Trail Blazers: Our Best Adventure Yet

first_imgDiamonds in the Rough: Trail Blazers search for gemstones beneath Douglas Falls in Pisgah National Forest, N.C. Photo: Nicole HinebaughKentavius can see the Blue Ridge Mountains from his apartment beside the interstate in downtown Asheville. But the nine-year-old had never hiked in them until last month.Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine has helped create the Trail Blazers Youth Adventure Club. Children from inner city communities are learning outdoor skills on a series of adventures throughout the summer.Last month, I accompanied Kentavius and twelve other Trail Blazers on a hike to Douglas Falls, a 70-foot waterfall surrounded by an old-growth forest. The kids, who ranged in age from 8 to 14, were awestruck. None of them had ever been hiking in a national forest; most had never left the city.They marveled at yellow-striped millipedes and the towering trees, including an overturned hemlock with its intricate root system exposed. “This was all underground? Daaang!” said ten-year-old Tahtiona.More than once, I was asked if cobras and anacondas lived in this forest. But by the time the kids reached the waterfall, they had completely forgotten about snakes. They quickly splashed across the creek to stand beneath the falls.As the frigid water pounded down on them, Alexus screamed with wild, shrill delight; Diontae flexed his muscles; Kentavius simply extended his arms and looked skyward, smiling.Afterward, the kids climbed into an old rock cave, scampered up a steep dirt trail, searched for gemstones in the creek, and even shimmied across an old log suspended between two boulders. They were adventurers exploring a brave new world, far away from the barren concrete of their public housing block.Nearly every day of their childhood has been filled with the sounds of the interstate. But for a few hours, they heard the wind in the trees and water cascading over rock. And on the hike back to the trailhead, they stopped walking, stopped talking, and for a few moments, just listened to the silence of the forest.The Asheville-based Trail Blazers are organized by the heroic Nicole Hinebaugh and volunteers from the Women’s Wellbeing and Development Foundation. We plan on expanding the Trail Blazers Club into other towns across the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic. Let us know if you’d like to lead a hike or lend a hand. Upcoming hikes, photo galleries, and additional information can be found at trailblazersclub.org.We hope that the Trail Blazers experience will inspire more kids like Kentavius, who discovered that those distant summits are within his reach. 1 2last_img read more

Netherlands roundup: Smurfit to pay €2.4m for transfer to single pension plan

first_imgPackaging material manufacturer Smurfit Kappa and the unions have reached an agreement on the firm’s plan to place pensions accrual for its Dutch staff with a single pension fund.The employer will pay an additional contribution of €2.4m to its €772m pension fund.In addition, the 300 active participants of the €142m Pensioenfonds Smurfit Nederland, who are to join the larger scheme, will now pay the same premium as their Smurfit Kappa colleague members and will join the same pension plan.Under the initial plan, the transferring participants would have to pay a higher contribution, while their accrued pension – reinsured by Nationale Nederlanden – would no longer be raised for inflation compensation. The parties have agreed that the €2.4m would be paid into a separate deposit, to be managed by the remaining pension fund for all (former) participants of Pensioenfonds Smurfit Nederland, which is to be liquidated.The employer had already promised to pay €550,000 in total for the transfer of defined contribution plans to Smurfit Kappa pension fund, as well as the transfer of defined benefit pensions to Nationale Nederlanden.Any assets remaining after the liquidation of the Pensioenfonds Smurfit Nederland would be used for a one-off indexation of pension rights at the insurer, according to the parties.At the end of November, the funding ratio at Smurfit Kappa stood at 101.4%.Van Lanschot scheme closes to new entrantsThe €1.1bn pension fund of Dutch boutique investor Van Lanschot Kempen has closed to new entrants as of 1 January.On its website, it said it was assessing possible scenarios for its future, while highlighting that it was able to continue independently for the time being.It announced it had sufficient financial means to pay for pensions provision without affecting its funding ratio, and that its governance was up-to-date.According to the pension fund, 2020 was a “logical moment” to look at new pension arrangements, as the contract for pensions provision between the employer and the scheme expired at the end of 2019.Currently, the pension fund implements a defined benefit plan for employees with a salary up to €52,807, and defined contribution arrangements for any surplus salary.A spokesman for the company said new pensions accrual – in a DC plan – was placed with ASR, adding that the employer intended to collectively transfer the accrued DC capital for the salary part exceeding €52,807 to ASR.At the end of November, the scheme’s coverage ratio stood at 107.8%. The pension fund has approximately 1,120 active participants, 2,355 deferred members and 795 pensioners.last_img read more

UEFA set to decide on possible Nations League venue switches

first_imgBy Simon EvansLISBON (Reuters) – The lingering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could lead to some UEFA Nations League matches being held at neutral grounds, with any decisions on venue switches likely to come before the Champions League final on Aug. 23, sources have told Reuters.The opening two rounds of Nations League games are scheduled for Sept. 3-8 during the international break with all of the continent’s national teams in action.UEFA would normally hold meetings around the finals of the Champions League and Europa League and a conference call could take place within the next 10 days.With the health situation variable across the continent and restrictions changing, UEFA will be keen to avoid any circumstances where games are cancelled at the last minute. “Close cooperation between all teams and UEFA will be needed to ensure the regular staging of all matches. The possibility of playing international matches at neutral venues cannot be discounted at this stage,” UEFA said last week.On Thursday, UEFA cancelled its women’s Under-17 tournament and postponed the men’s Under-19 competition as well as a number of other youth national team matches.Currently, UEFA is insisting that all games in its competitions be played behind closed doors but there is pressure from some countries where the health situation has improved significantly to allow some supporters into matches. Hungary and Poland are among those countries who have allowed fans into stadiums for some games while small numbers have also attended matches in Switzerland and France.The already complex situation of needing to finish the delayed 2019-20 Champions League and Europa League season, with mini-tournaments in Lisbon and Germany, is compounded by the start of qualification for next season’s campaigns.A reminder of the problems that can still affect fixtures came this week with Kosovar champions KF Drita forced to forfeit their Champions League preliminary round tie with Northern Irish club Linfield after two players tested positive for COVID-19. The opening two rounds of Nations League games are scheduled for Sept. 3-8 during the international break with all of the continent’s national teams in action.UEFA would normally hold meetings around the finals of the Champions League and Europa League and a conference call could take place within the next 10 days.With the health situation variable across the continent and restrictions changing, UEFA will be keen to avoid any circumstances where games are cancelled at the last minute. “Close cooperation between all teams and UEFA will be needed to ensure the regular staging of all matches. The possibility of playing international matches at neutral venues cannot be discounted at this stage,” UEFA said last week.On Thursday, UEFA cancelled its women’s Under-17 tournament and postponed the men’s Under-19 competition as well as a number of other youth national team matches.Currently, UEFA is insisting that all games in its competitions be played behind closed doors but there is pressure from some countries where the health situation has improved significantly to allow some supporters into matches. Hungary and Poland are among those countries who have allowed fans into stadiums for some games while small numbers have also attended matches in Switzerland and France.The already complex situation of needing to finish the delayed 2019-20 Champions League and Europa League season, with mini-tournaments in Lisbon and Germany, is compounded by the start of qualification for next season’s campaigns.A reminder of the problems that can still affect fixtures came this week with Kosovar champions KF Drita forced to forfeit their Champions League preliminary round tie with Northern Irish club Linfield after two players tested positive for COVID-19.last_img read more