Here’s a round-up of briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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Roanoke Outside Foundation awards $50,000 in grants

The Roanoke Outside Foundation has announced the distribution of $50,000 in grant funding for outdoor projects in and around the Roanoke Valley.

This year’s Project Outside grants will fund 10 projects including tools for volunteer trail workers, tree plantings, bridge and trail repairs, a regional trail building workshop, expansion of a popular James River access parking lot, a mountain bike skills development facility, and continued support of outdoor programs for underserved youth. Grant applications totaled more than $145,000 in funding requests. 

Project Outside, which launched in August 2020, is a first of its kind campaign to fund the maintenance  and development of outdoor assets and support outdoor-related businesses and initiatives. The Roanoke Outside Foundation administers the grants that break down into three categories: maintenance, new infrastructure, and organization support. 

This year’s Project Outside grant recipients: 

• Botetourt County Parks and Recreation: $7,250 to expand and increase parking at the Alpine public access  point on the James River in Buchanan. 

• Trees Roanoke: $1,000 to remove dead and dying trees along the Roanoke River Greenway and replace with new ones. 

• Humble Hustle: $4,699 to expand the Humble Hikes program and increase capacity by hiring part-time staff to continue offering monthly outdoor programming to underserved youth.  

• Blue Ridge Off-Road Cyclists: $5,000 to conduct a regional trail maintenance workshop focused on ongoing maintenance needs at Explore Park while expanding the pool of qualified volunteers throughout the region. 

• Pathfinders for Greenways: $,1700 to purchase tools needed for trail building and maintenance. 

• Total Action for Progress: $3,563 to continue Project Discovery, an outdoor club to connect  underserved youth with the outdoors. 

• Roanoke Mountain Adventures: $5,250 to build a public mountain bike skills development facility along the Roanoke River Greenway in Vic Thomas Park. 

• Alleghany Highlands Trail Club: $7,300 to rehabilitate 10 miles of North Mountain Trail. 

• Franklin County Parks and Recreation: $9,238 to replace rotten boards on a bridge in Waid Park that spans the Pigg River. 

• Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club: $5,000 to repair the McAfee Knob fire road, used as a secondary trail to and from McAfee Knob but also for rescues. 

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Forest Service sets prescribed burns in Giles County and Grayson County

The U.S. Forest Service has scheduled a prescribed burns today in Giles County and Grayson County.

Giles County:

Location: This prescribed burn includes sub-units two and four of the Kelly Flats burn area, totaling 190 acres.  It is located north of Big Stony Road (State Route 635), northwest of the Glen Alton Recreation Area and north of the town of Interior in Giles County. 

Date and Time: The Forest Service plans to begin ignitions on Friday, March 4, 2022, if weather conditions are appropriate. Firefighters will continue to monitor the area for several days after the burn.  

Objective:  This project will improve wildlife habitat by restoring open woodlands and grasslands to the forest landscape and reduce hazardous fuels. 

Additional Information:  For your safety, please follow posted signs and trail closures when they occur. The project area is broken into smaller units to mitigate smoke concerns and to support burning in a variety of seasonal conditions to improve forest health.  Smoke will be seen from State Route 635, and nearby residents may smell and see smoke for a short duration during the implementation of this project.

Grayson County:

Location: The 116-acre White Top burn unit is located 2.7 miles southeast of Konnarock,
2 miles southeast of Big Hill and 2.8 miles northeast of Whitetop. Mud Creek Lane
(Forest Service Road 89) and a section of the Appalachian Trail, both north and
southbound from Damascus to Elk Garden, may be temporarily closed the day of the burn.
For your safety, please follow posted signs and trail closures when they occur. The prescribed
burn is expected to have lingering smoke effects the communities of Konnarock and Big Hill and the surrounding area. Depending on wind direction, residents and travelers in these areas may see or smell smoke along U.S. 58 (Jeb Stuart Highway) and County Road 600 in
Grayson County (White Top Mountain Road) as well as County Road 76 (Laurel Valley Road) in Smyth County.

Date and Time: The Forest Service plans to begin ignitions on March 4 if weather
conditions are appropriate. This prescribed burn will be completed in one day. Firefighters will
continue to monitor the area for several days after the burn.

Objective: This project will improve wildlife habitat by restoring open woodlands and
grasslands to the forest landscape and reduce hazardous fuels.

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Roanoke College announces speaker series

Roanoke College will launch a speaker series this month that examines the function and future of monuments, and our personal connections to and encounters with history. 

The speaker series, presented by the college’s Center for Studying Structures of Race, brings to campus artists and scholars whose work addresses the role of monuments in society and how we address, and think deeply about, our history.  

Scheduled March 17-April 19, the series invites the public to examine the intersection of art, public memory and history.  

