Waynesville to put South Main on the drawing board

The town of Waynesville is dusting off the drafting table, ready to launch a community planning initiative to shape the future look and feel of South Main Street.

The area has been primed for growth by the recent addition of Waynesville Commons, where Best Buy and Super Wal-Mart are located, and Belk’s is soon to move. Plans for upgrading the roads dated appearance and reconfiguring it to handle more traffic have been in the works for several years.

The town has now received a grant to launch a plan for the corridor from the French Broad River Metropolitan Organization.

A public interest meeting will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday, July 28, at the Town of Waynesville satellite office on Brown Avenue in Hazelwood.

The town has hired a consulting team to develop a corridor plan that will forecast future travel demand and to propose a roadway design.

Final designs could include extra lanes, intersection redesigns to accommodate existing and projected traffic, sidewalks or landscaped medians.

When the topic was debated two years ago and a feasibility study was done by the DOT, three options were proffered as solutions for the road.

One would keep the same two-lane structure, another would add a middle turn lane and the most drastic would create a four-lane, boulevard-type affair, with a raised median, street trees and bike lanes. This last option would call for a 120-foot right-of-way, essentially razing the buildings on either side of the street.

At the time, public opinion was split on the issue. Since the feasibility study was completed, no major steps have been taken on the corridor plan.

In addition to being a professional study of travel demand and facility design, the planning process is expected to engage stakeholders including the property owners and business owners, representatives of NCDOT and the community as a whole in a the future design of the area.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation draft feasibility study is available at the Town of Waynesville’s Website, www.townofwaynesville.org.

Red Cross to close only office west of Asheville

Since 1917, the Red Cross has flown its archetypal white flag in Haywood County. In the 94 years that have since passed, the charity’s presence in the county has been steadily dwindling. First, the Waynesville chapter disappeared. Then the Canton chapter fell by the wayside.

The weight fell on what became the Haywood County chapter of the Red Cross, but now that last holdout is looking at closing its doors as well.

“Our chapter has been struggling financially for several years,” said Kim Czaja, the chapter’s financial director, who will be out of a job in September.

They’ve made some pretty hefty strides in the last few years — cutting the yearly debt from $28,000 down to just around $2,000 — but it just wasn’t enough.

Really, though, said Czaja, what’s happening to Haywood is just a snapshot of a very turbulent climate in the Red Cross around the country.

Chapters in Cincinnati are merging to save money, Buffalo is slashing 50 jobs in their blood division and the agency said it’s cutting administrative jobs, consolidating things like payroll and accounting, which are currently done by each chapter.

“There are layoffs going on throughout the Red Cross as a whole,” said Czaja. “It’s just a change right now, and I’ll be honest with you, it’s like any change, it can be painful but it is a very good thing because it’s definitely going to make the Red Cross stronger.”

Some of the services the local chapter offers will also go through an evolution, probably being administered out of the regional office in Asheville.

The western region of the state has seven Red Cross chapters. Haywood County was the only one west of Asheville, and it’s been that way for years, said Czaja.

“We want to continue to be strong in the community, but it is going to be different,” said Czaja.

She estimates that they serve around 7,000 to 8,000 people every year. That includes all the classes — CPR, first aid, swim and lifeguard courses — blood drives, water safety classes in schools, helping businesses craft emergency plans and local versions of the disaster assistance the Red Cross is known for globally.

They also offer financial help to military families and get them in touch with service members overseas when there’s an emergency at home.

The restructuring is a new proposition; Czaja, who is only part-time and the chapter’s only paid employee, just learned of the changes last week. So that means she’s not yet sure how or when the fallout will actually fall.

“There’s a lot of fear because the doors may be closing,” said said. But she’s hopeful that the group’s role in the community won’t diminish and that they can continue serving the county through volunteers. She started as a volunteer herself.

“I understand decisions like this have to be made,” said Czaja. “The most important thing is that the services continue.”

Creativity: An international affair

In one gallery in Waynesville this month, the nations of the world will gather. While the international dance and song of Folkmoot will take their traditional place in Haywood County’s summer calendar, this year international art will also make an appearance at “The World Around Us,” a show put on by the Haywood Arts Council in Gallery 86 on Main Street in Waynesville.

