Asheville man battling Parkinson’s climbs 40 WNC peaks over 6,000 feet

When Bob DeBrecht was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in June 2015 it didn’t stop him from tackling the Carolina Mountain Club’s most difficult hiking challenge. The South Beyond 6,000 requires hikers to reach the peak of 40 of Western North Carolina’s mountains over 6,000 feet. To complete the feat, hikers must tackle off-trail hiking, tricky navigation, challenging terrain and overnight backpacking. DeBrecht told the Asheville Citizen-Times that soon after his diagnosis he attended a Parkinson’s support group and was encouraged to hike as much as he could now because Parkinson’s might limit his ability later. Taking that advice to heart, DeBrecht threw himself into the challenge in 2016, training for his hikes by boxing, taking spin classes, and walking on the treadmill with 30 pounds of kitty litter on his back. DeBrecht completed the challenge in September 22 after bagging 4 final peaks in the Smokey Mountains and received a patch and certificate for his efforts. DeBrecht’s wife, Mary Fond Daughtridge, told the Citizen Timesthat between the medicine and extreme exercise she “feels like [she got her husband] back.” To date, only 269 people have officially completed the challenge.

 

Chattanooga, Tennessee will soon be home to the first airfield in the U.S. to run on 100 percent solar power

Once described as the dirtiest city in America, Chattanooga, Tennessee will soon become the first U.S. city to have an airfield running completely on solar power. Panels at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport began going up this week and should be completely installed by the end of January. The airport’s solar farm includes storage units that will keep the lights on after sundown. The system, which cost $5 million and was paid for primarily with Federal Aviation Administration grants, is expected to last for 30 to 40 years but pay for itself in fewer than 20. Chattanooga is also home to the worlds only LEED-platinum certified auto plant, a Volkswagen operation powered by 33,000 solar panels. In the future, the city is planning on installing solar panels on its wastewater treatment plant as well.

 

Virginia Outdoors Foundation announces 3.6 million in grants

The Virginia Outdoors Foundation has announced $3.6 million in grants to support seven projects that protect and restore forests in seven counties in Southwest Virginia. Among them, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy proposes to purchase 243 acres of forest to preserve the Appalachian Trail footpath at Tinker Cliffs, buffer Carvin’s Cove, and protect the viewshed of McAfee Knob. Grants will also be awarded to purchase land to protect chestnut and butternut trees in Giles County, create a forested public park in Blacksburg and build a multi-use trail at Wayside Park in Pittsylvania County, among others. The grants were awarded from a fund that administers money resulting from legal and regulatory actions involving Virginia’s natural resources. The fund was established with $15 million received by the state to mitigate for forest fragmentation caused by the Mountain Valley Pipeline.