Featured speakers include Henry Louis Gates Jr., American literary critic, professor, historian and filmmaker who serves as the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. On April 19, Gates will present “The Rise and Fall of Reconstruction. The lecture is co-sponsored by Roanoke College’s Henry H. Fowler Lecture Series and the Center for Studying Structures of Race.  

“Dr. Gates is a preeminent scholar of African American studies whose work lends inspiration to the projects we are undertaking at Roanoke College,” said Jesse Bucher, associate professor of history at Roanoke College who serves as director of the Center for Studying Structures of Race. “His dedication to uncovering hidden stories, making personal connections to the past, and unpacking historical truths have had a major influence on our examination of the history and legacies of slavery at and around Roanoke College.” 

That examination has resulted in several tangible initiatives at the college. In April 2021, bronze plaques that pay tribute to the enslaved laborers who had an integral, historically significant role in building the College more than 175 years ago, were installed on the front pillars of the College’s Administration Building. Initiatives also include the ongoing and extensive student research into the College’s historical connection to slavery, and the renovation of slave quarters that adjoin the Roanoke College campus — quarters that now house the Center for Studying Structures of Race. 

Featured speakers also include: 

·         Charles Gaines, a Los Angeles-based artist who is a pivotal figure in the field of conceptual art. His March 17 talk is part of the “Memorials, Monuments, and Memory Lecture Series,” sponsored by Roanoke College Center for Studying Structures of Race. 

·         Mabel O. Wilson, professor of architecture at Columbia University who co-designed the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia. Her March 31 talk is part of the “Memorials, Monuments, and Memory Lecture Series.” 

·         Whitney Battle-Baptiste, director, the W.E.B. Du Bois Center, University of Massachusetts Amherst and professor of anthropology. Her April 6 Emancipation Week Lecture is sponsored by the Center for Studying Structures of Race. 

·         Nicholas Galanin, a multi-disciplinary artist and musician from Alaska. His April 12 talk is part of the “Memorials, Monuments, and Memory Lecture Series.” 

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Opera Roanoke explores intersection of music and poetry

Opera Roanoke will present “A Way With Words: A Celebration of Black Voices in Poetry and Music” on March 17 at The Spot on Kirk. In this new collaboration with The Spot on Kirk, an intimate music venue and gathering place that hosts a variety of eclectic programming, two MacArthur “Genius” Fellows will share stories and music from their perspective as Black artists in the industry. 

Terrance Hayes, a poet and New York University professor of English, served as the poetry editor for the New York Times Magazine from 2017-18 and was a guest editor of The Best American Poetry, the preeminent annual anthology of contemporary American poetry.  Additionally, his most recent publication, which he’ll be sharing excerpts from at the event on March 17, was a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Brooklyn Public Library’s Literary Prize for Fiction and Poetry, the LA Times Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the Kingsley Tufts Award. 

Tyshawn Sorey, an American composer and another MacArthur “Genius” Fellow, is known for his uncanny ability to master and memorize complex pieces of music, and his unique blend of composition and improvisation.  As a multi-instrumentalist, Sorey has toured nationally and internationally with artists such as Roscoe Mitchell, Muhal Richard Abrams and Wadada Leo Smith. He is as at home in the classical realm as he is in jazz and experimental music. Two of his recently premiered vocal works, “Songs of Death” for baritone and “Death” for soprano, will be performed at The Spot on Kirk.  

“Having artists of this caliber here in Roanoke is going to be an unforgettable experience,” says Brooke Tolley, general director.  “We want people to know that while opera is our bread and butter, offering unique experiences that wouldn’t exist without our community’s arts organizations is important to us as well.”

This event is in connection with Opera Roanoke’s performance of “Cycles of My Being,” co-written by Hayes and Sorey and sung by tenor Lawrence Brownlee, happening May 1 at the Jefferson Center.

For tickets to “A Way With Words: A Celebration of Black Voices in Poetry and Music,” visit or call 540-982-2742. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. 

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Landon Martson.

Virginia Tech professor receives national award

Landon Marston, assistant professor in the Charles E. Via Jr. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development award. His resulting project will use an integrated systems approach to uncover the drivers of industrial water use, water infrastructure dependencies within the U.S. economy, and water scarcity risks and opportunities. 

“This project provides a timely assessment of water use and related infrastructure underpinning the economy,” said Marston.

His research seeks to explain how hydrologic, economic and infrastructure systems converge to shape water use and risks within the nation’s economy. Scientists expect these risks, including unsustainable water use, to accelerate under the pressure of climate change, outdated infrastructure and competition for scarce water.

Marston’s research in support of water infrastructure is particularly timely. In November, President Joe Biden released an infrastructure plan that included $111 billion investment in water infrastructure.

The CAREER award is the National Science Foundation’s most prestigious award for early-career faculty, encouraging them to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their organization, as stated by NSF.