Displaying items by tag: swain

A Swain County native now living in South Carolina has won several writing awards from the South Carolina Outdoor Press Association.

Jim Casada writes frequently about the Smokies and is a regular columnist in The Smoky Mountain Times in Bryson City and also contributes regularly to Smoky Mountain Living (a sister publication of The Smoky Mountain News).

Members of South Carolina Outdoor Press Association (SCOPe), their supporters and guests gathered at The Territories Saluda River Preserve near Lake Greenwood for their annual fall conference in November. The members of SCOPe represent South Carolina’s top outdoor communicators from magazines, newspapers, online media and television.

Casada’s awards include:

• Newspaper Feature, first place, “Living Off the Land: A Vanishing Way of Life.”

• Magazine Feature, third place, “Reflections On A Marvelous Madness”

• Column, first place, “In The Good Ol’ Summertime…”; second place, “Musings On Coons, Possums And Other Destructive Critters.”

• Non-game Outdoor Enjoyment, first place, “A World of Wonder: Wildflowers Along the Parkway;” third place, “The Pleasures of Pickin’ — Strawberries, That Is.”

• Editorial/Opinion, first place, “Only Hunters Are Able To Save Hunting;” second place, “Economic Woes And The Sportsman’s World.”

For more information, contact P.J. Perea, South Carolina Outdoor Press Association President, at 803.637.3106 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

A recent program brought together business owners and outdoor enthusiasts who shared a common desire — to promote birding while also taking advantage of its potential economic impact

Rob Hawk, the new Jackson and Swain County extension director for the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, presented a program on birder friendly businesses and communities at the Balsam Mountain Inn last Thursday, Dec. 9. Participants included interested citizens, community organizers and businessmen and women.

“It was a good program. I think it was a good way to get resources moving in the right direction,” said Andy Zivinsky and Diane Cutler, owners of Bryson City Bicycles.

Zivinsky said that most of the clientele at Bryson City Bicycles were outdoor enthusiasts and that he believes many would enjoy learning about birding opportunities in the area.

“We’re both birders and we’re outdoors a lot, and I feel like we could point interested bikers in the right direction.”

He said they had even considered outfitting bikes with birding gear or a place to carry birding gear. Zivinsky said that there were great Forest Service roads out there for birding and that biking would be a great way to cover them.

“It’s a lot easier than walking,” he said.


The program

The Birder Friendly Business & Birder Friendly Community programs were created and designed to work in tandem with the North Carolina Birding Trail. Work on the NCBT began in 2003. The trail is presented in a series of three trail guides — the Coastal Guide, The Piedmont Guide and the Mountain Guide.

These guides are great ways for local birders and tourists to find great birding opportunities across the state, from the Outer Banks to the mountaintops of Western North Carolina. The guides provide maps, site descriptions, species list and nearby accommodations and attractions.

Part of the mission of the NCBT is, “To conserve and enhance North Carolina’s bird habitat by promoting sustainable bird-watching activities, economic opportunities and conservation education.” The Birder Friendly programs were designed to help fulfill that mission.

Lena Gallitano, who is retired from N.C. State University, and Dr. Stacy Tomas of N.C. State developed the program and taught training seminars across the state until their funding ran out in 2008. Hawk co-facilitated some of the programs in the western part of the state with Gallitano.

Gallitano said she was happy that Hawk had decided to continue to work to expand the birder friendly concept in the mountains. She said she felt like the mountain region had embraced the concept better than other areas of the state.

Hawk said that while he was introduced to the birder friendly concept in his old role as community resource development agent, he thought it was a perfect fit for his new position as Extension Director in Jackson and Swain counties. He said that he hopes the program allows people to look at the landscape in a different way and learn to appreciate and understand the resources that are already here.

Gallitano and Hawk both noted that while the program was geared to mesh with the birding trail the overarching theme of the program is nature tourism in general and birding in particular. Gallitano said that the NCBT guide series is probably the most extensive list of public and private sites across the state for wildlife watching.

