Four years ago, Jennie Wyderko — then finishing up her undergrad at Virginia Tech — had barely even touched a mountain bike.
Fast forward to 2015, and she’s one of two female officers for the Nantahala Area Southern Off Road Bicycle Association, co-organizer of a women-only skills clinic and weekly ride through the club and a year out from finishing a 2,000-mile mountain bike route along the Great Divide in the Rocky Mountains.
Cullowhee residents crowded the basketball court at the Cullowhee Recreation Center last week for a chance to sound off during the last public hearing before Jackson County Commissioners take a final vote on whether to adopt the Cullowhee Community Planning Standards.
Earlier this year, it looked like Monarch Ventures, a Charlotte-based company that’s been trying for years to build a high-density 500-bed student housing complex in Cullowhee, could be history.
The Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity will be absent from Western Carolina University’s roster of Greek life opportunities until 2020, following a February incident in which a PKA pledge claimed to be waterboarded by his fraternity brothers.
When the Cherokee Tribal Council voted to give itself a hefty pay raise last fall — $10,000 extra a year plus tens of thousands in backpay for the years when it supposedly should have already been receiving those extra dollars — the decision aroused the ire of a staunch contingent of tribal members who deemed it illegal.
From paved 5K routes to epic trail runs and triathlons, Western North Carolina is rife with outdoor races of all types. But a peek at the history shows that the bulk of these events are new arrivals on the landscape, most founded in the past decade or so with new ones popping up each year.
“Sporting events seem to be growing across the nation, and people are interested in taking their families on these trips,” said CeCe Hipps, executive director of the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce. “What better place to be in the great outdoors than Haywood County?”
Plans are under way to build a new apartment complex near — but not in — the town of Sylva, an idea that seemed to meet favor from the planning board when it was presented earlier this month.
The old Drexel furniture factory in Whittier isn’t producing much these days, unless you count bird nests and ivy vines as products. Tall grasses wave across the 21-acre property, obscuring the wood pallets strewn across the yard and reaching into a crumbling woodshed offset from the main building. Vines spider across the building’s brick exterior, and swallows dart and dive in the grasses.
Breweries could be built and alcohol served at special events in Cherokee, if a House bill currently awaiting hearing in a Senate committee becomes state law.
Solar power is on the rise across the U.S., and a campaign recently launched in Western North Carolina is urging mountain folk to join the trend.
“You can only do what you can afford to do, and now that it’s affordable, people are taking advantage of it and getting involved,” said Avram Friedman, executive director of The Canary Coalition, one of the two groups collaborating on the Solarize WNC campaign. “I think we’ve sort of reached that critical mass when things are turning around.”
Discussion about a new industrial development ordinance is just getting going in the Jackson County Planning Board, but the board didn’t waste any time in taking a unanimous vote asserting that fracking — a controversial form of fossil fuel extraction recently legalized in North Carolina — falls under county regulations for mining.
A state investigation into jail conditions in Jackson County turned up a passel of compliance issues and a mandate that Sheriff Chip Hall submit a plan of correction by the end of the month.
Jackson County’s Tourism Development Authority will soon launch a search for a tourism director, a milestone for the newly minted countywide tourism agency.
It was a century ago that Beverly Kiohawiton Cook’s relative was taken from his family and shipped off to Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Those years at school, days of travel away from family and forbidden to use native dress and speech, were traumatic.
For the third year in a row, opossums are making their way to the political scene in the N.C. General Assembly.
The bill — of which Rep. Roger West, R-Marble, is a primary sponsor — would suspend all state wildlife laws related to possums between Dec. 29 and Jan. 2 each year. It’s currently awaiting hearing in the House Committee on Wildlife Resources.
Town commissioners are once again mulling over the question of two-way traffic in downtown Sylva with the conclusion of a traffic study from Waynesville-based J.M. Teague Engineering this month.