The show runs through July 30 and features works from seven artists from across Europe and Central America. Their works range in scope, including painters, weavers, photographers and mixed-media artists.


Sylvia Williams

Silvia Williams is a native of Cuba, and the warm Spanish lilt remains in her voice and laugh, though she hasn’t lived there in more than 50 years. Williams spent much of her career as a foreign language teacher, at universities and in public and private schools. But her dream, and now her career, was in abstract art.

“I had a sort-of drawing talent and little by little, I just kept on painting and just recently I feel like I became what I wanted to be and that is an abstract painter,” said Williams. She’s not always been a North Carolinian — she and her husband moved here from Florida around 10 years ago — but the state has been intertwined through her life.

“I feel kind of fated to North Carolina from the beginning,” said Williams. “I came here to school in my early teens and then I married this North Carolinian, I went to the University of North Carolina. North Carolinians, especially westerns, remind me a lot of Cubans.”

Though she said her Cuban heritage doesn’t have a direct effect on the watermedia pieces she produces today, at least one piece of her Caribbean culture still shines through.

“I imagine that the thing that perhaps that could have influenced that is that I love color so much and my painting is a lot about color,” said Williams.

She’s learned her craft over the years through classes, workshops, books and the unrivalled teacher that is hands-on experience.

Today, her process isn’t mapped out in steps, but intuited along the way.

“I never have a definite plan, it just evolves from there,” said Williams. “If I plan something … that’s when it dies.”

Her best pieces, she said, have evolved in that way. And those are the ones she chooses when deciding what to put in shows. If she likes it, it goes.

And for Williams, it’s a good system. The ones she sells are usually the ones she loves.

Williams’ work can be seen at Gallery 86 and also at Gallery 262 in Frog Level.


Yvonne Van der Meer Lappas

Yvonne Van der Meer Lappas has lived an international life. That’s how she describes her journey from Amsterdam to Clyde, with many global stops in between.

Lappas has been an artist her whole life, studying at Paris’ L’Ecole des Beaus Arts at the Sorbonne after finishing school in the Netherlands.

Then, however, she turned her artistry to industry, working in fashion design for 16 years.

Her career took her to all of the usual hot spots for haute couture — New York, Paris, Rome — but didn’t quite fulfill her need for artistic expression.

“That was just making a living and fashion is very demanding,” said Lappas. But she squeezed the painting in at night, taking workshops and classes at the Art Student’s League in New York and studying the techniques of Rudolph Steiner and his watercolor veil paintings.

Then she and her husband moved to Clyde around 20 years ago, and she leapt into not only her own artistry, but the area’s vibrant artistic community.

“It is totally different from New York City, where everything is high dollar and big art shows and big money,” said Lappas, mentioning craft schools like Penland that feature traditional artistry that isn’t often seen in larger urban areas. “It is very charming to see how much interest there is in art here. It really is no wonder that people like to come here.”

When asked what has kept Lappas involved in her own creations and the artistic scene throughout the years, she replies as though that is, of course, a foregone conclusion.

“It’s a lifeline for me, it’s a voice that I have to follow. Any artist could tell you that. It’s a must. You have to get it out of you.”

Recycling containers come to downtown Waynesville

No more schlepping those empty drink bottles or cans home after a day of browsing in downtown Waynesville.

A dozen recycling containers will soon be scattered around Main Street and its surrounds.

The town made the move purchase and install recycling cans based on requests from merchants as well as residents, according to Alison Lee Melnikova, the assistant town manager.

Melnikova scouted the streets and sidewalks with Downtown Waynesville Association Director Buffy Messer recently to assess where to put the new containers, but the final locations are still being decided.

The recycling containers will look similar to the public trash cans around downtown, with the vertical wood slats, but will be dark green in color and are actually made from recycled plastic, although they look like wood, Melnikova said. The recycling containers will cost the town $5,000.

For special events and festivals, DWA put out portable recycling cans, but the rest of the year, Main Street browsers faced the unfortunate conundrum of what to do with those recyclables — either toting a sticky can around or guiltily tossing it when it seems no one is looking.

