Finally, Haywood gets an offer on a troublesome parcel

Haywood County may have found a buyer for a county-owned 22-acre plot off Jonathan Creek, as long as everything goes smoothly during the lengthy due diligence period.

Interstate 40 closed indefinitely after another rockslide

Less than four months after a rockslide in Haywood County closed a 20-mile stretch of Interstate 40, it’s happened again.

Shortly after 2 p.m. today, an announcement from the North Carolina Department of Transportation announced the closure.

Jonathan Creek project lurches forward

With a new board that will subsequently change the face of Haywood County government set to be sworn in on Dec. 3, the current lineup of commissioners took action Nov. 19 to ensure the Jonathan Creek project will continue as envisioned by them. 

Commissioners move to clear J-Creek dirt delays

Five months into the economic development partnership between the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce and the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce, there appears to be some progress being made.

Bogged down: Jonathan Creek project getting messy

Problems with moist soil are mucking up what seemed at the time to be a quick, cheap and easy accouterment for an enticing economic development asset, spurring frustration from the public, political candidates and commissioners — frustration that all flows downhill.

Trio of Haywood efforts to bolster economic development

Three complementary actions taken by the Haywood County Board of County Commissioners Nov. 20 show that despite changing conditions in the economic development landscape, Haywood County is serious about moving forward with business attraction, expansion and retention.

Four elk dead in Jonathan Creek

haywoodAfter three elk were shot on the Ross dairy farm in Jonathan Creek for eating winter wheat, a follow-up visit from wildlife officials revealed the remains of a fourth elk as well.

Jonathan Creek water interruptions leave some residents high and dry

fr waterJoyce Porter had just finished cleaning her house in Jonathan Creek and was planning to hop in the shower, but when she turned on the faucet, no water came out.

Weekend fish kill on Jonathan Creek a mystery

The cause of a fish kill on an isolated stretch of Jonathan Creek in Maggie Valley last Saturday is eluding environmental agencies and will likely remain a mystery.

A number of trout, from fingerlings to foot-long fish, turned up dead on Jonathan Creek near the confluence with Evans Cove branch in the middle of Maggie Valley.

The exact number has not been confirmed.

“I have estimates that are all over the place,” said Roger Edwards, regional supervisor of the surface water quality branch of the state Division of Water Quality.

The dead fish floating in the water were so visible it even triggered 911 calls.

Jonathan Creek is a source of drinking water for customers of the Maggie Valley Sanitary District. But whatever caused the fish kill did not jeopardize the public water source, according to Neil Carpenter, director of the Maggie water agency. Both water intakes are safely a mile and half upstream from the site of the dead fish.

“As a precaution, we sent our crews to both areas and walked the stream looking. We went a half mile above each intake and walked the stream banks and saw nothing,” Carpenter said.

While Division of Water Quality was alerted when dead fish started turning up Saturday afternoon, no one with the agency made an appearance until Monday. The nearly 48-hour lag time means anything in the water that may have contributed to the fish kill was long gone downstream. But for good measure, field teams took water samples to test things like pH and oxygen levels anyway. They did not do any biological sampling to see what kind of aquatic critters were present.

The tissue of the dead fish is not likely to unlock any secrets. For toxins to show up in tissue, fish would have to be exposed to it over a prolonged period, Edwards said.

In this case, Edwards believes there was an “isolated incident” that caused the fish kill, since the dead fish showed up during a finite window of time and a fairly short stretch of the creek.

Fish kills during summer, and especially during a summer drought, can occur when low creek levels combine with high temperatures to deplete oxygen in the water. But Edwards has ruled out that cause in this case. He doesn’t think it was sediment plume either, as that would have been visible and easy to trace to its source by eyewitnesses.

The case for ball and bat

Like many of the stakeholders in the argument, county commission chairman Kirk Kirkpatrick wishes the county could build enough fields for both sports. He played baseball in college, and his daughter is currently a soccer player.

But if he has to pick, Kirkpatrick believes the baseball and softball community is next in line for an upgrade, citing the county’s recreation master plan showing a greater deficit of softball fields than soccer fields.

The county’s Allens Creek park — constructed nine years ago — elicited a similar debate between soccer and softball. Ultimately, it was designed as purely a soccer park since the need for soccer fields was greater at the time. It has three playing areas, although none are regulation size required for hosting tournaments.

Baseball/softball advocates argue it is their turn now. The county doesn’t operate any baseball or softball fields. Instead teams rely on private fields, town fields and school fields available for teams.

“The main thing that I see is the lack of county-owned baseball fields, but that’s why I also support a multi-use field out there,” said Kirkpatrick, who is also a member of the recreation board. “It’s just hard to get a full-sized soccer field or a full-sized baseball field in the mountains.”

Kenny Mull, assistant commissioner of Mountaineer Little League, is in the same boat as Kirkpatrick, having also been parent of soccer players. But he says the opportunity of having a county-owned baseball/softball facility has been a long time coming.

“I don’t have anything against soccer, but I’ve been with the Little League for 35 years,” Mull said. “It is our time, I think.”

For nearly the entire existence of Mountaineer Little League’s boy’s baseball and girls’ softball programs, games and tournaments have been hosted on fields owned by private civic organizations like the Elks and the American Legion.

The result has been that Mull and other Little League administrators have had to undertake field maintenance on their own, adding a huge amount of cost and labor to the league’s operations.

“It’s really something we need badly and we’ve never had the opportunity to get,” Mull said. “We’ve never even had the chance to push for it until now.”

What Mull is pushing for is a county-owned and maintained tournament caliber baseball/softball complex for the more than 500 boys and girls ages 8 to 16 in the Mountaineer Little League system.

The plan they favor calls for a “wagon wheel” four-plex field setup that would accommodate the new Little League field specifications. As the game has developed, the regulation distance for fences has been moved from the old distance of 200 feet to 225 feet.

Mull said a “wagon wheel” field setup at Jonathan Creek could allow the Little League to hold regional tournaments with four games going simultaneously. The facility could also be a home for adult softball tournaments, though softball fields require 300-foot fences.

“If you had a field like that, you could host Little League tournaments and traveling tournaments any weekend you wanted to,” Mull said.

Mull explained that the Mountaineer Little League currently hosts tournaments among a variety of locations, making it hard for out-of-town visitors to enjoy the experience because they are rushing from one site to another.

He sees the potential for a centralized tournament complex as a revenue boost for the county.

“It’s a great moneymaker for the county, because it brings people into the hotels and restaurants and everything,” Mull said. “It’d be a really good thing. I hope it works out.”

Lee Starnes, past president of Mountaineer Little League, has attended the planning meetings and looked at the proposals. For Starnes, the proposed baseball/softball complex would provide much-needed practice space and solve a longstanding problem.

“Because of our location in the mountains, we simply don’t have the available space and what is available is expensive,” Starnes said.

Like Kirkpatrick, Starnes said he wished the county could build both tournament soccer and softball facilities, but he knows the county budget won’t allow it.

“I’m in for all of it,” Starnes said. “It’s for the kids, and whatever we can do for the kids is great.”

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