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Wednesday, 27 June 2012 00:00

Fontana Dam clings to its tiny yet vital post office

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The tiny town of Fontana Dam is getting to keep its post office, but what’s not clear yet is whether the post office will be manned or not.

Fontana Dam was included 10 months ago in a list of 3,700 money-losing post offices slated for closure. The U.S. Postal Service is headed for $14 billion in losses this year. The agency recently opted not to close the post offices amid public outcry. Instead, the postal service is cutting hours and some services.

That’s left Fontana Dam a bit in limbo.

Craig Litz, a member of the town board who has helped lead efforts to save the post office, said he’s happy that the residents and seasonal visitors of Fontana Dam don’t have to drive 50 miles roundtrip to pick up mail. But, the hours of operation and what services will be available at the post office won’t be known until mid-August or later, Litz said.

The post office could be stripped down to just an outdoor bank of P.O. boxes. Or, the post office could contract with Fontana Village Resort for basic services, like selling stamps.

“But, they are still leaving that part up in the air,” Litz said.

Fontana Dam officially has just 33 residents. But, Fontana Village Resort boasts 140 employees during warmer times of the years, and more than 100,000 visitors annually make their way to this remote spot surrounded by national forest and park land in Graham County. The Village’s seasonal workers rely on post office boxes as the only means to get their mail. The demand is so high that some years the Fontana post office has run out of post office boxes.

Equally reliant on the post office in Fontana Dam are the Appalachian Trail thru-hikers who stop to pick up supplies as they traverse the famous footpath, which spans from Georgia to Maine. Many AT hikers, before leaving on their treks, mail themselves food and camping items to various drop points along the trail. Fontana Dam is the last re-supply point before hikers hit a tough stretch of the Smokies.

“We’d like to keep the post office for a plethora of reasons,” Litz said. “It’s the place where people grab a soda at the general store then stand outside the post office and talk while picking up stamps.”

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