For Earth Month we chatted with fellow OBA member MountainTrue. MountainTrue champions resilient forests, clean waters, and healthy communities in the Southern Blue Ridge. They envision thriving communities in our mountain region that are connected to and help sustain both each other and our natural enviroment. They empower residents throughout the region to engage in community planning, policy and project advocacy and on-the-ground projects.

1. What inspired the founding of MountainTrue, and how has the organization evolved over time to meet the needs of outdoor enthusiasts and environmental advocates?

MountainTrue traces its history back to the founding of the Western North Carolina Alliance in 1982 by Esther Cunningham and David Liden to fight extensive clearcutting and beat back oil drillers in Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests.

Over the years, we expanded our geographic footprint by joining forces and merging with the Environmental and Conservation Organization of Henderson County (founded 1987), the Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance (founded 2000), and the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition (founded 1995). We’ve also expanded our mission by merging with the Asheville Design Center (founded 2006) and incorporating the Creation Care Alliance.

MountainTrue now has regional offices in Asheville (headquarters), Hendersonville, Boone, and Murphy, North Carolina, and serves 26 mountain counties in Western North Carolina and North Georgia. MountainTrue’s rich, collaborative history as an organization enables us to engage folks throughout the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains in impactful environmental advocacy.

Protecting our environment and supporting recreation go hand in hand. MountainTrue’s Clean Waters team monitors dozens of popular recreation sites for bacteria pollution through our Swim Guide program. From Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends, we provide the public with weekly pollution reports through the Swim Guide website and smartphone app so they know where and when it’s safe to swim. Our Resilient Forests team advocates for better management of the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests that balances our region’s ecological, recreation, and economic needs. Our Healthy Communities team advocates for better land-use policies and sustainable development that support economic vitality and growth without compromising the health of our region’s forests and waterways.

2.How does MountainTrue collaborate with members of the Outdoor Business Alliance to achieve its goals?

MountainTrue regularly attends Outdoor Business Alliance meetings and events to network with other members. Specifically, MountainTrue’s French Broad Paddle Trail program routinely partners with OBA-connected organizations and companies that work in the paddlesports industry, including outfitters, guides, and equipment manufacturers.

These entities help promote the French Broad Paddle Trail through their networks and guests. They also support many Paddle Trail events and initiatives through donations of money, products, and services, along with letters of support for grants, connections to decision-makers, and insights into local projects.

OBA members like Pirani Life, Inc. have proudly supported our Swim Guide monitoring, and we continue to work with partners like The Asheville Outpost and Wrongway River Lodge & Cabins to engage the public in our work.

This year, we are looking forward to having Second Gear sponsor two events, and we are participating with Recover Brands in their Zero Waste Store for the month of April.

MountainTrue is always open to new ways to collaborate with members of the OBA. Please contact Development Director Adam Bowers if you want to learn how you can get involved with MountainTrue.

3. Can you highlight some of the key initiatives or projects that MountainTrue is currently involved in, particularly those aimed at promoting sustainable outdoor recreation and environmental conservation?

MountainTrue helped found and currently leads the French Broad Paddle Trail. The French Broad Paddle Trail is a 140-mile recreational watercraft trail between Rosman, North Carolina, and Newport, Tennessee, managed in partnership by government agencies, regional non-profit organizations, local businesses, and individual volunteers. Paddle Trail staff and partners create, maintain, and improve public river access points, campsites, signage, and information; remove garbage; clear blockages; and host events focused on celebrating and learning about the river.

Conservation of our natural environment protects and supports our outdoor recreation sector for the long term. For example, our Swim Guide program not only helps inform the public about swimming conditions at popular water recreation areas, but we also use that data to identify sources of bacteria pollution and to advocate for science-based policy solutions to help keep our rivers safe and clean. Through our public lands advocacy, we work to keep our forests healthy, beautiful places for people to bike, hike, fish, climb, and play.

By supporting conservation, you can invest in the future of our region’s outdoor economy.

4. In what ways can members of the Outdoor Business Alliance and the broader outdoor community support MountainTrue’s mission and contribute to the preservation of natural landscapes and outdoor experiences for future generations? 

In addition to becoming members of MountainTrue, sponsoring events, and providing in-kind donations for use in Fundraising initiatives, members of the OBA can help by spreading the word about our work. We are always looking to engage community members, build our member base, and have a greater collective voice

Bring a friend or two to a MountainTrue event. Volunteer as individuals on one of our workdays. Consider selling our Paddle Trail maps or merchandise at your retail stores. Sponsor a MountainTrue event, Swim Guide, or Paddle Trail site so that the natural resources we love and depend on can be safeguarded for future generations. No act of support is ever too small. To speak more about any of these opportunities or ways to support MountainTrue, please contact Development Director Adam Bowers:

MountainTrue advocates in Raleigh for policies to improve water quality, protect our environment, and support our vital recreation economy. As outdoor business owners, members of the Outdoor Business Alliance have a critical role to play as advocates for our region. To learn about how you can join our legislative advocacy efforts, please contact Deputy Director Gray Jernigan: