Fayette County Fights Fracking

Commissioners in West Virginia’s Fayette County don’t want fracking waste within their borders, but a federal judge is saying they have to allow it. In June, a federal court ruling sided with the energy company EQT Production who sued to nullify the county’s ban on fracking waste disposal—a measure enacted over concerns about the documented health risks of waste wells. Now the Fayette County Commissioners are pushing back with an appeal with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mitchell State Park Expands

Mount Mitchell State Park will more than double in size thanks to efforts from The Conservation Fund. They will sell to the state two tracts totaling 2,744 acres on the western slope of the Black Mountains. The park now occupies 1,996 acres around the highest peak in the East. The new acreage includes 6,584-foot Cattail Peak, currently the highest privately-owned peak in the East. The acquisition will also expand the state park down the mountain to the Cane River, which will allow public access to the park when the peak is closed by snow.

Bikers Bare All in Philly

On September 10, an estimated 3,000 cyclists pedaled through the streets of Philadelphia with nothing between their bottoms and bike seats. At the eighth annual Philly Naked Bike Ride bold bikers pedaled 10 miles through the City of Brotherly Love, most cruising the urban pavement in their birthday suits with some choosing the minimal cover of underwear or festive body paint. The yearly mass ride in the buff has multiple objectives, including raising awareness for cycling safety and alternative transportation and encouraging people to be proud of their bodies.

Parkway Expands After Big Gift

The Blue Ridge Parkway’s footprint in North Carolina will be expanded by 1,654 acres, thanks to a generous donation from the Nature Conservancy. The land conservation nonprofit gifted the large parcel—located near the Plott Balsam Mountains in Jackson County and worth $3.1 million—to the National Park Service in mid-August. Visible from the Waterrock Knob Overlook near milepost 452, the land holds rare flora and fauna, including the endangered Indiana bat and scarce spruce-fir habitat. The acquisition will also increase the size of the Parkway’s new Waterrock Knob Park.

Tennessee Preacher Drops Pounds, Gains Miles

Props to David Pharr: A Chattanooga-based minister and father of four, who over the summer completed the Last Annual Vol State Road Race, a 314-mile slog from his home state to Castle Rock, Georgia. The accomplishment was the culmination of an impressive transformation for Pharr, who, nearly seven years ago, weighed 314 pounds and decided it was time to get in shape. According to Runner’s World, Pharr started running at least two miles every day since December 1, 2009, and he’s now 100 pounds lighter.

Virginia Tech Testing Bike Helmets

A team of researchers at Virginia Tech is testing the safety level of bike helmets. The work being done by the Blacksburg-based university’s Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Sciences will determine which helmets currently on the market are safer than others. Helmet manufacturers currently have to clear a pass or fail-type test by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to sell helmets in stores, but the Tech team will use machines and sensors to determine which helmets perform best. The plan is to then give the best products the designation of “Virginia Tech 5 Star Helmet,” which will be labeled with hang tags, hopefully by early 2017. The researchers will also inform makers of helmets found to be inadequate about where designs are flawed.

Fly Fishing Museum Opens

On September 24, 2016, outdoor enthusiasts gathered in Bryson City, North Carolina, to salute the first inductees into the Fly Fishing Hall of Fame. The Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians was a brainchild of Alen Baker, who beamed as crowds honored the museum’s inaugural inductees. including author Jim Casada, a Bryson City native son who has written on everything from fly fishing to turkey hunting;  Wanda Taylor, the first woman in the nation to become a Master Certified Casting Instructor with the Federation of Fly Fishers; conservationist Phil Braceway of Trout Unlimited; and Walt Cary, “the Popping Bug King” who has handcrafted cork poppers for more than fifty years. The museum is open daily for walk-in visitors. Artifacts include the first handmade drift boat for fly fishing in the Southern Appalachians, rare fly fishing gear, and fly patterns original to the region.      

—Beau Beasley