It’s been more than two years since Jackson County finished a recreation master plan declaring an indoor pool a top priority, and leaders of the county’s Parks and Recreation Department and Recreation and Parks Advisory Board are itching to see the idea move closer to reality — this fall they voted to make getting a feasibility study done their number one goal.
Cherokee is one step closer to having an Olympic-sized outdoor pool following Tribal Council’s unanimous vote this month to purchase property for the project.
“We have an identified site with contract negotiations with those landowners,” said Jason Lambert, director of planning and development for the tribe. With the site nailed down, he said, “we can get into more specific due diligence and more specific planning in order to get to that hard construction.”
It’s shaping up to be an exciting year for water-lovers in Western North Carolina.
After more than a decade of hydropower relicensing negotiations and years more of permitting and construction, Duke Energy is finishing a slate of river accesses that will make the Tuckasegee one of the most accessible rivers in the Southeast. At the same time, a collective effort to create an interactive map showing where and how to recreate on Western North Carolina waterways — using a tool called Smoky Mountain Blueways — is wrapping up, further boosting WNC’s future as a Mecca for outdoors lovers of all skill levels.
Maggie Valley resident June Johnson wants the town’s recreation plan to go far beyond fixing up an old playground behind town hall. She envisions the park renovations as just the beginning of greater things to come in the valley.
When Jim Brendle put together the first Smoky Mountain Relay in 2009, it was a pretty small affair. With only 48 runners representing six teams, the 200-plus-mile foot race didn’t draw a lot of attention. A lot has changed since then.
“It’s grown to where this year if we don’t have 50 teams, I’m going to be really upset,” Brendle said.
The town of Canton is moving forward with plans to upgrade its public swimming pool after interviewing several design consultants last week.
Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss said the board of aldermen decided this spring to make renovations to the town pool and approved funding to hire consultants to walk them through the design process.
With a focus on improving recreation options for residents with limited funding, the town of Canton is using crowdsourcing methods for the first time to raise money to make playground repairs.
“Our playground is the only one in town,” said Canton Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss. “It gets a lot of use, but unfortunately it is not efficient in many of the safety standards. We are making an effort to make specific improvements to bring it into national playground safety compliance.”
Trails top the list of Maggie Valley’s recreational needs, according to the results of a recent survey conducted by the town.
“A lot of people seem to have the same thought of ‘we live so close to the mountains, but we have to drive 30 minutes to get to the trails,’” Maggie Valley Town Planner Andrew Bowen told the town board recently.
Downtown Cullowhee doesn’t look much like the thriving little town Rick Bennett found when he first moved to Jackson County in 1966. In the golden era of the 1970s, he reminisces, the little town boasted 17 restaurants, four gas stations, three grocery stores.
A far cry from the struggling crossroads in existence now, where cheap student housing fills buildings once inhabited by small businesses that just couldn’t make it and abandoned buildings punctuate the space between the few that have managed to stay open. The decline stems back to the construction of four-lane N.C. 107, which allowed traffic en route to Western Carolina University to bypass Cullowhee.
Jackson County will soon get a new park at Barkers Creek.
County commissioners approved a lease this week for a roughly 3-acre riverside site owned by Duke Energy for the bargain rate of $10 a year. It adds to a growing network of boat launched, put-ins, and recreation parks dotting the length of the Tuckasegee River in Jackson County.