Friday, May 28, 2010

Cape Hatteras fourth on Dr. Beach's best beaches list

Cape Hatteras came in No. 4 in Dr. Stephen Leatherman (aka, "Dr. Beach)'s annual Best Beach in America list. Leatherman, an N.C. State alum, has made quite the career out of publishing this annual list. Tough gig.

The No. 1 beach in America this year is Coopers Beach, in the N.Y. Hamptons.

"New York has world-class beaches, but I don't think a lot of people in the United States know about them," said Leatherman.

Rounding out the top 10 are Siesta Beach, Fla. (2), Coronado Beach, Calif. (3), Cape Hatteras, N.C. (4), Main Beach, N.Y. (5), Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki, Honololu (No. 6), Coast Guard Beach in Cape Cod, Mass. (7), Beachwalker Park in Kiawah Island, S.C. (8), and Hamoa Beach in Maui, Hawaii (9), Cape Florida State Park, Fla. (10).

Photo by Kelly Capps

Friday, May 21, 2010

Vote for an N.C. Google doodle

Google is running "Doodle 4 Google" contest, where schoolchildren have submitted artistic renderings of the Google logo. More than 30,000 entries were received down to 40 regional finalists. (According to Google: Voting is open from May 18, 2010 6:00 a.m. Pacific Time (PT) to May 25, 2010 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time (PT). After May 25th, we will tally up your votes and announce the four national finalists and national winner on May 26, 2010 at an awards ceremony in New York. The national winner's doodle will appear on on May 27, 2010.)

You can actually go back and see the North Carolina entries, grade by grade. Go here. "Branch Out" is one of the regional finalists.

Here are some samplings of some other Tar Heel State entries.

Charlotte Observer: The spirit of the Mecklenburg Declaration lives on

Andy Polk, a legislative aide to Rep. Sue Myrick, wrote this for the Charlotte Observer yesterday.

For those who may not be familiar with our area's origins, May 20th is a day to learn and reflect on our local history.

Thomas Polk was the first to settle Charlotte in 1755. He traveled to North Carolina in search of a place with large tracts of land to settle, and space to raise a family. He stopped at the intersection of present day Trade and Tryon streets, in uptown Charlotte where he purchased the land and built a home. ...

In 1771, local leaders were able to secure a charter for Queens University - what would have been the first college in the area - only to have the king strip the charter in 1773. Citizens in Mecklenburg, like others across the colonies, began hurting from the crippling taxes and harsh laws imposed by the king. Once loyal subjects, newly identified "Americans" began speaking out publicly against this harsh rule.

By 1775, disputes between American colonists and the British were at a tipping point. Thomas Polk, commander of the Mecklenburg militia, called for a council of local leaders to gather at the Mecklenburg courthouse on May 19, 1775, to discuss grievances against the crown. That same day, news arrived in Charlotte that Americans had been killed by British troops at the previous month's battles at Lexington and Concord.

This news spurred the predominantly Scotch-Irish leaders, who already had a long history of fighting British rule, to move beyond debate to action. That night, local leaders drafted and signed a document called the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, fondly known as the "Meck Dec."

At noon on May 20, 1775, Thomas Polk stood at the Mecklenburg Courthouse and read aloud the declaration to the public: "... the citizens of Mecklenburg County do hereby dissolve the political bands which have connected us to the Mother Country, and hereby absolve ourselves from all allegiance to the British Crown..." By this act, Mecklenburg declared itself "a free and independent people," more than a year prior to the Declaration of Independence.

Original copies of the Mecklenburg Declaration were lost in a fire in 1800, causing some historians to question the validity of the document, even while many point to sources such as newspaper articles to prove its existence. As a proud descendant of Thomas Polk, I don't need a document to prove the "Meck Dec" existed. The independent spirit of our local forefathers proves its existence.

It is this spirit and our fierce determination for freedom that caused English General Cornwallis to call Charlotte a "hornet's nest" during the Revolutionary War. It is this same spirit that led us to name our streets "Independence Boulevard" and "Freedom Drive," and a school "Independence High." It is this spirit that moved state leaders to put May 20, 1775, on our state flag, and why it remains there today.

