Charlotte Earth Day is honoring women of environmental vision and action from our region for their tireless leadership and commitment to protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink, the land we live on, and the wildlife which share our common home.
Our event is dedicated to Anne Springs Close.
We also wish to recognize the following leaders:
Anne Springs Close
As a young child, Anne Springs Close often heard the statement: “It’s a sin to be indoors on a sunny day.” Today, at the age of 91, Close continues to follow that guiding principle, which was an early inspiration for her life’s work.
Raised in Fort Mill, South Carolina, Close is the daughter of fighter pilot and textile tycoon Colonel Elliot White Springs and his wife, Frances Hubbard Ley Springs. She attended Smith College in Massachusetts and has a resume brimming with environmental and philanthropic accomplishments. She climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro three times, was a 1996 Olympic torch runner, and is the last living passenger of the German zeppelin Hindenburg’s 1936 transatlantic flight. She is also the mother of 8 children, a grandmother of 28 children and a great-grandmother of 20 children.
Of Close’s many accomplishments, the creation and preservation of Fort Mill’s Anne Springs Close Greenway, of which Domtar is a corporate sponsor, is closest to her heart.
“My desire to conserve the land grew over time as I watched area farms get swallowed up by development and disappear,” said Close. “I decided then to find a way to preserve some land so other children could play in the woods as I did as a child.”
Although from Uvalde, Texas, Elizabeth Clarkson and her husband, Eddie Clarkson, built their home in 1927 on Ridgewood Avenue in Myers Park. Over the decades through their love of each other and love of the natural world grew Wing Haven Gardens and Bird Sanctuary – now one of the three gardens of Wing Haven. Elizabeth was a tireless supporter of wildlife and gardens, dedicating her life to advocating for preservation of the natural world and greater awareness of the birds and wildlife that sustain our shared ecosystem. She did this by sharing her garden with neighbors, school children, nature writers, researchers from Cornell Lab of Ornithology, artists, and more. The Charlotte community continues to visit and support Wing Haven, which is made up of public gardens open for visiting, educational programming, and events.
Elizabeth was a self-taught ornithologist, learning so much about birds that even the local, state and federal government would consult with her when birds mysteriously fell out of the sky in the 1950s when a ceilometer was installed at the city’s airport. Additionally, she would protest the DDT trucks that rolled through her neighborhood, petitioning the city to stop the service. They did. She knew the damage of this harmful chemical based on what was happening in her garden and to the abundance of birds. In fact, since 1927, 150 bird species have been spotted at Wing Haven. She was known to care for injured or sick birds and animals brought to her house, and several would live inside the house until they were nursed back to health. Elizabeth was a unique woman and one who inspired many. Her legacy lives on in the garden that still stands and welcomes all.
Liz Hair, the first woman to be elected to the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners and the first woman to chair the board. She founded the Democratic Women’s Club and the Women’s Political Caucus. Liz help establish the Council on Aging, Council for Children, Mecklenburg County Women’s Commission, Spirit Square, and the Public Arts Program. In 1975 she was named Charlotte Woman of the year. Liz Hair has always been a strong environmental advocate and supporter of parks and greenways. The Liz Hair Nature Walk adjacent to Atrium Health is named in her honor.
Mattie Marshall was recognized as CMPD’s Community Partner of the Month. As President of the Historic Washington Heights Neighborhood, Mattie Marshall was instrumental in the success of the department’s early efforts to build trust in her neighborhood. Mattie has been an advocate of community policing since the mid 1990’s. She welcomed officers into her neighborhood and assisted them with building the relationships that still exist today. Thru her monthly meetings and Youth Service Academy officers were able to get to know the members of her community on a personal level. She was truly a pioneer in those early days.
Betty Chafin Rash
After completing her master’s degree in Public Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill, Betty moved to Charlotte, beginning what was to become a lifelong commitment to public service. First elected to Charlotte City Council in 1975, she served three terms, was the third female elected to council, and the first woman mayor pro tem.
Cyndee Patterson is president of the Lynwood Foundation, which owns and operates the historic Duke Mansion and the Lee Institute. The Duke Mansion is a 4-star inn and meeting event venue. The Lee Institute provides facilitation, consulting and training for nonprofit, government and community organizations across the country. Cyndee was previously president of Patterson Blake, Inc., a corporate meeting and event planning firm. She served as an at-large Charlotte City Council member from 1985 to 1993 and as Mayor Pro Tem from 1989-1991. She has served on several boards and has won numerous awards for community service. Cyndee earned B.A. with honors in psychology and business administration from Purdue University.
As Executive Director of CleanAIRE NC, a Charlotte-based statewide advocacy organization working for equitable and collaborative solutions to climate change and air pollution since 2005, June Blotnick has led the creation of innovative programs and partnerships as well as advocacy efforts resulting in reductions of air toxics, particle pollution, and carbon emissions. Clean Air for Kids, Medical Advocates for Healthy Air, NC Clinicians for Climate Action, Citizen Science AirKeepers, Charlotte Mecklenburg Climate Leaders, and NC Climate Ambassadors are just some of the programs organized under her watch.
Director, Programs and Event Operations at Charlotte Center City Partners
Elaine Powell serves as the Vice Chair of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners. She was elected to her first term in November 2018 by the people of District 1 in North Mecklenburg. For the past 30 years, Commissioner Powell has been actively engaged in our community. She began volunteering in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) in 1989, starting out as a community partner at Eastway Middle School. She continued to serve in a variety of roles in CMS from 1989 until 2014.