Cans should be in place by early August.

Waynesville voters not shy of options this fall

The contest to fill Waynesville’s town board has drawn a wide crowd this year, a mixture of incumbents, political newcomers and a couple of election veterans.

Seven candidates will vie for four seats in the November election. The town board hasn’t seen an upset in the last two elections.

Sitting Aldermen Gary Caldwell, J. Wells Greeley and Leroy Roberson are all coming back for another try, and given the track record of incumbents in Waynesville elections, the odds seem in their favor. But at least one seat is wide open, as Alderwoman Libba Feichter is not returning for re-election, likely fueling some of the competition entering the race.

The challengers represent a variety of views, some business owners, some retirees, some public servants, but nearly all named the economy and the replacement of retiring Town Manager Lee Galloway as top priorities in the coming term.

Only one, Sam Edwards, expressed open discontent with the current administration, with the rest either backing the board’s positions or staying mum on the issue.

Among the challengers for town board, none are returning from the 2007 contest, however, Mayor Gavin Brown will face competition from Hugh Phillips, assistant manger of Bi-Lo, who ran unsuccessfully against him four years ago.

The general election will be held on November 8. Voter registration closes on October 14.


Gary Caldwell

Age: 58

Occupation: Production manager at Cornerstone Printing in Waynesville.

Time in Waynesville: Caldwell is a lifelong Waynesville resident.

Political Experience: Currently a sitting board member, Caldwell has served four consecutive terms as a Waynesville alderman.

Why he is running: “I just enjoyed being in city government. I just really love it.”

Biggest challenge in the next term: “My challenge is completing the skate park. I’m halfway there. We’ve raised probably close to $160,000 of the $300,000 that we’re trying to raise to break ground on it, and that’s been my goal probably for the past 10 years. Finally we’ve got it really going on great.”


Sam Edwards

Age: 57

Occupation: Clergyman. Edwards spent two decades with the Episcopal church before becoming vicar at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Waynesville. He is now waiting to be received into the Catholic church.

Time in Waynesville: He lived in Waynesville through high school and returned in 2007.

Political Experience: Edwards unsuccessfully ran as a Republican against N.C. Rep. Ray Rapp, D-Mars Hill.

Why he is running: “I’d been concerned, with a bunch of other citizens, that the current administration in Waynesville is not providing a good climate for small businesses. I thought it was time to give the people a choice.”

What he’d bring to the new board: “Making do with less. We’re going to have to prioritize our budget and wisely spend the public’s money.”


Mary Ann Enloe

Age: 70

Occupation: Retired from Dayco after 37 years, most recently as the senior purchasing agent.

Time in Waynesville: Enloe is a lifelong Waynesville resident.

Political Experience: Enloe was the mayor of Hazelwood, a Haywood County commissioner for two terms and ran unsuccessfully as the Democratic candidate for N.C. House in 2000. She currently serves on the Haywood County Board of Equalization and Review and the Haywood County Fairgrounds Board. She has never run for office in Waynesville.

Why she is running: “It’s my love for this area. I live in the house I grew up in and I just have a real love for the area and a real understanding of how government has to work.”

Biggest challenge facing the new board: “I don’t know that it will be the biggest but it will certainly be at the top, will be hiring the new town manager.”


Julia Boyd Freeman

Age: 44

Occupation: Executive Director of REACH of Haywood County, a non-profit that deals with domestic violence.

Time in Waynesville: She is a lifelong resident.

Political Experience: Freeman has never run for public office, but sits on the Haywood County Department of Social Services Board and the North Carolina Domestic Violence Commission.

Why she is running: “For some time I’ve had an interest in public service and also in serving the community. I’ve got a vested interest in the community from a business standpoint, and there’s going to be a lot of changes in the town coming up in the next couple of years.”

Why she would make a good alderwoman: “I think I bring a youthful perspective, a younger generation connecting with the people. My desire to serve the community and work with diverse populations could make a big difference.”


Wells Greeley

Age: 59

Occupation: Owner of Wells Funeral Home, with locations in Waynesville and Canton.

Time in Waynesville: Greeley is a lifelong Haywood County resident, and has also lived in Canton.

