Living at the top has some down sidesWritten by Quintin Ellison
Living in Cashiers has certain perks: There is a beautiful lake to play on, gorgeous homes to live in and lovely vistas to enjoy. There also are nice restaurants, great gift shops and even an upscale Ingles grocery store that is the envy of residents in the much larger town of Sylva, who are afforded considerably fewer shopping selections at their smaller, scaled-down version.
But there’s a price to pay for living in Cashiers, both literally — because of high land prices — and figuratively. You’ve got to drive “off the mountain,” as the locals here say, for most shopping and to enjoy other amenities — and to work out.
Unless, that is, you’re made of sterner stuff than most. Which Rebecca Smith must certainly be — because she tries to swim for exercise three times a week (during the warmer months) in nearby Lake Glenville.
Smith, however, said she’d welcome a recreation center, and hopes Jackson County commissioners follow through on building it. Not so much for her personal use, but for the kids who live in the community, and for the younger people here in general. Friday at 1:30 p.m., the commission board will hold a meeting at the Cashiers library to discuss the possibility. Smith noted down the time and place. She’s going to try to be there.
Smith is a member of the Glenville community club, and on this day, was volunteering at the group’s thrift shop alongside N.C. 107. Her husband is currently the club’s president.
During a recent meeting, Smith said, group members were discussing how best to keep the community’s young people from leaving the area. Take her own grandchildren for example, who went to nearby Blue Ridge School but then “couldn’t wait to get out of here,” she said.
“‘What’s here for us?’ they said. And, that’s true,” Smith conceded.
There are a few options for the recreationally minded when they don’t want to hike or swim in the lake. Cashiers residents can motor over to neighboring Highlands and use the fitness center there; they can drive down to the Jackson County Recreation Center in Cullowhee. Either way, though particularly if heading to Cullowhee, they are dealing with a windy, slow, two-lane road. Depending on where a person lives in Cashiers, it can easily take 30 minutes or more to get there.
There is one more option, and oddly enough, it was exactly what Zac and Jama Koenig were, just that morning, discussing the possibility of doing. The couple was picnicking Saturday in the Village Green with their daughter, Emma, and her friend, Addie. The Village Green is a community park paid for and built by people living in this community.
Even with the park, “unless you are a member of a club, there’s nowhere to do anything,” Jama Koenig said. “There’s nowhere to go to be fit.”
The solution this couple and many other Cashiers residents are forced to settle on? Buying a small “amenities” lot in the Country Club in Sapphire Valley, down around the Jackson-Transylvania county line, so that they can use the facilities.
The fitness club at Sapphire is 3,600 square feet, offering both cardio- and weight-training equipment. There are locker rooms and saunas, and places to play golf and tennis.
Zac Koenig, who runs the family owned Koenig Homebuilders, said the amenities lots generally are priced starting at $2,500. There’s reasons they can’t be built on — no septic, things like that, but buying a lot does allow people to buy their way in to the club.
And, many Cashiers residents are doing exactly that, Jama Koenig said.
Jama and Zac Koenig (he serves on the county’s planning board) represent, in many ways, both ends of a debate that is likely to take place over building a recreation center in Cashiers. A projected $5 million project to serve a selected few in the county, yes, but in a part of the county that is among the most isolated, and which pays the bulk of Jackson’s taxes.
“Our portion of the tax base is huge,” Jana Koenig said. She has no doubt the community needs and deserves a recreation center.
Her husband, however, isn’t so sure, though he’d enjoy having a recreation center nearby.
“I have mixed feelings about it,” Zac Koenig said. “Our area does pay most of the taxes, but in the winter, there’s not many people here.”
That’s because Cashiers’ population is dominated by seasonal residency. Many houses stand vacant during cold-weather months, and the numbers of people in the community plummet.
Plans for the Cashiers Recreation Center
• Approximately 2,500 square feet in size
• Gymnasium for basketball and volleyball
• Eight-foot wide indoor running/walking track
• Fitness equipment area
• Meeting space, kitchen, storage
• Aerobics and dance areas
Source: Jackson County