We should be proud of our history and independent spirit, teaching it to our children and to newcomers. Only by knowing where we come from can we know who we are and the great things we are capable of accomplishing as a community. ...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Top 10 N.C. Natural Wonders announced

Land for Tomorrow has counted all the votes, and the first-ever top 10 North Carolina Natural Wonders have been announced.

They are:
-Blue Ridge Parkway
-Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout
-Grandfather Mountain
-Great Smoky Mountains
-Lake Mattamuskeet
-Lumber River
-Merchants Millpond State Park
-Mountains to Sea Trail
-New River
-Ocracoke Island

About 1,300 nominations yielded 200 unique potential “Natural Wonders,” which were narrowed to a field of 25 semifinalists by a panel of prominent North Carolinians, said Land for Tomorrow. From those 25, “North Carolina’s Ten Natural Wonders” were determined by popular vote. Over 3,000 individual votes were submitted.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Quick hits: One more season for 'One Tree Hill,' and Screen Gems (sorta) moves to Atlanta

Some Wilmington-area entertainment news for ya ...

An eighth and final season for 'One Tree Hill'
"It's unconfirmed, but insider rumblings have begun that the Wilmington-filmed ‘One Tree Hill' may return for an eighth -- and yes, final -- season," says the Star-News.

"E! Online and Entertainment Weekly are reporting that CW execs are 'strongly considering' giving ‘OTH' a 12-episode run. Though only a half season, it would provide the show with ample time to wrap up its storylines.

"An official announcement is expected to come at the CW's annual fall TV programming lineup on Thursday, May 20. ..."

For those that don't watch the show, last night's episode (which I can only guess is the season finale), was perhaps the most shocking season-ending episode of any show I've ever watched. And yes, I'm not ashamed to admit I watch it. Good writing; good cast; good show.

Screen Gems opens Atlanta studio for more 'urban' settings

"The North Carolina studio where such stars as Michelle Williams and Chad Michael Murray got their start is expanding to Atlanta, partially because movie companies have asked for cityscapes that Wilmington can't provide.

"EUE/Screen Gems has begun the process to lease the former Lakewood Fairgrounds in Atlanta for a new studio lot called the Georgia Film and Television Center," says the AP. ...

"EUE/Screen Gems plans to build a sound stage of up to 40,000 square feet, about the same size as Wilmington's "Dream" Stage 10 which opened a year ago, said Bill Vassar, the executive vice president of the Wilmington studio. ...

"Vassar said that movie and television producers had asked EUE/Screen Gems to consider building in Atlanta for several reasons, including that they need cityscapes for some productions. Wilmington works well for country and suburban settings, but it does not have a background that substitutes for large urban settings.

"NBC, Vassar said, had 17 pilots this year that were all based in big cities. None came to Wilmington because it could not stand in for such places as New York or Chicago. ..."

Happy N.C. Travel & Tourism Day!

According to the Watauga Democrat, Gov. Bev Perdue has proclaimed today, Tuesday, May 18 as "Travel and Tourism Day" to celebrate an industry vital to the economic stability and growth of North Carolina.

"A healthy travel and tourism industry is an important part of creating and sustaining jobs in North Carolina. Travel and tourism sustains 378,000 jobs while bringing $22.2 billion to the state each year," Gov. Perdue said. "We welcome visitors from around the country and worldwide, and I encourage our residents to see and celebrate all the marvelous attractions of our home state."

A full-day of events is scheduled in Raleigh on May 18 to celebrate North Carolina's tourism industry. Tourism organizations from around the state will have informational booths in the N.C. Legislative Building from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The N.C. Travel Industry Association is coordinating exhibit booths that provide an opportunity for lawmakers to meet tourism industry officials and learn about the positive impact of the industry.

Don't think tourism is important? Check out some of these facts:

N.C. travel and tourism generates $22.2 billion a year in total economic demand.

This economic activity sustains 378,000 jobs, and 8.6 percent of all wage and salary employment in the state is directly or indirectly dependent on tourism. Nearly $10 billion in compensation is generated by tourism demand.

Including indirect and induced impacts, tourism in North Carolina generates $2.6 billion in state and local taxes and $2.7 billion in federal taxes.

Tourism saves every North Carolina family $360 per year in taxes.