And Hawk said that his role as Extension Director was to encourage the wise use and the appreciation of all the natural resources across the region.


Putting the theory into practice

David Stubbs, the owner of The Waynesville Inn, was also present at last Thursday’s meeting. Stubbs said he was interested in attending the program to help the Inn focus its marketing strategy.

“We are trying to cater to people who are already interested in the natural beauty of the area and want to sustain that, and birding fits nicely into that concept,” said Stubbs.

He said Hawk’s program helped him learn about who birders are and what their needs and wants are and how to meet them. He said the Inn was currently working on it’s marketing and packages for next season and that the birding community was already a part of that dialogue.

He said that planning was in its “infancy stage,” but that guests might see some sort of birder packages and programs.



Why entice birders?

• A 2007 National Survey on Recreation and the Environment noted that 81.1 million Americans participate in some form of birding activity.

• A 2006 U.S. Fish & Wildlife study reported that Americans spent nearly $45 billion in 2006 on bird-related activities.

• A 2006 U.S. Census Bureau survey noted that 71 million people spent more than $44 billion across the country in activities related to feeding and/or watching birds and other wildlife.

• North Carolina reported that 2.6 million wildlife watchers in the state spent $916 million.

• According to a North Dakota Division of Tourism report more than 22 million Americans travel each year to observe, photograph and/or study birds. More than $38 billion are spent each year in these endeavors. The report notes that bird-based tourism in Texas and Florida generates approximately $540 million and $943 million, respectively, each year.

• A study done on the economic impact of the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail in 1999 noted that birders spent an average of $78.50 per person per day while on the trail.

Robert “Rob” Hawk, a Whittier resident and the former community resource development agent in this region for the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service, last month became the new county extension director for Jackson and Swain counties.

Hawk replaced Jeff Seiler, who retired in October 2009, after serving as county extension director in both counties for 10 years.

Hawk has held the position of community resource development agent, based in Waynesville, since 2004. He also has worked as an area extension agent for community development, based in Sylva (2000-2003) and as a community development, agriculture and 4-H Extension agent in Cherokee (1997-2000).

Hawk earned a bachelor’s degree in recreation and leisure administration from the University of Tennessee and a master’s degree in parks, recreation and tourism management, with a minor in public policy and resource economics, from N.C. State University.

The Smoky Mountain News asked Hawk a few questions about his plans for Jackson and Swain counties. Here’s what he said in reply:

Q: What administrative changes do you plan on making, if any?

A: Administratively there are no changes to be made at this time, due to a shortage in the budgets for additional staff. Hopefully in 2011 we can regain our family and consumer science extension agent back to the Swain County Extension Center.

Q: What special problems come for a director answering to commissioners and residents of two counties?

A: There is really not a problem serving two counties … I have been an area extension agent for the last 10 years covering 10 counties from Buncombe County west. There may be a slight challenge in doing everything administratively twice instead of once.

Q: There is no one on staff for the extension service in Jackson and Swain counties with particular experience dealing with livestock. Any plans to address this gap?

A: There are plans to hopefully hire a livestock agent in Macon County, who would also serve the counties of Macon, Swain and Jackson, the same area that is covered by the Jackson, Macon and Swain Cattleman’s Association. Until that happens I will cover livestock requests for Jackson and Swain counties. I realize the livestock folks have been without an agent to help them, so we will do our best to serve them in the future because livestock is very important to our two counties agriculturally.

Q: What special areas of interest do you bring to the job of director?

A: My interests are in community and leadership development, in which I provide facilitation and educational programs to help individuals and both public and private businesses to advance their business and mission through improving their leadership skills. Customer service and hospitality education is another interest of mine in working with the businesses in both counties. Another major interest is conservation education with the youth of both counties, and my goal is to help the youth learn to enjoy, appreciate and respect our great natural resources in the two counties.

