Federal stimulus money finally trickles down to Saluda

Published 5:25 pm Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thanks to a grant awarded to the Mountain Valleys Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) agency in Asheville by the U.S. Forest Service, Cody Ledbetter and Robert Rhodes will be working in the Saluda area from now until June of 2011.

Money to pay Ledbetter and Rhodes comes from the federal stimulus bill, which is specifically a jobs bill providing funds be used to hire people but not for acquisition of equipment.

Ledbetter, Rhodes, and possibly a third forest worker to be hired in the spring, will focus on working toward forest improvement: cutting down dead and diseased trees; piling up debris in appropriate places to encourage wildlife habitat and discouraging erosion; removing invasive species such as kudzu, polonia and multiflora rose; clearing trails, old logging roads and property lines; as well as selective cutting and practices that will improve forest health.

Sometimes Ledbetter and Rhodes will be working on public land such as the little park next to Saluda School, or the new walking trail behind Polk Elementary School in Mill Spring.

Recently, Tim Johnson, the WNC trails coordinator, helped volunteers from the Saluda Community Land Trust site and mark a trail route at the old Saluda dump that is in the process of being converted into a nature park. Ledbetter and Rhodes will start clearing that trail in January.

At other times Ledbetter and Rhodes will be working on privately owned forestland that is protected with conservation easements. All their work is overseen by the Saluda Community Land Trust as well as a representative from Mountain Valleys RC&D.