Friday, May 14, 2010

N.C. and the 'un-curse' of the black pearls

One of the best publications around is Coastwatch, which is published by North Carolina Sea Grant. In the latest issue is an article by Benjamin Young Landis (photo credit as well) which takes a look at an emerging North Carolina aquaculture industry: black pearls.

The article follows John Thomas Osbourne, "a shellfish aquaculture researcher, is opening new doors for North Carolina's coastal economy. He and business partner Nelson Bullock are trying to grow jewel-quality, saltwater black pearls in state waters.

But these pearls aren't from oysters. They are from pen shells, an enormous clam-like mollusk found in North Carolina.

From boyhood curiosity to lustrous reality, it's a winding journey that's taken Osborne across the world to Queensland, Australia and back to the Wilmington coast. A journey inspired by an innocent bout of mischief over two decades ago.

Here's some more from the article about pearls:

As a trade term, "pearl" alone can only denote a naturally formed pearl, caused by whatever random incidence in the life of the animal. Understandably, the chance of finding a perfectly round pearl in nature is statistically small — hence the higher prices they command over cultured pearls.

But the ultimate value of a pearl is in the eye of the beholder, Osborne says. In a time when some fisheries and coastal trades are struggling, he hopes their black pearls will evoke a sense of pride for North Carolina's coastal communities and its visitors.

"Fundamentally, it's shiny stuff. But jewelry is a gift you give to people that's permanent. It generally commemorates an event, a thought or a place. That's where that value is. Then if you've got people proud to be in North Carolina, people who are proud to be buying something that's American, they're going to see that."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The (first) votes are in!

The list has been whittled down in the Land for Tomorrow's Top 10 N.C. Natural Wonders survey. You have until May 18th to pick your top five (or you can pick for the same natural wonder five times).

Among the choices are:
-The Blowing Rock
-The Blue Ridge Parkway
-Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout seashores
-Chimney Rock
-DuPont State Forest
-Grandfather Mountain
-Great Smoky Mountains
-Jockeys Ridge
-Joyce Kilmer Forest
-Lake Mattamuskeet
-Linville Falls
-Linville Gorge
-Lumber River
-Merchants Millpond State Park
-Mount Mitchell
-Mountains to Sea Trail
-Natahala Gorge
-New River
-Ocracoke Island
-Pilot Mountain
-Pisgah National Forest
-Roan Mountain
-Eno River
-Outer Banks
-Wild Horse of Corolla

Some intriguing possibilities here. To be honest, I forgot about many of these; North Carolina is truly blessed. Hard to narrow down to 10.

Just looking at 'em, here are a few initial thoughts on some of the choices.

-The Blowing Rock: One of my personal favorites. It's "legend" adds to its aura.
-The Blue Ridge Parkway: At first glance, an easy top 10 ...
-Grandfather Mountain: ... as is this one ...
-Great Smoky Mountains: ... this one ...
-Jockeys Ridge: ... and this one.
-Joyce Kilmer Forest: Some of the state's oldest and largest trees reside here. An underrated place.
-Linville Falls: Very nice, but there may be more majestic falls.
-Lumber River: For thousands of years, this river was the lifeblood of natives.
-Mount Mitchell: Tallest peak east of the Mississippi seems like a no-brainer.
-New River: I think, aside from the Nile, this is the only river in the world that flows from south to north.
-Ocracoke Island: Famous for its own local "dialect," but I'm not sure it's a top 10 natural wonder.
-Outer Banks: No-brainer.
-Wild Horse of Corolla: A sleeper suggestion I hadn't thought about. Good choice.

Go here to vote.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Quick hits: British mayor still looking for 'Lost Colony,' and N.C. toll is one of a kind

Lost Colony found at last?

"An English mayor is seeking to solve one of the biggest mysteries in American history: what happened to the settlers who were part of the so-called Lost Colony, Britain's The Guardian reported Friday.

"Andy Powell, mayor of Bideford, on England's southwestern coast, is convinced the English settlers who mysteriously disappeared from modern-day Roanoke Island joined the local Native American tribe, an assertion he says can be verified with DNA evidence in both America and Britain," according to NewsCore.

"Tales about blue-eyed Croatoans and white men spotted in the tribe seem to support Powell's hypothesis, but historians have never been able to verify what really happened. ..."

