It’s a room full of strangers, ideas and alcohol.
Still in its infancy yet gaining steam, the Drink-N-Think congregation came together last Wednesday evening at the Mad Batter Bakery & Café in Cullowhee, near the heart of Western Carolina University.
Champions of Cullowhee revitalization are chipping away at a lofty plan to create a vibrant college downtown centered on the banks of the Tuckasegee River in Old Cullowhee.
Cullowhee community members have been making their case for nearly a year now that this pseudo-college town needs land-use planning to guide the growth that’s come knocking.
In an effort to speed development of its Millennial Campus, Western Carolina University plans to lease the 344-acre tract to a nonprofit endowment — streamlining regulations and eliminating some of red tape the institution must otherwise cut through as a state entity.
Have you ever been told by the evening news to expect three inches of snow overnight, but after stocking up on bread, toilet paper and flashlight batteries, you walk out the next morning, snow shovel in hand, to find only a pitiful dusting in the driveway? If you live in Western North Carolina, chances are you’ve been there, done that.
Margie Bradley has called a ramshackle shack in the hills of Cullowhee “home” for almost 60 years. The ceilings sag, the floor is made of plywood and the wind enters through the numerous cracks scattered about the windows and walls.
The economic situation seemed to be looking up in Jackson County: unemployment was on a steady decline; the real estate market was rebounding; and tourists were finding more expendable income to travel.
Western Carolina University’s Board of Trustees approved an 8 percent increase in tuition next academic year — much to the vexation of its student body.
“We came in here, and it was not an easy decision,” said Trustee Grace Battle. “I think everybody in here struggled.”
While Western Carolina University’s budgets have been shrinking in recent years, its class sizes have been growing.
Outdoors enthusiasts and diehard mountain bikers are waiting in anticipation the winter opening of a seven-mile mountain biking and hiking trail in the Sylva and Cullowhee area.
The trail will be the first of its kind accessible by foot, or bike, from the Western Carolina University campus and is expected to be a vital link in a recreation system that may one day expand to connect county, regional and even state trails.