‘I hear the train a comin’ … to Dillsboro

To the Editor:

Every businessman and political and community leader in Jackson County should feel some gratitude this Thanksgiving and exercise some vision towards an economic reality check — I hear the train a comin.’

Thanks Johnny Cash for that fine song towards what is a lasting Icon of American industry. We all should be singing that tune and working in unison to mend fences and bring the GSMR steam train back into Dillsbor.

The railroad wants to return to Dillsboro with a world-class steam train and needs aid toward delivery and installation. Why?

In case we haven’t noticed, the way people travel, that is shop for travel, is on the Internet these days. Jackson County stands to benefit as the home location with this featured GSMR steam train once again. With Dillsboro as the train’s home station, businesses all over the county will be positioned on the web.

A central destination point on what has become the shopping network for travel used by everyone for every part of a trip, from accommodations to restaurants to trails. Dillsboro will be a destination point with an exciting (to young and old) feature attraction as well as and in addition to our fine natural resources.

As travelers shop the information highway nowadays, the modern-day reality of a steam rail excursion that is fitting for Dillsboro’s heritage cannot be ignored as easily as some quick click travel options. And combined with our mountains, trails and rivers, we will again become a regional, multifunctional travel option that can bring warm bodies to our streets and stores via clicks from the masses looking to escape the major metropolitan areas.

This train provides us all with some steam. Why? In case we haven’t noticed, aside from the expected busy peak months of July and October, during the last four years our dwindling local numbers have all but crippled Jackson County’s tourism-related businesses and connected markets. Looking at the streets of Dillsboro and Sylva and up to Cashiers, one can see the decline with many small businesses having to close shop. We need a stimulus to reverse this trend as the county’s tourism industry has long been the engine that pulled many of our other markets along.

This is the next best thing and a way out of our economic affliction, a way to help ourselves like no other. The county, towns and railroad are positioned to benefit and serve one another, as neighbors can in this day and time of hardship. We recognize our decline, our need to reconcile and live in the here and now. We have to craft agreements that respects boundaries of citizen and business and not live in the past. Too much is at stake.

Having come to these mountains since I was a child, when the off season was a lot longer than the cold, I have seen Western North Carolina seasons expand and now contract, as markets have now waned. And it is a fact that all the markets in Jackson County are indeed related to tourism.

Hospitality and crafts, our restaurants and many services industries are tourism driven and have a direct impact to mountain real estate and construction. We have all felt this recession throughout. Those of us who are adults have seen the state of a healthy economy extend the perennial cycle of activity in a given calendar year to almost nine months.

Jackson County needs a steam engine that can. We stand to benefit mightily. Thanks to the fine people who are trying to make it happen.

TJ  Walker

Owner/operator, Dillsboro Inn

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