N.C. to establish first interoperable toll road in U.S.

"The N.C. Turnpike Authority signed a $5.9 million contract Tuesday for technology that will enable the state to collect tolls electronically on the 18.8-mile Triangle Expressway.

"No cash-collection tollbooths are planned for TriEx, now under construction in Research Triangle Park and western Wake County. The state's first modern toll road will open in RTP in 2011 and in western Wake in 2012. ...

"The contract also will enable North Carolina to collect electronic tolls from drivers who have E-ZPass transponders and debit accounts with turnpike agencies in northeastern states, and from those with transponders that use different technology in Florida, Texas and other southern states," according to reports.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Climate, economy and even green-ness has made N.C. the No. 1 place to relocate or retire

Two different articles/blog posts recently touted North Carolina as the best place to retire or relocate in America (even jumping the Sunshine State). But both of them had somewhat different reasons for why. goes for the usual reasons: climate, geography, taxes, housing costs, etc.

Florida and Arizona have long been the favorite 2 states for retirement migration. A new study from Del Webb, however, finds that the Carolinas, North and South, have usurped FL and AZ’s traditional positions as the favorite retirement destination states. This new preference is so significant that Florida is no longer experiencing a net gain in retirees. ...

Like Florida, North Carolina has an ample, but not quite as long coastline, where people can enjoy the beach and access to bays and the ocean. NC has pastoral places to live like the sandhills around Pinehurst in the central part of the state, as does Florida in the panhandle and center of the state. North Carolina, however, has towns in its western mountains where people who crave mountains can find their ideal retirement. At a towering 345′ above sea level Britton Hill is the tallest peak in Florida, whereas Mt. Mitchell in NC stands at 6,684′. Overall: NC wins for geographic diversity. ...

The article goes on to say that it's the "intangibles" that are in N.C.'s favor, particularly over Florida. Call it the "Cool Factor" to N.C.'s "secret sauce." Among the intangibles:

- Florida just isn’t cool anymore. In our opinion most of us baby boomers are obsessed with fads - being cool by being in on the latest trend. Too many movies have parodied retirement life in Florida - from “Cocoon” to “In Her Shoes”. A lot of people don’t want to be associated with the blue haired, shuffleboard playing set that is displayed in popular culture about Florida.
- Florida is tacky and crowded. By no means is the whole state that way, but there are many, many towns where everything is new and every store is a big box or a chain. Some people are rejecting that barrenness, along with the intense traffic and development that comes with unchecked growth.
- On the positive side, North Carolina has a cool factor. Towns like Asheville, New Bern, and Chapel Hill have good reputations as interesting places to live. North Carolina represents something new and undiscovered, with the advantage of being not too far away or too different from the northeast many retirees are moving away from.

So, there ya go.

This blog post touts Nawth Cackylacky's embracing of green as to why it's moving up the list.

“Reuse and Recycle” has become a popular phrase showing our growing concern and commitment as a nation to finding the best ways to be stewards of the environment and North Carolina is notably one place that embraces Green trends and Green building practices.

The general principals of green building as set forth by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) division consist of four critical areas:

energy efficiency
water efficiency
use of recycled or environmentally sustainable building materials
healthy indoor environmental quality

North Carolina makes sure all of these areas are at work in building projects across the state.

The Green building projects in North Carolina impressively include everything from projects such as:

Eco-dorm at Warren Wilson College just outside Asheville, NC
Renovating an abandoned building which now holds Brown and Jones Architects in Raleigh, NC and;
Rammed earth walls and radiant heating system of the Philips residence in Pittsboro, NC. ...

We at Places of Value have covered the many ways North Carolina has embraced green trends and environmental stewardship, especially Green building practices.

AP: Avetts' success brings distance

"When Scott Avett sings the last bars of The Avett Brothers' 'I and Love and You,' he puts his fingers over his heart, then gestures out to the audience.

"It is a symbol of what he and his brother Seth say the song is about -- not a lost love, but the growing distance that success has put between them and their audience. It's a rare occurrence now for them to sit at a bar after a show and chat with fans; after some shows, too many fans show up at the bus for them to even shake all their hands."

