24 Hours of Booty

24 hours of booty

24 hours of booty

Cyclists ride on Queens Avenue in Charlotte, during the seventh annual 24 Hours of Booty charity ride on July 25, 2008.Theron Pickens, right, rides in the 24 Hours of Booty charity ride in Charlotte wearing a tutu--the result of a lost bet--on Friday July 25, 2008.

Crowders Mountain pulls the plug

Crowders Lake
Tyler Gilkerson, age 12, from Shelby is reflected in the lake at Crowders Mountain State Park on Sunday July 20, 2008. The next day the lake was closed to the public as work began to drain the man-made lake in order to make much needed repairs to the drain pipe that runs through the dam. Park rangers estimate that the repairs will keep the lake closed for two months.

Crowders Mountain State Park is pulling the plug on the nine acre, man-made lake that sits between the park’s visitor center and picnic areas. Well, not literally--the actually process is a little more involved.

The lake area and the roughly nine-tenths of a mile trail circling it were closed to the public on Monday July 21 when work began on a project to repair the aging drain pipe. The work is being contracted out by the park to a private company, and according to park staff should keep the lake area closed for roughly two months.

Workers Monday laid a 10 inch pipe from the bottom of the lake running across the top of the dam and down to the creek below. The pipe works as a siphon; a gas-powered pump was used to get water flowing initially, but gravity is taking it from there.

According to park ranger Glen George, the 10 inch pipe will drain the lake at a rate of about a foot per day, barring any heavy rains that may slow the process.

With the lake filling with sediment and the drain pipe rusting and clogged, the park has talked been repairing the drain for several years. Though the current drought conditions have kept the lake level low as of late, concerns were raised some four years ago when heavy storms caused the lake to flood.

Shortly thereafter the park inspected the drain using remote cameras. An attempt was made to dislodge debris clogging the pipe with high pressure water from a pump truck, but the effort proved unsuccessfull.

Budget issues prevented the park from taking any further action until now, but park staff expect the work underway now to remedy the problem for some time.

The drain consists of two corrugated metal pipes; a horizontal 12” pipe leading through the base of the earthen dam and a vertical pipe connecting this pipe to the surface of the lake on the front of the dam. Workers will excavate around the vertical pipe and replace it completely with a new one.

With the vertical pipe removed, workers will drive a smooth plastic liner through the horizontal pipe—a less costly measure than excavating the dam to replace this pipe. According to park ranger Daniel Tenney, the liner will decrease the diameter of the pipe, but will allow the water to flow much more smoothly while being less susceptible to clogs.

With the draining of the lake some wildlife will inevitably be harmed, but park rangers are looking to the bright side. The lake has long been plagued by invasive exotic species, and this project could offer clean slate where native species will be able to flourish once again in the absence of the invasives.

Check back here in coming weeks for updates on the repairs and a deeper investigation into the impact it will have on wildlife and the environment.

Right: A sign is seen at the intersection of the Fern Nature Trail and the Lake Trail at Crowders Mountain State Park on Thursday July 24, 2008.

Swamp Things

You gonna' eat that?
Elizabeth Nelson-Harrington, 10, peers into the Pygmy Rattle Snake cage in the "Swamp Things" exhibit at the Schiele Museum on July 17.The exhibit, which opened on July 4 and runs until October, features reptiles, amphibians, spiders, and even a bobcat.

Swamp Things

Swamp Things

Swamp Things

‘Fired up’ and no Obama

David Claytor of Chester, SC leads a crowd gathered at James Martin Middle School in Charlotte, NC in the chant "Fired up and ready to go!" on July 7, 2008. Barack Obama was scheduled to speak to this crowd of “Working families” and campaign volunteers about the US economy, but was forced to cancel after his plane was grounded with mechanical issues in St. Louis.

The crowd was “Fired up and ready to go” for Barack Obama yesterday at James Martin Middle School in Charlotte, but they ended up leaving a little disappointed after the Democrat senator from Illinois was a no-show.

Obama was scheduled to speak to the invitation-only crowd of volunteers and “working families” about the struggling US economy, but those plans were canceled after Obama’s charter jet was forced to make an unscheduled landing in St. Louis with mechanical problems.

At about 12:30pm campaign staff brought bottled water and granola bars for the supporters—some of whom had arrived as early as 9:00am for a chance to see the presumptive democratic nominee.