Political Experience: Greeley is currently an alderman. He was appointed to fill the unexpired term of the late Kenneth Moore. He was also an alderman in Canton from 1981 to 1985.

Why he is running: “I did make the commitment when I accepted the appointment to run again, so I’m following through with my word.”

Biggest challenge of his previous term: “I knew it was going to be challenging and I have been pleasantly surprised with how well the town board works together.”


Ron Reid

Age: 55

Occupation: Owner of the Andon Reid Inn, a Waynesville bed-and-breakfast. Reid had a law enforcement career and was a health fitness consultant before becoming an inn-keeper in his retirement.

Time in Waynesville: He and his wife moved to Waynesville from the West Palm Beach, Fl., area in 2006.

Political Experience: This is his first run for public office, but has previously served on the board of the Haywood County Tourism Development Authority. He is currently on the board of directors at the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce.

Why he is running: “I’ve got a vision for the community. I like what the town is doing, I like the direction it’s been going in. I wanted  to be a part of that team.”

His top priorities for the next term: “The main thing is the economics. How are we going to keep the young people here, what’s going to be attractive to new businesses? Along with keeping the mountain Appalachian heritage and history. I would hate to see Waynesville just become anytown USA. People come here for a reason. We have to be progressive, manage smartly, but not forget what made Waynesville what it is.”


Leroy Roberson

Age: 67

Occupation: Optometrist at Haywood Optometric Care in Waynesville.

Time in Waynesville: Roberson is a lifelong resident of Waynesville.

Political Experience: He is completing a four-year term on the board and was elected as an alderman once in the past.

Why he is running: “Basically, I enjoy doing it. I think there’s still some things that need to be done, and maybe touch up on the land development standards.”

Greatest success of the current term: “Considering the financial difficulties that have presented themselves, we’ve been able to maintain the services and the town, I think, is being run quite well.”

Charlie Burgin had registered as a candidate last week, but has since decided not to run.

Lake Junaluska balances heritage, progress

Trevor Hudson has never liked the hymn “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus.”

The world behind me, the cross before me, he says, doesn’t make much sense. Isn’t Christianity about loving the world, not turning your back on them?

Come to mention it, he’s not in love with “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” either. Things of earth shall grow strangely dim? But isn’t Jesus supposed to bring the world and its needs into sharper focus?

“It’s blasphemy,” he says of the historic hymns, in an impassioned South African accent.

He’s saying it from the main stage at Stuart Auditorium perched on the edge of Lake Junaluska. His proclamation echoes off the soaring rafters and curving walls of the century-old auditorium, followed by a powerful silence.

Did he just say he hates “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus?” Pins dropping would resound in the silence, before Hudson continues, beseeching the crowd to listen to the world instead of mentally dimming it.

His message might seem unorthodox, but he is not the first to preach global-mindedness from that pulpit, and Lake Junaluska Assembly’s leadership hopes he won’t be the last.

Hudson came to the assembly’s oldest stage this month as part of the summer worship series. It’s a historic tradition that has long brought storied preachers and evangelists to the renowned Methodist conference center in Haywood County.

Actually, visiting preachers have been a part of the history of the place since its inception.

“Of course if you go back in the history — almost since the very beginning in 1913 — they’ve had different labels for the series and services that they had, but there were various pastors coming in from the get go,” says Bill Lowry, resident historian at Lake Junaluska and author of the book The Antechamber of Heaven, a History of Lake Junaluska Assembly.

Through the decades, the assembly has played host to famous clergymen such as Billy Graham and a slew of well-known British preachers.

From the beginning, the services were always well-attended, especially the summer meetings.

“The opening service, which took place in June of 1913, had approximately 4,000 people show up,” says Lowry, which was, he said, thanks in part to the friendly relationship the conference center shared with the local community.

Churches and businesses would get the news about summer preachers, spreading it along their built-in networks, and people came.

From the outset, says Lowry, the focus was worldwide.

“There was a very strong missionary emphasis on the grounds to begin with,” he says. “The very first event was a missionary conference, there were speakers there from China and other countries.”

That outlook is one of the solid foundations the leaders of today’s Lake Junaluska are hoping to build and grow the worship series on in the future.