Jennifer Watson Roberts is an American politician, businesswoman and former diplomat who served as the 58th mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina. She was elected on November 3, 2015 having previously served four terms on the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners.
Dianna is the Executive Director of Charlotte B-cycle, responsible for managing and growing the bike share system in Charlotte’s urban core. Honored as one of the 50 most influential women in Charlotte, she regularly collaborates with sponsors, city leaders and biking advocates and is a forward-thinking champion focused on Charlotte’s goal of becoming a “City of Bikes.” She has served on the Board of Directors for the North American Bikeshare Association (NABSA) and was recently elected to serve as President. Dianna owns Charlotte NC Tours, Greenville Glides, Bike the Rabbit, Kansas City Segway Tours, and Chattanooga Segway & Bike.
I always said the best way to make cycling better and safer for everyone is simply to get more people out riding their bikes. If there’s one person I know who lives and breathes that philosophy every day, it’s Pamela Murray – founder of PMTNR, charlottespokespeople and last weekend’s Bike Fest. Anyone who knows Pam knows her passion for cycling. Her goal is to get as many people as possible ride bikes. And it’s not just talk – Pam rides her bike everywhere. I’ve seen Pam many places all over town, been to many meetings with her, and never seen her drive a car.
Kris Solow has been a resident of Elizabeth for 29 years. She and her husband, Rick Solow, raised their sons in the neighborhood. She said, “A lot of people are transplants and Elizabeth gives a sense of community. People come together for a common cause. We have events and neighborhood camaraderie.” Solow was concerned that the neighborhood did not have any public art. With a grant from the city and the Arts and Science Council, they were able to get a three-piece installation at the water tower on Pecan Ave.
NC Senator DeAndrea Salvador
State Sen. DeAndrea Salvador made history in 2020 by being elected the youngest Black women to serve in the NC Senate. DeAndrea has always had a strong commitment to environmental justice and clean energy. Her Renewable Energy Transition Initiative (RETI) focused on decreasing the costs of people with high energy burdens in North and South Carolina. She serves on the board of directors of CleanAiRE NC and serves on the Agriculture, Energy, and Environment Committee in the state Senate.
Ajmera was born in India and came to the United States when she was 16. She attended Southern High School in Durham. Ajmera earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California. Her career experience includes working as a project manager at TIAA and a financial services company. Ajmera has served on the Charlotte Housing Authority board. She was first elected to the Charlotte City Council in 2017.
Nakisa Glover, founder of Sol Nation, is a native of Charlotte, NC. She has a passion for advocacy and contributing positively to the community. Her commitment to the community means that she works to raise awareness about threats as well as key issues and she advocates for real Solutions. She holds a biology degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She has built a track record as a community organizer, with years of experience in corporate, community and service-based work.
While on the City Council, Nancy G. Carter, a Democrat, represented District 5. She was first elected in 1999 and served until 2011. While on the City Council, she helped to found its Environment Committee, and chaired the Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee for the North Carolina League of Municipalities. She is currently Vice Chair of the Mecklenburg Soil and Water Conservation District – a subdivision of the state of North Carolina.
On May 25, Gaston and Jill Palmer, a longtime leader of Mecklenburg Audubon Society, hosted “The Birds, Nature, and Community Festival” in Gaston’s neighborhood. The idea to create Druid Hills’ first festival is the result of a brainstorming session in Gaston’s living room. Kim Brand, Senior Network Manager at Audubon North Carolina, and Judy Walker, Newsletter Editor at Mecklenburg Audubon, were also present for this pivotal moment.
Barbara Webster led volunteers to organize Earth Day 1990-1993 in Charlotte. She now creates nature photo quilts and takes care of her family’s 1792 farm.
Visit Barbara’s website to see her nature photo quilts, starforestquilts.com
Tina Katsanos is the NC NAACP, Chair Environmental Justice Committee Charlotte Mecklenburg NAACP, Co-Chair Climate Justice and Green Jobs Development Committee, and The Climate Reality Project-Charlotte Chapter, Community Engagement Liaison.
Sarah Haley is an ESG strategist for the financial sector. She is an advocate for intersectionality, coalition-building, environmental justice, and reproductive justice.
Nancy Duncan coordinates the Eco Justice committee at St Peter’s Episcopal Church and has taught school gardening at Trinity Episcopal School.
Reverend Amy Brooks
Rev. Amy Brooks Paradise lives in Charlotte NC and is an organizer with GreenFaith, a global, multi-faith climate and environmental justice network.
Michele Miller Houck, The Wonder Project (Chief Wonder Maker)
In her over 30-year career in marketing, communications and non-profit management, Houck has transformed brands and connected communities to the missions of a number of non-profit organizations. At Carolina Raptor Center, she lead the visioning for the new Quest facility and Raptor Trail by employing human-centered design to attract, engage and inspire a wide variety of new audiences. As the founder of EarthOptimismCLT, she can’t wait for the time when the original vision can reemerge from the isolation of COVID-19.
A thinker and a doer, Houck often observes and participates in exhibitions, programs and events she has developed in order to understand how the public engages with them. Her work in “measuring wonder” has been studied by museum professionals looking to activate their visitors and to design experiences that will create lasting impressions in the community and the world. Her new venture “The Wonder Project” was sparked by a desire to apply the measuring wonder methodology in a broader context to help museums, nature centers, zoos and aquariums create visitor experiences that inspire them to act on behalf of the planet.