Holly Kays

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On May 21, 2000, a beloved Sevier County elementary school teacher named Glenda Ann Bradley took a walk on the Little River Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with her ex-husband Ralph Hill. Both Hill and Bradley, 50, were experienced hikers, so when Hill went off-trail to fish, Bradley did some solo hiking while she waited for him. 

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Now carrying double the vacancies it had in the summer of 2019, Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos is feeling the effects of a labor shortage  that’s challenging businesses nationwide — but the situation has improved significantly in recent months.   

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Cherokee voters will decide whether to loosen alcohol regulations on the Qualla Boundary this September by answering three referendum questions Tribal Council approved Wednesday, July 7

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After a 45-minute off-air discussion  July 8, the Cherokee Tribal Council approved a $275 million master plan to expand the Valley River Casino in Murphy. 

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For the second month in a row , the first item on Tribal Council’s agenda  was an ordinance to legalize same-sex marriage on the Qualla Boundary, and for the second month in a row, members voted July 8 to deny the legislation even the perfunctory first reading necessary to place it on a future agenda for debate and a vote. 

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Following an explosion of use at Max Patch, the U.S. Forest Service is prohibiting camping and fires on the iconic site, among other new restrictions now in effect for the next two years. 

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While prominently displayed “now hiring” signs and sign-on bonuses attest to the difficulty many employers now face in staffing their operations, outdoor businesses have been largely exempt from the summer’s labor crisis — just as they were from the faltering consumer demand that rattled many industries this time last year.

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University of North Carolina System President Peter Hans toured institutional improvements at Western Carolina University July 1, marking his first visit to campus since the UNC Board of Governors elected him to the position in June 2020. 

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With the state’s biennial budget process  now nearing its conclusion, Western Carolina University employees are hopeful that they could soon see their first permanent raise in three years. 

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Bernadette Peters, owner of City Lights Café, has been hired to lead economic development efforts in downtown Sylva. 

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There are now too few ginseng plants in the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests to allow for sustainable harvesting, leading the U.S. Forest Service to announce that it will not issue any harvesting permits this year. 

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Following an explosion of use and impact at Max Patch, the U.S. Forest Service is prohibiting camping and fires on the iconic site, among other new restrictions now in effect.

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At 10 a.m. Friday, June 25, the parking lot above the Jackson County Early College was nothing but a mundane expanse of asphalt on the upper campus of Southwestern Community College, all but deserted for summer break. 

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Since Gov. Roy Cooper lifted the mask mandate on May 14, indoor gatherings have returned and face coverings have nearly disappeared from public spaces, while daily case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths have continued to plummet. 

 

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The Sylva Board of Commissioners unanimously approved an agreement with the Pinnacle Park Foundation during its June 24 meeting aimed at moving along key conservation and recreation projects on the town-owned forest. 

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On Friday, June 4, three longtime trustees said goodbye to seats they’d held on the Western Carolina University Board of Trustees since July 2013. 

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Facing an estimated price tag of $1.5 million to fix persistent landslide issues on Allen Street, the Town of Sylva is asking the State to take on half the cost. 

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Just shy of a year after it passed a resolution demanding the relocation of Sylva’s Confederate statue, the Sylva Town Board has passed a new resolution, this one rebuking the Jackson County Board of Commissioners’ response to its original request. 

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A temporary ban on tents and soft-sided campers at Mount Pisgah Campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway has been extended through Thursday, July 1.

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In February, Sylva’s town board gave its enthusiastic support to a plan that would bring 35 miles of multi-use trail to 2,000 acres of forest owned by the town and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. But during their most recent meeting , members heard from a biologist who urged them to slow down before approving any construction. 

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The first students moved into The Husk at Western Carolina University last August, but nearly a year later the companies responsible for developing, designing and building the environmentally disastrous  Millennial Campus student housing development are embroiled in a complex lawsuit that has left at least one local subcontractor facing a six-figure deficit until the situation resolves. 

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After 16 years and one week on the job, Mike Fitzgerald is officially retired from Dillsboro’s town board— but not from his place as owner of the only remaining shoe repair shop in North Carolina's seven western counties. 

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The 200-acre piece of land that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is developing along Interstate 40 in Sevier County will be soon be home to the world’ largest convenience store. 

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A bear has been euthanized and a backcountry site closed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park after a 16-year-old girl was attacked and injured while sleeping in her hammock near her family around 12:30 a.m. Friday, June 18.

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A temporary ban on tents and soft-sided campers at Mount Pisgah Campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway has been extended through Thursday, July 1, due to ongoing bear activity. 