Because the church is changing, and to stay alive, the assembly has to follow suit.

“I think our largest challenge is to reach a younger community,” says Roger Dowdy, the ministry director. It’s his job to keep things like the summer worship series relevant, and that’s sometimes a challenge — to serve and please the aging group that has long been the pillar of support and simultaneously attract a younger audience that will keep it alive.

“The relevance is by far the most important thing,” says Dowdy. “Preaching is changing in the church, it has become more free from the pulpit, it has become more narrative, whether it’s the preacher’s story or the church story. People want dynamic preaching.”

That’s a truth that can be seen across denominations in the Protestant church writ large in America, from the rise of the house church to the popularity of celebrity pastors and megachurches that focus and rely on the charisma of their leaders.

“It’s this incredible balance that we have to walk,” says Lake Junaluska Executive Director Jack Ewing. “We absolutely have to find ways to attract younger people so that this can continue going forward into the future.”

Ewing came to this job only a few months ago, with the charge and vision for continuing to usher Lake Junaluska into the modern church era.

With things like the summer worship series, the challenge is staying relevant and also true to the rich history of tradition the practice stands on.

Even before Lake Junaluska Assembly encamped on the lake’s shore almost 100 years ago, the tradition of traveling Methodists was already well established in Haywood County.

There are accounts of Methodist preachers stopping to give sermons here in the early 19th century. Many of their names are scrawled on the walls of the third floor chapel in the historic Shook House in Clyde, where many visiting pastors known as circuit riders made their pulpit pitches.

Fast forward nearly two centuries and the tradition hasn’t dimmed, but the strength of the church in society seems to be fading.

That truth isn’t lost on Ewing, who speaks of lost generations that don’t show up to the summer sermons like they did in decades past.

A 2010 Gallup poll found that 16 percent of Americans claim no specific religious identity. It was next to nothing in 1950. Another found that 70 percent of Americans told pollsters they believe religion is losing influence on American life.

Dowdy and Ewing know this is what they have to contend with.

“We will attempt to straddle this line between our traditional population base at the same time as being relevant to new generations,” said Ewing. “The reality is, what worship will look like in Stuart Auditorium 10 years from now, we don’t really know. But it isn’t about just being faithful to a tradition. We need to be faithful to God, not faithful to our traditions.”


Lake Junaluska Assembly Summer Worship schedule

All services begin at 10:45 a.m. in Stuart Auditorium at Lake Junaluska Assembly, unless otherwise noted.

• Rev. Susan Leonard-Ray - July 17

• Rev. Jeremy Troxler - July 24

• Rev. Mike Slaughter (8:30 a.m.) - July 31

• Rev. Grace Imathiu - July 31

• Rev. Shane Bishop - August 7

• Dr. Leonard Sweet - August 14

Waynesville alderwoman won’t run again

In Waynesville, it’s time again for a town board election, marking the end of four-year terms for both the mayor and all four aldermen.

The election will be particularly critical with the impending retirement of longtime Town Manager Lee Galloway next year. His replacement will be chosen by the town board after the fall election.

The board already had one early shakeup, after the death of Alderman Kenneth Moore in 2009. Wells Greeley, owner of Wells Funeral Home, was tapped to fill the vacant seat and has said that he intends to run for it this year.

“I did make the commitment when I accepted the appointment to run again, so I’m following through with my word,” said Greeley. Though he was appointed to his current seat, this won’t be his first try at a political race.

Greeley ran for and was elected to an alderman post twice in Canton.

Elsewhere on the board, first-term incumbent Dr. Leroy Roberson said that he’s also considering a run for re-election, citing the success of the board in passing the town’s new land-use standards and the ease with which the current board runs.

“Basically, I enjoy doing it,” said Roberson, an optometrist with an office on Main Street. “Considering the financial difficulties that have presented themselves [with the economy], we’ve been able to maintain the services and the town, I think, is being run quite well.”

Alderman Gary Caldwell, who has now seen four terms on the board, will be going back for another shot. If he’s successful, this term would give him two decades on the board.

Not all of the longer-term board members, however, will be back for another round. Libba Feichter, who is closing out her third term on the board, won’t be returning in the fall. Feichter was out of state on family business and could not be reached for comment.