It was announced shortly before 1:00pm that Obama would not be able to make his engagement. Instead, he would be phoning in from St. Louis to deliver his speech by conference call. Powered by hope, it would seem, Obama supporter David Claytor of Chester, SC stood and lead the crowd in an energetic chant of “Fired up and ready to go” in an effort to boost morale during the wait for Obama’s address.

Claytor and his wife both work in charlotte area schools and volunteer for the Obama Campaign. “Oh, surely” he replied when asked if he would come out when Obama does make it to Charlotte.

In his roughly 10 minute address, Obama did indeed promise to return to charlotte soon—and as well he should. Though North Carolina has elected democratic governors, the state hasn’t voted for a democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter.

NC Lieutenant Governor and democratic gubernatorial candidate Bev Perdue, US senate candidate Kay Hagan, and several local politicians took the floor in the media center of the middle school in Obama’s absence. There is no word as to when Obama will reschedule his visit to Charlotte.
Right: Democratic US Senate candidate Kay Hagan speaks to the crowd gathered at James Martin Middle School in Charlotte, NC on July 7, 2008.

Parsons to make second Olympic appearance

Olympic trials Saturday - Scott Parsons
Former Olympian Scott Parsons competes in the Olympic Team Trials for whitewater slalom at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC on April 26, 2008.

Former Olympian Scott Parsons will be going to the games again this year, after securing the sole spot for a male kayaker on the US whitewater slalom Olympic team. Parsons, of Bethesda, Maryland, secured his spot by placing 3rd overall at a world cup event today in Augsburg, Germany.

Parsons faced intense competition for the Olympic spot from 2004 Olympic teammate Brett Heyl, who placed 15th overall, and 2007 national champion Scott Mann, who finished 6th.

Parsons now joins the C2 (tandem canoe) team of Casey Eichfeld and Rick Powell, both from Pennsylvania, as the only athletes in whitewater slalom to have secured a chance to go to Beijing in just over a month.

The Augsburg world cup continues tomorrow with the finals in C1 (men's solo canoe) and K1W (solo women's kayak). The results of these finals will determine who will join Parsons, Powell and Eichfeld in Beijing.

Final Olympic team selection this weekend

Olympic Trials Sunday - Tad Dennis
Canoeist Tad Dennis locks his sight on the next gate during the third day of the Olympic Team Trials for whitewater slalom at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte on April 27, 2008. Dennis made the US national team despite making costly mistakes that resulted in slow times on the second and third days of the three-day event.

Top US paddlers are all in Augsburg, Germany this weekend with one thing on their agendas--qualifying to go to Beijing in just over a month. The sport of whitewater slalom was one of the first to hold it's Olympic Team Trials this year, but in this sport only one four of the 11 boats that made the national team can go to the Olympic Games.

Whitewater slalom consists of four events; men's solo kayak (K1), women's solo kayak (K1W), men's solo decked canoe (C1), and men's tandem decked canoe (C2). This year women are finally allowed to compete in C1, but the event will not be contested at the Olympics until the 2012 London games.

The Olympic Team Trials for Whitewater Slalom were held April 25-27 at the US National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, NC and selected the members of the US National team. The 2008 US team, with current points in parentheses, is:

Brett Heyl (30)
Scott Parsons (38)
Scott Mann (28)

Zuzana Vanha (30)
Heather Corrie (29)
Caroline Queen (28)

Jeff Larimer (30)
Benn Fraker (29)
Tad Dennis (28)

Austin Crane and Scott McCleskey (30)
Casey Eichfeld and Rick Powell (29)
(Only two teams qualified in C2)

Points are based on the results of three events: the 2007 World Championships in Brazil, the 2008 Olympic Team Trials, and the third World Cup event of 2008, which begins today and continues all weekend in Augsburg, Germany.

Parsons was the only paddler to earn points in Brazil, which gives him a slight lead over the competition. The rest of the paddlers earned points at the team trials, where 30 points went to the winner, 29 to second, 28 to third, and so forth. In Augsburg, 25 points will go to the winner, with the points decreasing in increments of three down to 20th place which receives only one point.

American paddlers will face some tough international competition, but with Olympic dreams at stake the hottest competition will be for those precious points. Of those on the national team, only Parsons and Heyl are former Olympians, both going in 2004 when two people from the US were allowed.

In all categories the competition is extremely close. One mistake on any of the three days in Augsburg could make the difference between dreams coming true and going home to start training for the 2012 games. Wish them luck!

View images of the athletes in action from the Olympic Team Trials here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/photo-commando/sets/72157605359527231/