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Jackson to vote on Blackrock conservation project

Sylva commissioners voted unanimously during their May 24 meeting to contribute $250,000 to a 441.5-acre conservation project adjacent to Pinnacle Park, but the success of the endeavor could hinge on a vote the Jackson County commissioners will take during a special meeting at 11:05 a.m. Thursday, May 31, at the Jackson County Justice and Administration Center in Sylva. 

Local governments mull 400-acre land purchase

An effort to conserve a 441.5-acre block of land adjacent to Pinnacle Park in the Plott Balsams is now looking much more feasible than when the possibility was first discussed nearly two years ago. 

Reroute planned for Blackrock Trail

The infamously steep trail leading up to Blackrock from Pinnacle Park will soon find itself with a gentler incline following the planned reroute of 0.37 miles of the most severely angled piece of the pathway.

The race is on: Police investigate Pinnacle trail spiking as Assault on Blackrock sees record registration

News spread fast last week after the Sylva Police Department removed more than 50 spikes from hiking trails at Pinnacle Park, but a drive by the trailhead two days later showed that the incident hadn’t dampened local enthusiasm for the area. Even at 1 p.m. on a Thursday, the parking area held seven cars whose owners had come to enjoy a sunny afternoon on the trail. 

Sylva resident Amy Schmidt, 33, was one of them. She and her German shepherd Greta come to Pinnacle Park regularly, about three times a week, and though she’d heard about the spikes she didn’t think twice about coming back for their regular walk. But the story did give her pause.

A hint of autumn, a sense of pride

When we got out of the car on Sunday at the parking area in Jackson County at the end of Fisher Creek Road, it was cool, perhaps high 60s or low 70s. Fall is coming, I thought. Despite the favorable temperatures, the walk up the trail toward Black Rock and Pinnacle Peak soon had all of us bathed in sweat, feeling winded and wonderful at the same time.

I’d been on the trail before. That was on a cold April morning a few years back as a pack of crazy trail runners took part in the annual Assault on Black Rock race. The sheer exhaustion I suffered during that run erased any real memory of the trail, and so this time it might as well have been my first time maneuvering up the rocky path.

Plan for new mountain biking system moving forward

A meeting seeking feedback on an emerging plan to turn Sylva’s Pinnacle Park into a mountain biking destination drew about 70 people to the Mad Batter Food and Film last week, and after a night of fielding questions and taking comments, the folks behind the effort are feeling positive about its future. 

Pursuing the Pinnacle: Mountain bikers push to create new trail system in Sylva

For the past decade, Sylva’s Pinnacle Park has had Sae Smyrl envisioning a lofty future for the hiking area. A mountain biker for the past 40 years, Smyrl would walk the trail and think how great it would be to ride his bike through the 1,100-acre forest. Bikes are allowed on the existing trail, but it’s way too steep for the sport to be fun. 

A plan is now afoot to make Smyrl’s dream a reality, with the Nantahala Area Southern Off Road Bicycling Association pursuing a goal to bring some 30 miles of biking trail, featuring loops of various difficulty levels, to the Fisher Creek watershed. 

The trail from spring to winter

out trailartieBright sunshine? Sixty-degree weather? In February?

Pinnacle Park profiled for Trails Day

A discussion about the future of Pinnacle Park outside Sylva will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 4, followed by a short hike from the Fisher Creek trailhead.

The 1,100 acre tract once served as Sylva’s source of drinking water and has now been preserved.

Those interested in the hiking and biking potential of the park, as well as those who use the park for birding, wildlife and native plant activities, are encouraged to attend, and future volunteer opportunities will be discussed. Information from the discussion will help the town of Sylva and the Pinnacle Park Foundation determine future park needs.

The Jackson County Greenways Project is organizing the event in honor of National Trails Day.

828.293.3053 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

65 start – and finish – first Assault on Black Rock

Sixty-five runners started and finished the first Assault on Black Rock Trail Race at Sylva’s Pinnacle Park on March 19, raising more than $1,400 for the Community Table soup kitchen.

The 8.3-mile course boasts a 2,700-foot elevation gain and forced participants to use hands and feet to scramble to the craggy pinnacle atop Black Rock. Organizers hope the first-time event – which is basically uphill the first half and downhill on the way back, with the last half-mile of uphill featuring a ridiculously steep climb – will catch on in trail racing circles.

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“I am very pleased with the turnout, although I am sure the good weather helped,” said race organizer Brian Barwatt. “… The thought that 65 people stood on the summit of Black Rock on Saturday (not including my volunteers) is awesome because I have been up there about a dozen times in the past couple years and have only seen three people on the trail up to Black Rock.”

Participants traveled from as far away as Atlanta and Raleigh.

The top three men and women finishers were:

Men:

(1) Chad Hallyburton, age 42 of Sylva, with a time of 1:31:17

(2) Andrew Benton, age 20 of Hickory, with a time of 1:33:12

(3) Sean Botzenhart, age 18 of Cullowhee, with a time of 1:35:19

Women:

(1) (11th overall) Ginny Hotze, age 50 of Asheville, with a time of 1:46:42

(2) (14th overall) Hannah McLeod, age 15 of Waynesville, with a time of 1:51:53

(3) (16th overall) Brenda Holcomb, age 38 of Cullowhee, with a time of 1:56:42

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