In the mayor’s chair, Mayor Gavin Brown is now wrapping up his first term as mayor, but 12th year on the board.

Brown moved up to the job of mayor in 2007 after ousting long-time incumbent Henry Foy. This year, said Brown, he’s ready to settle in for another four years.

“I don’t personally believe in term limits, I believe in limiting yourself,” said Brown, who added that his expertise and long record of service allows him to bring experience to the equation that others won’t have.

“I’ve been very pleased with the things that have happened here over the last four, eight, 12 years that I’ve been on this board. I think Waynesville is one of the best towns in the state.”

While the names of challengers have been circulating, none would confirm intentions to run yet, but there will be at least one new face on the board this fall when Feichter’s successor is chosen by voters in November.

Waynesville coffee hotspot emerges from woes after hiatus

When sewage began flooding out of the floor one January Saturday at Waynesville’s Coffee Zone, Coni Bishop knew things were about to get bad.

Bishop was the coffee-and-sandwich shop’s owner. And when she and some staff were working one weekend and started seeing the kitchen’s floor drains bubbling up with befouled water, she figured she would be closed for a little while. What she didn’t expect was five months out of business and a move out of Waynesville.

While the Coffee Zone is no more, Bishop’s business has been reincarnated as the Copper Leaf Café, located at High Country Furniture on the edge of Maggie Valley.

The revived coffee spot opened last Monday, following a long and arduous few months for Bishop and her staff, most of whom she had to let go.

She’s been able to reopen, thanks to an agreement with High Country, which owns the shop and employs Bishop to run it. That, she said, solved her biggest problem in the wake of the sewage backup.

“I was reimbursed for the product I lost — we had to get rid of every single thing that was in the store — and we were also able to recover our equipment that got damaged from the water, but that’s all we ended up with,” said Bishop. “We lost our business investment. There was no way to recoup that.”

So while she wanted to restart the business soon after, without startup capital, it was impossible.

There was always the option of going back into the Coffee Zone building, which sits in the center of a shopping center plaza on Russ Avenue and was once a bank. But even after the professionals came in and scoured everything sanitary, Bishop said she just couldn’t move her shop back in.

For one thing, there was the smell.

“It was just horrible,” said Bishop. That’s partly because the sewage had seeped up through the floor drains and then promptly poured back down onto the building’s ductwork and air conditioning system, which were under the floors. And then it sat for three weeks while the issue of who, exactly, was responsible for sorting out the mess.

Was it the town, which is in charge of sewage systems? The landlord, who is responsible for making sure the building remains in solid, habitable shape?

As it transpires, the answer is option B, the landlord. And, according to Bishop, the property owner hadn’t really kept the building maintained to code.

“One of my frustrations, what was so difficult, is that there‘s no enforcement agency that goes around to property owners and sees if they’re up to code,” said Bishop. “I feel like this could have been prevented, or at least [have been] a lot less invasive to our business.”

And, said Town Manager Lee Galloway, that’s true. But a policing operation like that would be far beyond what the town could reasonably manage.

“They’re supposed to remain up to code, but they don’t have to go back and retrofit their building unless they’re having major work done on their building,” said Galloway. “It would be pretty much impossible for us to have enough inspectors to go out and check that sort of thing.”

And Bishop concedes this point, though it was little consolation when she had standing sewage in her kitchen.

The town couldn’t really do anything because they only own the collection lines at the very edges of the shopping center. The sewer lines are all private and ancient, and apparently most people there are pretty unclear about where they even are or how to shut them off. That was another contributing factor to the woes of Coffee Zone, as it allowed sewage to flow freely until someone could locate the shut-off valve.

These days, said Galloway, most new builds put in sewer lines that they then dedicate to the town, transferring responsibility into municipal hands.

“That’s more common now than it was 40, 50 years ago, and I guess for this very problem, because property changes hands and no one knows where the lines are,” said Galloway.

For Bishop, she’s no longer angry about what happened on Russ Avenue; she’s positive about her new venture and not too concerned about losing the dedicated customer base she’d cultivated at Coffee Zone.

