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Wednesday, 10 January 2018 17:25

A $4 million thank you

Written by 

To the Editor:

As a member of the Swain County community, I believe there is a long overdue amount of gratitude that the citizens of my beloved county owe to our Sen. Thom Tillis and U.S. Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke for helping us receive a partial payment on the, also, long overdue North Shore (1943) Agreement, or the idiom referred to by locals as “the Road to Nowhere.”

This agreement, which was initially made in 1943, was more on the lines of a promise by the federal government to build a 30-mile road back to the home places, graveyards, and property of many Swain County citizens, whose homes were flooded in the making of Fontana Dam. Granted, with much respect to those citizens, Fontana Dam was a huge facilitator in the United States victory in World War II. Regardless, over a half a century later many Swain County citizens who were promised this agreement, some who are now passed on, are still fighting for at least the mildest compensation of the lost homes.

Sixty-four years post agreement, and the promise of a 30-mile road was changed via memorandum to a cash settlement of $52 million. Personally, to our economical benefit, the road would have probably had a much more of a detrimental impact on the developing tourism, that now influxes our local economy. It’s quite doubtful that we would have as many visitors, hikers, fisherman, etc. come see our breathtaking views in the Great Smoky Mountains if it there was highway cutting right through the middle of it. So the cash agreement was a much more beneficial and practical settlement on the issue, especially for a land-locked town that hosts nearly forty-percent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s half-million acres. A blessing and curse; the blessed fact that over 10 million visitors come the Great Smoky Mountains National Park every year and that it supplies quite a few jobs for this area, and the curse that most revenue for this park does not go back into Swain County, directly.

The progress that you have made by helping receive a partial payment on the North Shore agreement, is the light at the end of the tunnel for the relationship between Swain County and our federal government. I hope that the leaves of history continue to change in a positive aspect for my home, and that we all continue to work together in unity, undivided by opposing politics, and brought together by fostering the economic growth of Swain County by continuing to make sure that the appropriated funds issued with be used respectively and beneficially to our town. Hopefully, by Swain County doing their due-diligence with the funds, the remaining $35.2 million can be released, satisfying the long-lived agreement.

Afton Darnell Roberts

Bryson City

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