Restoring a giant: EBCI partners to resurrect the chestnut tree

Rex Mann’s father was the kind of storyteller whose voice would make everyone in the room stop what they were doing, come and listen. 

If these stones could talk: Friends work to restore Bryson City Cemetery

It’s quiet and peaceful on the hillside of Bryson City Cemetery. Overlooking the hustle and bustle of downtown, all you can hear are birds chirping and the freshly cut grass crunching underneath your feet, but if those old stones could talk they’d have some stories to tell. 

Watery restoration: Waynesville and partners restore stream flows, aquatic habitat

Waynesville is in the midst of a makeover on three of its streams, and it’s a renovation that fish, crayfish and tadpoles alike are likely to find satisfactory.

One of the three projects is already complete, a rehabilitation of Shelton Branch at the Waynesville Recreation Park that wrapped up in October, with stream restorations at East Street Park and Chestnut Park poised to start soon.

Pool renovations finishing in Sylva and Cashiers

If all goes according to plan, within the week folks in Jackson County will have their choice of pools to soak in the summer as renovations finish up at the Sylva and Cashiers pools. 

Trio of trails get a makeover

Rainbow Falls Trail: The Rainbow Falls Trail is the next trail in line to get a complete rehabilitation through the Smokies Trails Forever program, funded by Friends of the Smokies. 

Trail crews get to work: Smokies crews work to improve trails and recover from storm damage

Dealing with the aftermath of two major storms while preparing for what could be another record-breaking visitor season, trail crews in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have been keeping busy this spring. 

“Three major projects are taking place in addition to the normal routine spring cleaning that our crews do, along with storm damage that we’ve had from several different wind events,” said park spokesperson Dana Soehn.

Renewed steam engine service excites Bryson, Dillsboro business owners

Spirits were high in Dillsboro last week as Steam Engine No. 1702 chugged noisily to a stop on the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad.

Steam engine project still on track

fr steamengineGreat Smoky Mountain Railroad officials say they will make their deadline for getting a steam engine back up and running in Bryson City.

Haywood Pathways prepares for building bonanza, Ty Pennington

fr prisonIt’s going to be an eventful next few days in Waynesville. Haywood Pathways Center is in the final stretch of planning a three-day blitz on the old Hazelwood prison, transforming the former state detention center into a combined soup kitchen, halfway house and homeless shelter. They’ll be doing it with the help of an army of volunteers, untold gallons of paint and board-feet of wood — and help from TV personality Ty Pennington.

Mustang magic: Magazine marvels over restoration job by Franklin man

Jim Pennington’s rebuilt Mustang car is a thing of beauty. Candy-apple red, spotlessly clean, sleek lines and an immaculate, original interior make for one amazing car.

Toiling over the Mustang has been a labor of love for Pennington. He needs little in the way of reward other than the personal fulfillment it brings and a little bonding time with his son under the hood. But on the show circuit this year, it garnered more than just the normal nods of appreciation from fellow car connoisseurs. His painstaking efforts to restore this built-for-racing vehicle have landed in the national spotlight.

Pennington’s Mustang is prominently featured in the latest issue of “5.0 Mustang and Super Fords,” under the headline “Generation Thrill: Behind the wheel of his ’95 GTS, Jim Pennington’s Retirement is a blast.”

And, it clearly is, at that — Pennington, who lives in Franklin, retired in February as director of maintenance for the Jackson County school system. He’d previously worked as director of engineering for Angel Medical Center in Franklin.

“I’m enjoying it,” said Pennington, adding that retirement has given this car buff more time to travel to shows and to devote to his hobby — one that he’s managed to rope his family into. His wife, Mildred, helps by keeping his red Mustang interior pristinely clean.  His son, Jon, has a black Mustang. They travel nationwide together to shows, and he has boxes of plaques to show for it.

“Old cars are just like people,” Pennington said. “Just when you think they have no future, they can come out of nowhere and surprise you.”

Pennington purchased the Mustang in Asheville five year ago with 50,000 miles on the odometer, and restored the car in 2007. His son painted the car, replacing the original “laser” red with the candy apple color.

He elicited the help of others as well. Franklin resident Brian Sellers put Saleen stripes on the doors and Andrews resident David Wilson built the stroker engine that helps put the “power” into the super-powerful Mustang. Pennington added a rear spoiler.

Not too many of these types of Mustangs were made, Pennington said, and 1995 was the last year for the pushrod 5.0, which means something to Mustang aficionados such as himself.

Initially, Pennington noted, he just wanted to restore the car for a particular National Mustang Racing Authority event, True Street Drag Racing, but the looks and praise he received launched him instead into national car shows. Since 2007, he and his wife have spent almost every weekend at shows throughout the Southeast.

The editor of “5.0 Mustang & Super Fords” magazine was in the crowd during a show at Commerce, Ga. He asked Pennington if the magazine could feature him and his car, and Pennington said “sure.” At first, he didn’t realize what he’d gotten himself into.

“The photo shoots lasted two days,” Pennington said, noting that one shot alone of the car’s interior took the magazine’s photographer about two hours to capture.

Pennington also has restored a Chevrolet pickup truck, and he owns a 1989 Mustang GT with a built 306 with a Tremac.

Cars, it turns out, have paralleled his own retirement in more ways than one.

“With a little TLC and hard work, (cars) can have a new and rewarding second life,” he said.

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