“I think once people find out and they realize it’s not in Maggie Valley, it’s just a little way past Smackers, I think well be OK,” said Bishop. “There’s no drive-through, and that’s a down side, that’s something that we lost. Drive-through really was 40 percent of our business. But so far it’s getting busier each day.”

Watershed stroll

The first 2011 sojourn into the Town of Waynesville’s 8,000-plus acre watershed occurred last Saturday (June 11). The town has been sponsoring and coordinating a couple of guided hikes into the watershed each year since 2007. It’s a way for residents and other interested parties to see this wonderful resource that has been placed in a conservation easement to ensure the town has an ample supply of high-quality drinking water for generations to come.

For those of you just awakening from a seven-year coma, there was a bit of a stir back then regarding some of the attributes of the easement. Some areas of the watershed are in a “forever wild” easement — which basically means hands off. However, a large portion of the watershed is in a “working forest” easement — which gives the town the authority (and perhaps even the directive) to actively manage the forest. And “active” forest management includes logging — a term that, justifiably, sends shivers up and down the spine of many environmentalists/conservationists.

There was an immediate hue and cry (some perhaps politically prompted) regarding the motivation for and the consequences of logging in the watershed back in 2004. While emotions fer and agin logging the watershed ran rampant at coffee shops and in “letters to the editor,” the town proceeded in a rational way by creating a public oversight committee and commissioning a study of the condition of the watershed and the creation of a management plan for the watershed. I believe it was during this laborious process of studying the watershed and hashing out the details of a management plan that the idea of hikes into the watershed, where citizens could get a first-hand look, germinated.

The hikes have been well received and this year’s first hike was no exception. Alison Melnikova, assistant town manager and watershed hike coordinator extraordinaire, had to halt registration at 65 for this hike. Forty-nine of those registered showed up!

I must say we were quaking in our boots a bit concerning the logistics of providing a quality experience for 65 hikers. But a big shout out to Dan Callaghan, Forest Stewards’ Americorps apprentice forester; Ed Kelley, photographer/naturalist; and Michael Skinner, executive director at Balsam Mountain Trust for answering the frantic pleas for help and volunteering their time to help create a quality outing for participants.

Dr. Pete Bates, professor of natural resources at Western Carolina University, president of the board of directors of Forest Stewards and lead researcher of Waynesville’s Watershed Management plan, has always been one of the leaders for the watershed hikes. In the early years Bates’ groups never got in much of a hike due to all the Q and A regarding the management plan. But Bates is a stalwart and convincing supporter of the plan and the science used to create it and is always happy to discuss the merits and objectives of the watershed management plan.

This year ,Bates got to stretch his legs and obviously had a good hike: “Overall I thought the hike went well. I had about 20 in my group, and we did about an eight-mile, out and back from the water treatment plant.  We saw a variety of forest communities ranging from white pine plantations to rich coves to northern hardwoods at about 4,700-feet elevation. For those in my group, it was a great opportunity to see the watershed and learn more about the town’s efforts to care for its forests.”

We took advantage of Ed Kelley’s photographic skills by offering a last-minute opportunity for those interested in nature photography and had about a half-dozen takers. According to Kelley, “…we did a lot of close-ups and exercises in observation, looking for subject matter, addressed some creative things you can do with your camera when there’s not a lot of great photo subjects, and I answered some technical questions about photography, as well as tried to get them to thinking about using what they saw along the way to plan future photo outings (i.e. a remembering the location of a group of staghorn sumac that will be blazing orange-red in the fall.)”

Michael Skinner kind of floated between groups. Fortunately, he was with my group, with his bird-app, when we had blackburnian warblers overhead. He was able to play the song, coaxing the blackburnian down where most people got good looks. Skinner noted, “I had a few in the group suggest we do this more often.”

As for me, I was doing my usual grand job of spreading misinformation. We encountered some yellow mandarin (not in flower) and I was trying to think of the other common name for it when “cucumber root” jumped out of my mouth. I have no idea why. The plants look nothing alike. There is some similarity in the flowers but even that’s a stretch. I guess I’ll write it off as a senior moment. The other common name for yellow mandarin is fairybells — sounds a lot like cucumber root doesn’t it.