Q: What is the overall goal of your office staff?

A: Extension educational programming and (answering) individual requests are our means for effectiveness and strength in Jackson and Swain counties. Our extension staff believes in being out in the community helping others learn how to help themselves, which helps makes better communities in both counties.

I don’t particularly remember U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, from our days growing up in Swain County. He is younger than I am by a few years, more my brother’s contemporary than mine.

His father delivered our mail. I don’t remember him at all. Most kids don’t pay attention to their postal carrier, and I was no exception.

I’ve never been an avid fan of the game of football, either. I did, however, take heed of Shuler’s career at the University of Tennessee and in the NFL. Somehow, because he was from Swain County, each time he threw or ran for a touchdown his athletic abilities seemed to reflect positively on us all. Though by then I wasn’t living in Western North Carolina, but downstate in Greensboro.

I remember feeling vaguely saddened when Shuler’s football career faltered and puttered out. For him, for me and for Swain County at large, our shared glory ended ignominiously with his foot injury.

There is something about a small school that makes you hyper-connect with others who attended the same school. Even now, in my mid 40s, I am the girl who went to Bryson City Elementary and Swain County High School, home of the Maroon Devils. And everyone who did the same, at about the same time, remains a classmate.

Since there were only 79 of us in my graduating class, you’d think it would be easy for me to remember who was there. It isn’t, though. I’m terrible at names and faces. This often proves embarrassing, because others don’t seem to have this problem. I’ll be in a grocery store and someone will say hello and use my nickname. Instantly I know they are from Swain County, and I start sorting through who they might be, hoping this wasn’t a particularly close high school friend I’ve inexplicably forgotten. But even if I can’t dredge up specific memories, the association of having been classmates creates bonds and commonalities.

Including, I must acknowledge, with Shuler, whom I’ve covered sporadically for various newspapers since he first ran for political office in 2006. I suspect he feels something along the same lines. There is a kinship, a shared history, and a common background. No matter that my politics and the congressman’s diverge sharply at points. Or that, as a journalist, my job is to monitor and report on how he performs his job representing us in Congress.

Still, all that said, I can’t help but admit to hoping Shuler does us proud.

The truth is the girl who went to Swain County High School doesn’t want Shuler to embarrass us on national television by saying something particularly stupid. As ridiculous as it seems, his mixing up North and South Korea, sounding like an illiterate hillbilly or doing a Dan Quayle and misspelling potato would reflect poorly on our schooling.

So I’m happy to note Shuler seems to have grown into his job, which is the subject of this week’s cover story. He is becoming an increasingly adept politician.

These days, when Shuler gives a speech, it no longer sounds like an approximation of the English language. There is actually a beginning, middle and an end, and even a message one can generally discern without undo straining.

Although I often don’t personally approve of the political stances he takes, I am happy Shuler is capable of articulating his beliefs. We might not have had debate classes at Swain County High School, or lessons in Latin. But all in all, we were given the tools to make of ourselves what we would. And Shuler, at least, is taking full advantage of every gift and tool he was given.

(Quintin Ellison can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

When Terry Stephenson bought a piece of hillside property on Lower Alarka Road in Bryson City, he expected it to slowly develop into a homestead for himself and his 11-year-old daughter. What he didn’t expect was the headache that the undeveloped hillside has become since he became embroiled in an argument with Bryson City’s Great Smoky Mountains Railway over his right to cross their tracks.

The railroad has 10 acres of Stephenson’s property that encompasses their tracks and the accompanying 100-foot right-of-way granted to railroad tracks, originally intended to allow freight and passenger rail companies space in which to store extra equipment. Stephenson said he would be unconcerned with the tracks if they didn’t cross the single dirt road that is the only entrance to his property.

The crossing that once existed there was excavated and replaced by the railroad, who then offered Stephenson a private right of way agreement that reinstated his right to use the crossing. But Stephenson only got a few words into the 14-point agreement before realizing that he would be coming out bearing the brunt of the burdens if he signed.

