Spraying for spongy moths is scheduled for this week in parts of Grayson and Smyth counties. Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech.

Here’s a roundup of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to news@cardinalnews.org.

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Aerial treatments underway near Mount Rogers to slow spread of spongy moths

The USDA Forest Service and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services plan to spray treatments from aircraft to control spongy moths (formerly known as gypsy moths) as part of the national program to “Slow the Spread” of the pest.

National Forest System lands to be treated in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest’s Mount Rogers National Recreation Area include 3,219 acres at Konnarock in Grayson County and 6,884 acres at Whitetop Mountain in Smyth County, according to a news release.

The area will be sprayed with a reproduction-disrupting pheromone that affects only the spongy moth and poses a very low risk to people, other insects, birds, fish or other animals, according to the release.

The treatment is applied by aircraft flying at low elevations. If the weather cooperates, the entire project area could be completed during the week of June 12.

The spongy moth is a federally regulated insect that feeds on tree and shrub species. Spongy moths begin life as caterpillars that can quickly defoliate a tree, which can weaken or kill it. 

Because oak leaves are a favorite food of spongy moth caterpillars, oak forests are particularly susceptible to defoliation. Oak forests are a large component of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest.

For more information, visit the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest website, or follow on Facebook and Twitter

Learn more about spongy moths at Slow the Spread Program.

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Virginia Western CC students compete in national innovation challenge

A team of students from Virginia Western Community College is in Alexandria this week to compete in the finals of the Community College Innovation Challenge. 

The challenge, hosted by the American Association of Community Colleges and the National Science Foundation, is a national competition where community college students present projects to solve real-world problems. 

Virginia Western students Nikko Maiolo (from left), Briana Wood and Nate Girardeau help film the video for their entry in the Community College Innovation Challenge outside the Ronald McDonald House this spring. Courtesy Virginia Western Community College.

VWCC’s team, the Appalachian Engineers, developed the Sort-a-Tab, a magnetic tool that sorts soda can tabs by material. The team created the tool to help Roanoke’s Ronald McDonald House more efficiently sort soda can tabs, which are recycled to raise funds for the organization. Typically, volunteers sort with handheld magnets.

The engineering club is a new one at VWCC, advised by Engineering Lab manager Rick Henegar, who had heard about the challenge of sorting the can tabs manually. “I brought this problem to a handful of the regulars in my lab and asked them if they thought we could solve it; from there, the Appalachian Engineers Club was born,” he said in a statement.

The team had two months to prepare their project and make a pitch video for the innovation challenge. 

As one of 12 finalist teams, the VWCC students will present their project and attend “boot camp” sessions on refining their ideas and pitches. The Appalachian Engineers’ project will compete against teams from California, Colorado, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.

All student team members and faculty advisors attending the finals receive a $500 honorarium and free travel. The grand prize includes $3,000 for each member of the winning team.

“It will be my honor to mentor them through the finals and throughout the rest of this project,” Henegar said. “Once completed, I firmly believe it will make an impact in the lives of the staff and volunteers at the Ronald McDonald House.”

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Franklin County to host strategic plan community meeting

The Franklin County Office of Economic Development will host a meeting to update the community on its inaugural strategic plan at 6 p.m. June 27.

The meeting will be held at the Pigg River Community Center.

The economic development office has been working for several months on a strategic plan that will be used as a roadmap for the future of economic development initiatives for Franklin County, according to a news release announcing the meeting. The plan will identify short- and long-range recommendations to promote balanced growth, enhance quality of life for residents and strengthen the county’s marketability as a place to live, visit and invest in.

For more information, visit yesfranklincountyva.org.

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The Crooked Road announces 2023 artist-in-residence 

Jared Boyd of Carroll County has been selected as the 2023-2024 artist-in-residence for Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail: The Crooked Road.

Boyd grew up in the community of Laurel Fork and spent the early years of his life surrounded by old-time music on both sides of his family, according to a news release announcing the appointment. He learned clawhammer banjo from Ray Chatfield through the Junior Appalachian Musicians program as well as from his grandfather Jimmy Boyd, cofounder of the Franklin County old-time dance band The Dry Hill Draggers.  

Boyd currently plays with the Twin Creeks Stringband.

Boyd has won first place in clawhammer banjo at fiddlers’ conventions around Southwest Virginia and surrounding areas. He was the blue-ribbon recipient three times at the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention and best all-around performer at the 2022 convention.

As artist-in-residence, Boyd will perform at events and participate in educational opportunities. He will also contribute an original piece of music or a new performance of an existing traditional piece of music for The Crooked Road’s use.  

This program is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and Virginia Commission for the Arts.