What's Black Mountain doing for the environment? Residents, council member weigh in

Karrigan Monk
Black Mountain News
David Carter Florence (left) and Karen Austin (right) said Black Mountain Presbyterian Church aims to be environmentally friendly.

BLACK MOUNTAIN - For David Carter Florene and Karen Austin, it’s all about doing things responsibly when it comes to the environment.  

Florence, associate pastor for faith formation and outreach at Black Mountain Presbyterian, joined a group of environmental stewards who spoke to the Town Council during September’s monthly meeting.

Each member of the group urged the town to do more for the environment, but Florence said his goal was not to critique.

“I would say we’re not coming form a place of critique,” Florence said. “Though critical thinking, we would say, is very important because there’s so much fluff and non-critical thinking in the culture right now that we want to be real.”

Though she did not speak at the meeting, Austin said she agrees with those who did and that she wants to work with the town.

“The whole idea in my mind is to bring people along with us to have them join with us rather than us dragging them kicking and screaming,” Austin said.

Austin is part of the church’s Earth Care team, a group that works make the church more eco-friendly.

Council member Pam King said she was thrilled the group came to speak at the meeting because she loves to see people involved. She said she reached out to the group after to set up a meeting so they could talk about what the town is doing.

Pam King said Black Mountain is doing some things to help the environment, but the town could do more.

Though King said the town is doing some things to help the environment, she agrees that the town could be doing more.

“There’s a whole lot more we could be doing,” King said. “Before they jump to conclusions, I think they need to find out what we are actually doing and then help us go forward. I’m pretty sure most people don’t know all of what’s going on. I don’t dispute that it’s hard to keep up with all of it.”

King pointed to Elevate Black Mountain, the town’s 10-year master plan as an example of the town being committed to the environment, but King said once the council approves the budget, the projects done with the money do not need to come before the council for further approval.

Still, those projects can be environmentally conscious.

In October, public works plans to create a rain garden on the east side of Lake Tomahawk to prevent runoff of toxic materials from the parking lot into the lake.

King said money prevents the town from doing everything they would like to do.

“Funding is always the question of everything because there’s a lot of competing needs,” King said. “You can’t always pay for everything in one year.”

King said she is in favor of allocating the rest of the town’s American Rescue Plan funding to install solar panels on the rest of the town-owned buildings, just as they recently did with the Carver Center.

“I call it an investment because it’s going to pay for itself in the long run,” King said. “We’re already committed to doing it, it’s just a matter of how long it’s going to take, and I’d like to speed up the process by using some of that ARP money.”

Black Mountain Presbyterian Church also recently installed solar panels. A couple who are members of the church decided to divest from the petroleum industry and used the money they received from selling their oil company stock as seed money for solar panels. The rest of the money was raised in three months, said Austin.

“We wanted it to be a visual representation of this church’s commitment to taking care of God’s creation,” Austin said.

Both King and Black Mountain Presbyterian Church also focus on composting.

King said the town passed a resolution in the budget to create a part-time position for a solid waste reduction specialist, who would, in part, help residents understand the composting that is done at the Dr. John Wilson community garden.

The Dr. John Wilson Community Garden offers Black Mountain residents a chance to compost and garden.

At the church, waste from class pets is used to compost.

King is also interested in acquiring electric vehicles for the town.  

“The Town Council, the town staff and the fire department know that I have been obsessed with electric firetrucks,” King said. “I’ve been pushing and pushing and pushing about this, and I’m not getting resistance. It’s just not time yet.”

King said part of the reason is the electric vehicles often malfunction and do not provide enough room. They are also expensive.

Florence agrees electric vehicles can cause issues.

The Dr. John Wilson Community Garden offers Black Mountain residents a chance to compost and garden.

“They’re great,” Florence said, “But meanwhile the mining for the minerals is problematic and the fact they can blow up sometimes is a tricky thing.”

Both Florence and Austin said the church works with other churches in the area along with other organizations like Bounty & Soul to lessen their carbon footprint.

King said she is looking forward to the future and wants the town to do more but knows Black Mountain is doing as much as it can with what it has.

“I think if you asked anybody, they’d say we’re not doing enough,” King said. “If you asked me, I’d say we’re not doing enough. Are we working as hard as we can? I would say we are.”