(Don Hendershot is a writer and naturalist. He can be reached a This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..)

Appalachian lifestyle takes center stage

If there’s one thing that runs deep in Appalachia, it’s roots. Whether it’s the roots of its ancient pines or the roots of a unique way of life still celebrated here, the Smokies are steeped in heritage.

And now, with a new festival sprouting up this weekend, Waynesville visitors and residents can celebrate the history and legacy of that singular Appalachian liftestyle.

The Appalachian Lifestyle Celebration is a day-long festival dedicated to the traditions that define the region, like bluegrass music, arts and crafts, and practical crafts like blacksmithing, quilting and wood turning.

Buffy Phillips, executive director of the Downtown Waynesville Association, said a spate of interest in the subject helped spark the idea for the festival.

“There’s a lot of interest in heritage, history and culture. People seem to be really drawn to that throughout the Southeast,” said Phillips.

Festival-goers will have the chance to see live demonstrations of traditional Appalachian handicrafts and practices, such as basket making, blacksmithing, quilting, weaving, wood working, wood carving, pottery, painting and soap making.

Folk toys, old tractors and old tools and other elements of old Appalachia will be on display. Meanwhile, artists and craftspeople still keeping those traditions alive will be on hand to sell their creations.

Even the food, said Phillips, is reminiscent of the old mountain South.

“We’ll have cornbread and beans, corn cakes, iced tea and lemonade,” said Phillips, plus a plethora of other foods that find their roots here.

For mountain music aficionados, however, there will be more than a few acts to choose from.

Headlining the event will be folk musician David Holt. Holt has four Grammys under his belt and a musical resume that spans four decades. He’s played with bluegrass legends like Doc Watson, Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs and spent much of his early career traveling to minuscule mountain communities, learning the finer points of traditional mountain music.

He’ll bring his old-time banjo skills to the stage, where he’ll perform with young acoustic musician Josh Goforth. Goforth is no novice — he’s already garnered a Grammy nomination — and he’s been playing in the Smokies since his childhood in East Tennessee.

In addition to Holt and Goforth, singer-and-storyteller Michael Reno Harrell will give two performances. The Hominy Valley Boys and The Hill Country Band will provide the lively bluegrass background for three local clogging groups.

For those seeking to get in a few rounds on the dance floor themselves, former North Carolina Senator Joe Sam Queen will call a square dance in the afternoon that is open to all ages.

For readers, there will be local authors, traditional storytellers and readers’ theater spinning tales of Appalachia, old and new.

The celebration, said Phillips, has been long in the making and she’s hopeful it will become a regular feature on Waynesville’s downtown summer calendar.

“We talked about this probably at least three years ago, and this is the first year that we’ve been able to pull it off,” said Phillips. “There’s a lot of history and our culture deserving of our interest in this area.”



Main stage (Miller Street)

• 9:45-10:45 — Hominy Valley Boys

• 11-11:45 — David Holt

• Noon-1:15   Hominy Valley Boys (Southern Appalachian Cloggers at 12:30 p.m.)

• 1:30-2:15 — David Holt

• 2:30-3:40 — Michael Reno Harrell

• 3:45-5 — Hominy Valley Boys (Fines Creek Flatfooters Cloggers at 4 p.m. and Smoky Mountain Stompers Cloggers at 4:30 pm.)

Courthouse stage

• 9:45-10:30 — The Ross Brothers

• 10:30-11:15 — Ginny McAfee

• 11:15-12:30 — Michael Reno Harrell

• 12:30-2:30 — Hill Country Band (Southern Appalachian Cloggers at 1:15 p.m. and Flatfooters Cloggers at 2 p.m.)

• 2:30-3 p.m. — McKenzie Wilson

• 3-4 p.m. — Hill Country Band (Smoky Mountain Stoppers Cloggers at 3:30 pm.)

• 4-5 p.m. — The Ross Brothers

Southend area

• 11:30-12:15 — McKenzie Wilson

• 12:30-12:50 — HART Readers Theater

• 1-2 — Ginny McAfee

• 2:15-2:35 — HART Readers Theater

• 2:45-3:30 — Ann Lough

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