This is a nice piece by the AP that touches on a big part of what makes the Avetts so darn appealing (aside from, you know, the music). They appear to be fairly normal guys who had an upbringing not dissimilar to you or I. Of course, they've now sold hundreds of thousands of albums.

The Avetts have had "their best commercial success with their eighth CD, 'I and Love and You,' which was produced by Grammy-winning producer Rick Rubin, whose credits range from Johnny Cash to the Dixie Chicks to Jay-Z."

The album has sold 181,000 copies in the United States, according to their record label, and garnered plenty of critical acclaim. It was named Paste magazine's best of 2009 and one of the best of the decade.

Their concerts in medium-sized venues sell out across the country, and they started their first major international tour in mid-March with performances sold out in London, Amsterdam and Dublin. They're now performing mostly at festivals in the United States, Great Britain and Canada through September.

The guys in the band -- which includes one non-brother, Bob Crawford -- describe themselves as overthinking romantics who don't really excel at vocals or playing their instruments, although they hope to improve at the latter. Their popularity lies both in their deeply emotional lyrics and their unusual sound. It's a mixture of pop, country and grunge influenced by the country music that their parents listened to, and the music they embraced as youths -- Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Hall and Oates, Michael Jackson and Boy George.

"We grew up in the country, and country living didn't exactly promote the Ramones. That just doesn't fit," says Scott, 33. "But when you're 14 years old, you don't really care what fits in the country. I bet you anything there are 14 years old in Brooklyn who are going straight to Hank Williams. That's what they want to go to. Rebellion, that's given."

But that country upbringing kicked in eventually as the brothers realized, over time, that "we had a yearning to write songs about things that were understandable and relatable, which is a great jump," says Seth, 29. ...

The Avetts like to think that success hasn't changed their lives. Both married, they live with their own families outside Concord, about 40 miles northeast of Charlotte, near the 60-acre farm where they grew up. Cows, dogs and roosters are part of the landscape at their parents' home, where, until just this year, the brothers were as likely to be found rolling hay as writing songs. As they sing in the barn during this interview, the cows' moos override the music, and Scott tosses two bales to the muck below to quiet their complaints. ...

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

What are N.C.'s top 10 natural wonders?

You've probably read about it by now, but Land for Tomorrow is hoping that people will vote on just what are the top 10 natural wonders in our great state. There are just a couple more days to vote.

North Carolina is a "state is full of natural wonders." However, "settling on a list of its most beautiful places is not so easy."

“We were trying to think of a fun way to get people involved in highlighting how important conservation is to them,” said Debbie Crane, of Land for Tomorrow, a statewide coalition working to preserve the state's natural resources and urging legislators to fund conservation. “People need to understand that the places they love, they don't just get saved on their own.”

Residents have until Thursday to nominate any landscape, natural feature, wildlife or plant life unique to North Carolina for consideration in the contest. More than 600 nominations have already been submitted.

There are some obvious front-runners: Grandfather Mountain; Jockeys Ridge; Linville Gorge; Pilot Mountain; the Blue Ridge Parkway; etc. But if "unique" plants and animals are options, that could allow for voting for things such as the Venus Fly Trap or the famous white squirrels of Brevard. The results are expected to be released May 18. Go here to vote.

Happy voting!

Monday, May 03, 2010

The drought may be coming back

Here in Raleigh, it's hard to believe that the dreaded "D word" could even be a possibility, having just gone through a very snowy (for us, at least) winter coupled with quite a bit of rain over the past month or so.

Well, apparently it hasn't been enough rain. Some twenty-six N.C. counties are unusually dry, according to experts, meaning that we may be headed into drought time -- especially since spring has been unseasonably warm. (It was well into the 90s yesterday in the Capital City.)

From the AP: "Unusually dry weather has returned to portions of central and southeastern North Carolina, which has experts on the lookout for possible drought conditions.

"A lack of significant rain has created what's known as abnormally dry conditions in 26 counties stretching from Wilmington to parts of the Triangle and Triad.

"That's the first time since early December that any part of North Carolina has experienced dry conditions.

"That doesn't mean there's a drought yet, but the state's Drought Management Advisory Council is meeting weekly to keep an eye on the situation."

Is it too early for rain dances, y'all?