“There’s nothing in there for me at all,” said Stephenson. “It might as well have been printed on toilet paper.”

His chief grief with the company is the $3,000-a-year crossing insurance that the agreement stipulates, something he maintains has not been required of anyone else who has been granted a crossing.

“There’s a lot of people who don’t have crossing insurance,” Stephenson said, “and they want me to maintain a $2 million policy and make them the beneficiary.”

The agreement would also stipulate that the crossing is non-transferrable, so when he property passes to his daughter or the next owner, they wouldn’t have the right to use the crossing without entering into a separate, new agreement with the railway.

Stephenson said he has no intention of signing the agreement, but he also knows that the cost of taking the railroad to court over the issue might be cost prohibitive.

“You’re fighting everybody fighting the railroad,” said Stephenson, “but it’s like paying a toll to get to my property, and every month I’ve got a payment to make, whether I can get to it or not.”

When asked for their take on the dispute, Great Smoky Mountains Railway General Manager Kim Albritton responded only that she was “not interested in discussing it with you.” Subsequent calls and e-mails to the railroad’s management were unreturned.

When Stephenson got nowhere in his negotiations alone, he tried bringing the issue before the Swain County Commissioners, who pledged that they would attempt to mediate the situation.

But, said County Manager Kevin King, the county was similarly stonewalled.

“We basically called the train and wanted to discuss that issue with them and they indicated that this is a legal dispute and at this point they would not sit down and talk to the board,” said King. “We asked for a meeting, they declined, and that’s all we can do.”

But even if he tries to fight the railroad, Stephenson will likely have a long and difficult road ahead of him, and there is a chance that the law might not be on his side.

“North Carolina case law generally grants railroads broad discretion to regulate the use of their rights of way by others,” wrote Raleigh attorney Jeffrey Bandini in an explanation of railroad real estate laws called Railroad Property. “This control is justified to ensure safe travel on the rights of way and to protect the physical integrity of the facilities built on the rights of way and the land upon which the facilities are located. Accordingly, whether a railroad company owns its right of way in fee simple or easement, third parties must obtain permission from the railroad company to enter the right of way for any purpose.”

Plainly speaking, that means that Stephenson will have a hard time countering the agreement, since the state has long given railroads a great deal of license in how to use their own rights of way.

Stephenson, however, isn’t averse to a crossing agreement, but feels that what the railway is putting forward is beyond unreasonable.

He said he’d be happy to pay his part for the upkeep of the crossing, but thinks that $3,000 a year is slightly exorbitant, given that his taxes are barely $800.

“I’m not trying to be hard,” Stephenson said, “I just need to get to my property. “

You can be excused for perhaps having overlooked the recent fireworks, but a minor war has erupted over one of this region’s favorite sons (or, not-favorite sons).

Pick your side.

Horace Kephart, the definitive writer of Western North Carolina history who set up a home of sorts in Swain County and gave us an accurate portrait of the mountaineer as he was then.

Or, Horace Kephart, who wasn’t even from this region. Who gave us a not very accurate portrait of the mountaineer of yore, and, if that isn’t enough to make you dislike him, was a good-for-nothing drunk who suffered a mental breakdown and stranded his family to boot.

I have an unusual, albeit somewhat shallow, interest in these matters. I live in WNC today because of Kephart. My family moved to the Bryson City area in the early 1970s because my parents fell in love with the region while Dad was doing research on Kephart. My father, George Ellison, wrote the introduction to Our Southern Highlanders when the University of Tennessee Press reissued it in 1976.

Other republications of Kephart’s books, and new information about the man himself, have been taking place these past few years. This has set the stage for a bunch of arguing about Kephart’s importance, the value of his books, and so on. My Dad hasn’t been part of that, best I can tell. He just keeps working on the material. And there’s been a lot of it to plow through, because the Kephart family is providing boxes and boxes of previously unexamined documents.