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ArborEvenings is back at the N.C. Arboretum in Asheville, offering opportunity to spend Thursday and Friday evenings strolling through the gardens through Oct. 1.

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The boards governing Sylva and Jackson County both passed budget ordinances this month that feature a change in tax rate, but the rate adjustments and levels of consensus differed considerably between the two. 

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After flying into town and renting a car for their Memorial Day Weekend visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, three adults visited Cades Cove on Saturday, May 29. 

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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will partner with two other Native American tribes and a developer to build a 200-room hotel in Pigeon Forge, expected to open in summer 2023. 

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As the pandemic continues to recede, Western Carolina University is planning for a fall semester that “will look more like fall 2019 around here than fall 2020,” Chancellor Kelli Brown told trustees during a June 4 meeting. 

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By unanimous vote during their Tuesday, June 1, meeting, Jackson County commissioners passed a resolution  that “calls upon the North Carolina General Assembly and the United States Congress to use all their powers and authority to protect our citizens’ freedom under the Constitution.”

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A portion of the Appalachian Trail in the Pisgah National Forest is closed to camping due to bear activity.

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A wall of wind hurtles through the asphalt-covered mountain gap as I exit my car, popping open the trunk to rummage through the sea of stuff for any last-minute additions to the loaded backpack lying atop the mess. 

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Volunteers are needed to help with the upcoming Special Olympics season on the Qualla Boundary. 

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Mainspring Conservation Trust has hired two new positions, expanding the regional nonprofit’s staff to 12 people. 

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Learn more about Made X Mtns, a new regional brand for Western North Carolina, at 4 p.m. Tuesday, June 15, at Fire Mountain Outpost in Cherokee. 

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The N.C. Department of Transportation’s crews, contractors and volunteers have collected more than 6 million pounds of litter from roadsides, more than the total weight collected during all of 2020. 

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Brandon Light, a student in Haywood Community College’s Forest Management Technology Program, has been named the college’s Academic Excellence Award winner. 

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Every month, the Tribal Council agenda starts the same way. The chairman calls the meeting to order, and then there’s a prayer, a roll call, a call for requested changes to the agenda and a unanimous vote to deem the ever-present list of new proposed ordinances read and tabled. That’s not how the June 1 meeting went. 

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Blue Ridge Parkway rangers will host a new outdoor interpretive series dubbed “Fridays at the Folk Art Center” at 7:30 p.m. every Friday this season at the Folk Art Center in Asheville. 

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A partial solar eclipse will be visible across the northern hemisphere on Thursday, June 10, hitting Western North Carolina around sunrise. 

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Of North Carolina’s 100 counties, 84 are currently abnormally dry or experiencing drought — but the far western region is so far exempt. 

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After multiple work sessions and a public hearing, Jackson County commissioners may designate an additional $444,000 in the 2021-22 budget for law enforcement and emergency response salaries. 

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Tribal Council incumbents fared well in Thursday’s Primary Election, with all six representatives who faced primary contests sailing easily toward the Sept. 2 General Election. However, the General Election ballot will feature only one incumbent Cherokee Central Schools Board member between the three school board races underway this year. 

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Visitors to the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness on the Nantahala National Forest should take extra precautions after recent reports of bear encounters in the area. 

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The 2021 Assault on Blackrock trail race raised $4,100 for the Southwestern Community College Student Emergency Fund. 

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Tribal Council incumbents fared well in Thursday’s Primary Election, with all six representatives who faced primary contests sailing easily toward the Sept. 2 General Election. The General Election ballot will feature only one incumbent Cherokee Central Schools Board member among the three seats up for election this year.

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After five years heading the agency, Jennifer Abshire will retire as director of the Jackson County Department of Social Services on July 1. Following a closed session discussion June 1, county commissioners unanimously approved the social services board’s decision to hire Graham County DSS Director Cris Weatherford to take her place.

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The morning fog is barely lifting at 8 a.m. when a group of five women meet outside Kathy Odvody’s home in Waynesville. I add my fully loaded backpack to the pile accumulating in the rear of Outdoor Mission Community’s lumbering 15-passenger van, and after a brief exchange of names we buckle in for a 36-hour wilderness adventure. 

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Sarah Dearmon was the only person who spoke during the May 27 public hearing for a proposed Sylva town budget  that calls for an 18 percent increase over the general fund from 2020-21. But her comments directly addressed the main debate board members and town citizens have grappled with during this year’s budget process. 

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