Banks of North Carolina.

A proposed $185 million scenic parkway would link the IBX and allow for people to better enjoy them.

A new term relative to its Outer Banks counterpart, the “Inner Banks” were loosely defined in the Plymouth presentation as the “western areas of the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds,” including the banks of the Chowan, Roanoke, Pamlico and Neuse rivers[, according to the Washington Daily News].

A scenic parkway, such as the Blue Ridge Parkway, is defined as a two-lane road separated from private land upon which a constant speed is maintained, by natural land, according to the presentation.

The proposed parkway will stretch from N.C. Highway 158 near Gatesville to N.C. Highway 70 near Havelock with a speed limit of 55 throughout, and will predominately use existing state highways 32, 45 and 306. The parkway would, however, bypass towns along its path, including Plymouth and Bath.

This idea has legs -- as long as this type of parkway does not impede on the fragile environment that already exists.

Quick hits: Collards and Patriots

Ayden's Collards Festival begins today
"Packed with excitement from collard greens to pageant crowns, the 32nd annual Ayden Collard Festival kicks off today," according to the Greenville Daily Reflector.

"Rides will open on West Avenue at 6 p.m., followed by the first free musical performance. Festivities will run through Sunday when the festival wraps up with a gospel concert.

" 'Our town rolls out the red carpet for the festival,' said festival organizer Don King. 'We're a very tight knit community. Businesses roll out. The police department is in full force. All the volunteers and the town helps. It ends up being a community effort and event.' ..."

Hillsborough to celebrate Revolutionary roots
"Much of the town is stepping back into the 18th century this weekend with a Revolutionary War re-enactment and a celebration of colonial life," according to the Durham Herald-Sun.

"The Alliance for Historic Hillsborough is hosting the 225th anniversary of Col. David Fanning's raid and capture of Gov. Thomas Burke.

"Re-enactors from the Brigade of the American Revolution are expected to set up camp in Cameron Park Saturday morning. The re-enactment of the capture will be at 11 a.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the intersection of Cameron and King streets and St. Mary's Road.

" 'We're very excited that we can bring all of that together, the education, fun and economic benefit,' said Cathleen Turner, executive director of the Alliance. Turner said she didn't know how many re-enactors will be attending this weekend. ...."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Red Wolves could affect Navy decision

You don't have to go to Beaufort County to see that people are against the Navy building a proposed outlying landing field (OLF) in Eastern North Carolina. Even here in Raleigh you will occassionally see "NO OLF" signs and stickers.

Now it appears that the anti-OLF folks may have an ace in the hole.

"The latest force in the fight against the proposed outlying landing field for the border of Washington and Beaufort counties is an entity that can’t speak: endangered red wolves that roam Site C and the neighboring proposed site in Hyde County," says the Washington Daily News.

“Several packs of endangered red wolves now inhabit two of the Navy’s proposed (OLF) sites in northeastern North Carolina, including the Navy’s preferred site,” reads a press release from the Southern Environmental Law Center. The Chapel Hill-based firm handles the case against the Navy’s proposed OLF, representing groups such as the National Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife and the N.C. Wildlife Federation.

“Consequently, if the Navy plans to proceed with the project, it must formally consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and take no action that will jeopardize the species’ continued existence,” the firm’s release states.

The Navy plans to put a concrete practice pad, which would be used to train its pilots, on Site C. The project encompasses 33,000 acres. The bulk of the acreage is in Washington County, and about 5,000 acres are on Beaufort County’s tax books. The land is about halfway between military air bases in Cherry Point and Virginia Beach, Va.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Report: Retirees expected to 'flock' to the N.C. mountains

This just in: the mountains of North Carolina are old.

And they're getting older.

Actually, it's the population of Northwest North Carolina that is getting older, according to a report from the Winston-Salem Journal.

"The elderly population in Northwest North Carolina mountain counties is growing markedly, according to recent census estimates.

"The numbers support a common perception that a lot of retirees are moving to the area. Experts say that improved medical care also promotes longer life spans that account for part of the increase.

"Census data in a statistical area made up of Ashe, Watauga, Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties show that 17.6 percent of the household population now is older than 65. That compares with 11.7 percent of household population older than 65 in North Carolina as a whole."

A recent study that ranked states according to the number of new elderly residents showed North Carolina in third place, after Florida and Arizona, said Ed Rosenberg, the director of the gerontology graduate program at ASU.

Census estimates show an 11.8 percent drop in ages 35 to 44 in Ashe, Watauga, Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties. Those figures are more a reflection of cycles of births and the age groupings of the statistics than an exodus of young-er people leaving the mountains, Rosenberg said.

He said, however, that the aging mountain population will more than double in the coming decades. ...

What the mountain counties look like now gives a window to what the state as a whole will look like in fewer than 20 years, when the number of North Carolinians 65 and older will make up about 17.5 percent of the population, he said.

And to see what North Carolina will look like then, visit Florida.

"In about 20 years, North Carolina is going to have a higher percentage of older people than Florida does now," Rosenberg said. "That's what we're going to look like."

'Slice of Americana' going bye-bye

Again, I realize Myrtle Beach's Pavilion is in South Carolina, not North Carolina; but too many folks from the Old North State have fond memories of the landmark to not comment on it.

"On a fading afternoon as summer wanes, a small girl looks anxiously into the Haunted Hotel, trying to decide whether she will risk entering the ride where a sign promises 'Doom Service Available,'" writes the Associated Press.

"A cool breeze brushes in from the ocean as a middle-aged woman waves to a friend snapping her picture as she rides a zebra on the Pavilion Carousel. Down the way, past lemonade stands, the log flume and ring toss games, teenagers shriek as they spin on swings high in the air. And across Ocean Boulevard, older folks, seeking quiet and reliving memories, sit on a balcony overlooking the street.

"These are the sights and sounds of the final summer of a piece of Americana. After nearly a century, the Myrtle Beach Pavilion is closing, and along with it the amusement park that has been part of the fabric of this oceanside resort for more than 50 years."

R.I.P, Pavilion.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Apple Fest is ripe, ready

If it seems to you like this blog focuses a lot on the town of Hendersonville, then you're right. But that's because that wonderful town in the mountains always seems to have something going on.

This time around it's the Apple Festival. This year's N.C. Apple Festival is the 60th version.

"Thursday afternoon, downtown's Main Street began the annual transformation from business as usual to party mode," according to the Hendersonville Times-News. "Parking was banned on Main Street after 3 p.m. so vendors could set up. ...

"Setting up the Main Stage in front of the Henderson County Historic Courthouse, Tim Petty, with Seriously Sound, of Landrum, S.C., said festivalgoers will have a few new things to enjoy about the entertainment stage this year. ..."

Click here to read more about Apple Fest.

Canton does Labor Day right

The town of Canton is going all out to celebrate Labor Day. In fact, the town has been going all out for a month now.

"In most towns, Labor Day is nothing more than a day off from work," says the Asheville Citizen-Times. "In Canton, it’s an obsession.

"The town is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its annual Labor Day celebration and parade, an institution in this proud, self-proclaimed blue-collar town. The town is now immersed in a monthlong celebration, climaxing Monday with the Labor Day parade.

"It’s one of the oldest continuing celebrations of Labor Day in the Southeast, perhaps the nation."

To read more, click here.