Here is the central argument of Kephart’s detractors, though they aren’t necessarily as direct about it as I am in this rephrasing: Kephart wasn’t from here. Thus, he had no right to portray the mountaineer at all. Only those born and bred in these hills, with roots that go back for generations, have a right or the ability to write about the people of these mountains. Everyone else is an outsider and doesn’t “get it.”

Phooey. I’m not from here, yet I maintain I’ve got a perfect right to portray whomever I want to, whenever I want to, how I want to, in whatever form I desire. Fiction, nonfiction, newspaper or magazine articles, columns, whatever interests me in a given moment as a writer. Who is going to stop me, pray tell? And if I do write about this region, what gives someone else the special insight to say my writing lacks value simply because I’m not born and bred of the hills?

I was born in Richmond, Va. If I abided by the underpinnings of this anti-Kephart argument, I would only write about people from Richmond (of which I know nothing, since we left there when I was six months old).

The argument is specious at best, and arrogant at worst. Let’s take it one step further, and the lack of logic becomes clear: Henry James wasn’t from Europe, so he shouldn’t have included Europeans in his novels. Ridiculous.

Joseph Conrad was Polish, so he shouldn’t have mastered English and written all those masterpieces, and about British people, for goodness’ sake.

Sue Hubbell, my current favorite nonfiction writer, hails from Michigan. Shouldn’t have written all those great books about living in the Missouri Ozarks, Sue.  

Here’s the other angle of this anti-Kephart fervor. Not being from here, Kephart just didn’t understand — he overemphasized the moonshining and illicit behavior, and underemphasized the refined dignities of the mountain people.

Maybe. Maybe not. That’s the neato thing about being a writer. You get to emphasize whatever interests you. And Kephart was very interested in moonshine. How it was made, and how it tasted. He spent a lot of time sampling the local offerings, and clearly became something of a connoisseur.

Additionally, if we are going to condemn every drunk who was a writer, say farewell to William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, Ernest Hemingway and plenty of others who found their muses in the dregs of wine cups and beer bottles. Kephart apparently often found his floating around near the bottom of a moonshine jar. So what does that prove about the worth of his work? Not a thing.

He was probably a lousy father and husband, but again, what in the world does that have to do with the quality of his writing, or his portrayal of Southern Appalachia? Not much.

A good place to take in the this-side and that-side of the great Kephart debate is www.tuckreader.com, a valuable recent addition to the local news scene. Check out the battle of words (both are being ever-so-courteous) taking place between Jim Casada and Gary Carden, both fine regional writers born and raised in WNC. Jim is from Bryson City, Gary from Sylva.

Better yet, read Kephart’s books and make an independent determination of your own.

(Quintin Ellison can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

In Swain County, incumbent Republican Sheriff Curtis Cochran successfully fended off challenger John Ensley.

Cochran has faced several controversies in the preceding four-year term, his first in law enforcement. He has weathered well-publicized rows with county commissioners, including a discrimination lawsuit against them and disagreements about deputy pay, overtime and other budgetary woes. The department under Cochran has also seen the escape of an accused murderer from its new, still half-empty jail — aided by a detention officer — and the misuse of official credit cards by yet another detention officer.

Democrat Ensley, a local businessman with only a tad more law enforcement experience than Cochran, felled other primary contenders with ease but eeked out little more than a third of the final vote tally. Throughout his campaign, he promised to use his prowess as a salesman to entice federal, state and other local prisoners to fill the costly jail, a feat Cochran has, as yet, failed to perform.

Cochran won all five of the county’s precincts, taking more than 60 percent of the vote in four districts and leading one of those by 71 percent. He will now enter another four-year term, where he will be working with the recently-elected, all-Democrat county commission.


Swain County Sheriff

Curtis Cochran (R)    2,857

John Ensley (D)    1,706

Swain County will spend the next four years with an all-Democrat board of commissioners after all the incumbents running for office held onto their seats and Donnie Dixon and Robert White scooped up the two open spots.

