By Natasha Anderson
Since 2013, the Blue Ridge Naturalist Network (BRNN) has annually honored a person who has influenced the public in understanding the environmental complexity, ecological relationships, exceptional biodiversity and surrounding beauty of the Western North Carolina Blue Ridge region. The 2017 honoree, Scott Dean, will be recognized as Blue Ridge Naturalist of the Year at the BRNN annual meeting at Zabriskie Parish Hall at The Cathedral of All Souls on Thursday, November 16, at 6 p.m.
“As I was going through the final certification phase as a Blue Ridge Naturalist, I was wholeheartedly supported by Scott as a mentor who offered his vast knowledge and encouragement,” says BRNN vice president Kenneth Czarnomski. “Today, as he has done for decades, he continues to learn and share wherever he goes.”
Dean’s accomplishments include developing curricula and teaching field classes for The North Carolina Arboretum’s Blue Ridge Naturalist certificate program, serving as first vice president of the Friends of the WNC Nature Center, serving on the Town of Weaverville Tree Board and building cougar and bobcat habitats for the Western North Carolina Nature Center. Dean has also led walks for UNC Asheville’s annual Wildflower Pilgrimage and the Western North Carolina Nature Center for more than two decades.
“The Blue Ridge Naturalist program is the one I am most proud of,” says Dean. “I worked with Jesse Wilder for almost two years putting it together. Over the ensuing 11 years, I have taught a lot of people, many of whom have continued their studies and commitment to relevant issues. Most importantly to me, the program has grown and improved, with far more students and lettered instructors, and an exponentially expanded curriculum.”
Dean also cites the completion of the WNC Nature Center’s cougar and bobcat habitats, which he accomplished alongside Carlton Burke, as a highlight of his contributions. “Prior to that they had lived in a circular cage with a concrete floor,” he says. “Seeing them for the first time on soil with rocks to climb and plants all around was a powerful thing for me.”
Despite his many community projects, Dean is as likely to be found on a roadside or trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains as anywhere. “I hope to continue working with the BRNN program, speaking at various functions and meetings and staying out in the woods as much as I can,” he says.
BRNN is a 64-member not-for-profit organization dedicated to connecting people who love the natural world, and committed to providing outdoor educational activities, citizen science events and public participation through presentations by similar organizations.
Zabriskie Parish Hall at The Cathedral of All Souls is located at 9 Swan Street in Asheville’s Biltmore Village. Friends of Scott Dean are invited to attend the November 16 meeting. Blue Ridge Naturalist Members are invited to bring a dish to share. For more information about BRNN, visit brnnetwork.org or follow the organization on Facebook.