Neither current chairman Glenn Jones nor commissioner Genevieve Lindsay sought re-election after both spent the last eight years on the board.

Steve Moon will serve his second term on the board, winning one district and 12 percent of the vote. He owns a tire shop and came to the board after a six-year run on the county’s school board. Moon said during the spring primaries that he wanted to stay on the board to watch over its allocation of interest from the North Shore Road settlement.

David Monteith, also an incumbent, came away with three of the county’s five districts and just under 15 percent of votes, the largest percentage of any winner. Monteith is a school bus driver and was the lone commissioner to vote against the North Shore Road settlement. He campaigned on a platform of protecting and increasing the county’s job base.

Donnie Dixon, a newcomer to the board, didn’t win outright in any precincts, but still pulled out nearly 13 percent of the vote. Dixon is a machinist who served a single term as commissioner in the 90s, but is coming back to the board with ideas of greater openness, televised meetings and courting higher paying jobs for the county.

Robert White is the second newcomer but is also no stranger to public life as retired superintendent of the county’s school system. He campaigned on strategic planning and citizen involvement to lead the board, citing the expertise in both areas that he gained as superintendent as good qualities to recommend him for the job.

While the four commissioners had to beat out a total field of nine challengers, the race for chairman was run between only two. Current board member Phil Carson won, edging out Mike Clampitt by just under 5 percent of the votes.


Swain County Board of Commissioners (Chairman)

Phil Carson (D)    2,319

Mike Clampitt (R)    2,083


Swain County Board of Commissioners (vote for 4)

David Monteith (D)    2,465

Donnie Dixon (D)    2,089

Steve Moon (D)    2,041

Robert White (D)    1,976

James King (R)     1,788

John Herrin (R)    1,778

Andy Parris (R)    1,724

Gerald Shook Jr. (R)    1,604

William (Neil) Holden (L)    1,015

Bryson City’s Marianna Black Library could be getting a facelift, and library leaders are looking to patrons for a grasp on exactly how to do that.

In eight public input sessions held last week, Swain County Librarian Jeff Delfield and consultant Ron Dubberly quizzed locals about what they’d like to see change about the library. Delfield said the comments represented a broad spectrum of opinions about how best to change the library, if at all.

“There was a varied range,” said Delfield. “I mean, there was everything from ‘don’t change a thing please, I love this library exactly the way it is,’ to folks saying ‘We want outdoor staged seating.’”

The meetings were the first in a series of information gathering sessions for the library’s visioning process. The next stop for consultant Dubberly will be meetings with stakeholders who have a vested interest in the library — the business community, the school board and other local organizations.

Swain County is following in the footsteps of Jackson and Macon, who both held visioning processes before building new libraries. While no conclusions have yet been drawn for Marianna Black, Delfield believes that parking might be a part of the equation, if not an entirely new building.

“In general, folks that use the library a lot know that we need parking,” said Delfield.

He said that library users are also keen to see more of what they already get from the library.

“They’re asking for more of the services that we already offer – more books, more movies, more computers, more meeting spaces,” said Delfield.

That’s a sentiment echoed by library-goers themselves.

“I think they could probably expand the book collection, and maybe get more periodicals,” said Bryson City resident Dan Sikorra, who stops by the library to read periodicals such as the Wall Street Journal.

When asked what she would like to see in a revamped library, Nantahala Gorge resident Rose Ponton also said the library could benefit from swelling its stacks.

“It’s hard to find the books I’m looking for here,” she said, “but I think the Marianna Black Library is doing a great job.” Ponton mainly comes to use the wireless Internet, but said she’d take advantage of lending services as well if more books stocked the shelves.

Swain County is in the early stages of the process, and Delfield said part of the reason such a range of opinions was expressed at the forums was consultant Dubberly’s “pie-in-the-sky question,” asking residents what they would do for the library with an unlimited budget.

After gathering opinions from the community, the library board and other key library stakeholders — along with factual demographic information — Dubberly and his team will generate a report recommending steps to grow the library in the future.

More bestsellers? A computer lab? Meeting space?

This month, Swain County residents will be asked what it is they crave from their local Marianna Black Library. The surveys are part of an assessment funded by a planning grant from the State Library of North Carolina.

Jackson and Macon counties went through a similar visioning process — and in both cases it led to brand-new libraries.

At the top of librarian Jeff Delfield’s own list is simply more space. The Marianna Black Library is barely 8,000-square-feet when the state recommends about 20,000-square-feet for each county’s main library.

“I think we could at least double the space and not really be outrageous about it,” Delfield said.

Parking at the Bryson City library is so limited that would-be library patrons have to scour downtown for parking spots blocks away or simply come back another time.

Another deficiency is a section devoted solely to teens.

“Teens have nowhere to go in this library,” said Delfield.

Delfield points out that while Swain’s library is a fine one, it dates back four decades.

“Swain County has changed a lot in 40 years. We have, I think, doubled in population,” Delfield said. “Even if we could put another story on this building, that doesn’t solve our parking problem.”

Delfield admires neighboring Macon County’s spacious new library. It features a common area with a fireplace around which patrons gather with books and laptops. There are also plenty of small meeting rooms where students can get together to work on projects.

He said he can imagine something similar at the library in Bryson City for the future.

Another of Swain’s neighbors, Jackson County, is set to open a new 26,000-square-foot library of its own, far larger than its current 6,400-square-foot building.

Both Macon and Jackson county libraries utilized the help of Ron Dubberly, the consultant who will now tackle the library assessment in Swain.

Jackson County librarian Dottie Brunette said hiring Dubberly was helpful in coming up with a blueprint for the new library there. She estimated that about two-thirds of the plan for the library resulted from Duberly’s work.

“You have to know what your community wants before you can start doing those things,” Brunette said.

For instance, the Sylva community was adamant that the library’s location remain downtown, which eventully won out.


The process

Dubberly said most communities that go through the public assessment are eager to move forward with an expansion or a new building. Dubberly said the needs for space are obvious in Swain County, but the final say rests with the public.

“The first thing is you find out what the community’s needs are,” Dubberly said. “And you only know that truly by asking.”

Residents will be surveyed in early October to choose from a list of “service priorities” the library should provide. These priorities range from children’s story time to foreign language to genealogy materials.

Dubberly and library staff want to hear from people from Cherokee to the Nantahala Gorge and from Alarka to downtown Bryson City to come up with a library that will serve all.

“We want to reach people who don’t even come to the library,” Delfield said.

Dubberly will also meet with city and county officials, library board members, Friends of the Marianna Black Library and other stakeholders. He will analyze demographics and population projections before coming up with a draft plan for the library. Another public meeting will ensue before Dubberly presents the final plan to the library board and county commissioners.

The plan will address Swain’s needs for library services and also provide recommendations on space, furnishings, equipment, shelving, collection items and more.

Dubberly said even with all his experience, there’s no way to predict what Swain County residents will want from their public library.

“I just start fresh. I don’t have a cookie cutter,” Dubberly said. “Every community is unique.”


Want to weigh in?

Public input is needed to shape the future of the Swain County library, whether its an expanded children’s section, more DVD rentals or a brand-new library. Drop by one of the following sessions to share your ideas. For more information, call 828.488.3030.

Monday, October 11

• noon, Marianna Black Library

• 3 p.m. Qualla Public Library in Cherokee

• 5:30 p.m. Nantahala Village in the Gorge

Tuesday, October 12

• 10 a.m. Alarka Community Center

• 3 p.m.  Bryson City Presbyterian Church

• 5:30 p.m. Marianna Black Library

• 7 p.m. Marianna Black Library

Wednesday, October 13

• 10 a.m. Swain Senior Center

Page 31 of 47

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