When the bats leave the belfry: Fungus cuts down bat population, sparks speculation on species, ecosystem future
Sarah Davis loves bats. They’ve been the wintertime residents of Linville Caverns for as long as she can remember, a marker of the seasons she looks forward to each year. The cave, a commercial cavern near Marion, has been in Davis’ family since the 1940s — she and the bats go way back.
“There would be hundreds of them in the winter, and I absolutely loved them,” Davis recalls.
It was about 5:15 p.m. on March 13 and Mark Leamon, a jailer at the Jackson County Jail, was in the midst of his routine visual check of the male inmates incarcerated there. It’s an oft-repeated exercise, a quick check to make sure that everybody’s safe and obeying the rules.
A pair of hikers camped near the Lower Falls in Graveyard Fields got a rude awakening March 16 when a bear entered the tent where the backpackers — and at least one of their packs — were spending the night.
“That right there is the number one ‘do not do’ when you’re camping is keeping anything with food inside your tent,” said Justin McVey, wildlife biologist for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “The situation could have easily been alleviated had the camper hung the food.”
Cherokee will have a new chief when Election Day concludes this September.
Principal Chief Michell Hicks, who is serving his third four-year term, will not seek re-election, but five candidates have filed in hopes of taking his place.
Jackson County Commissioners have voiced their opposition to fracking in the mountains loud and clear, and now they’ve signed an agreement making Jackson the first county in North Carolina to lean on the Natural Resources Defense Counsel for help writing rules to mitigate the industry’s impact in their jurisdiction.
The way is now open for oil and gas companies to start drilling in North Carolina, but no wells are going to pop up any time soon. Besides the time lag automatically built into the permitting process, low natural gas prices will likely discourage development and a pending lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of the very commission that wrote the rules could invalidate them.
Sharing food can be a simple thing. Like passing a bag of trail mix to the hiking buddy who forgot to pack lunch, or ladling an extra bowl of chili for the neighbor who stopped by at dinnertime.
June Johnson’s foray into the world of gardening began in the dead of winter. A sunny January day last year inspired her to venture outside, and her walk brought her to the path behind Maggie Valley United Methodist Church and the grassy lawn surrounding it. The sight made her pause.
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“Having grown up around farming, I thought, ‘Why don’t they have a church garden?’ and roamed into the back of the church,” recalled Johnson, a retired teacher and native of Haywood County.
If the stack of boxes piling up on the counter of the outfitter store at Nantahala Outdoor Center is any indication, thru-hiker season is coming fast. The parcels of food, reminders of home and creature comforts are welcome diversions from the travel-light lifestyle on the Appalachian Trail, where miles are many and luxuries are few.
“A lot of people ask about what you’re thinking about [on the trail],” said Youngblood, an 18-year-old hiker whose off-trail name is P.J. Coleman, as he sorted through his just-opened box of mail drop goodies. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, you’re thinking about food.”
Security upgrades are on the way at the Jackson County Justice Center, but commissioners have decided to hold off on any expansion of the lobby area — at least for now.
A parking enforcement ordinance in Sylva is making an appearance in the state Legislature.
If Lisa Muscillo has a superpower, it’s probably her ability to zero in on roadside litter, no matter how well it’s hidden or how high the speed limit.
It’s been nearly 20 years since Burt Kornegay first started looking into land along Hickory Knoll Road in Macon County, but dirt is finally moving on the Bartram Trail Society’s vision of routing a piece of the long-distance trail away from the road and over the Pinnacle and George Gray Mountain instead.
“This had been years in the making,” said Kornegay, who was in the midst of his 12 years as president of the Bartram Trail Society when he bought the land. “This was going on even before these tracts of land came up.”
Proponents of domestic violence prevention are cheering following the launch of a federal law that will allow tribal courts to prosecute non-Indians who commit domestic violence on tribal land.
“It’s going to be a really good thing for the tribe,” said Bill Boyum, Chief Justice of the Cherokee Supreme Court.
After allegedly depositing money meant to purchase emergency rescue equipment in a personal account, Cullowhee resident Addam Carl Holdorf, 21, is free on $20,000 bond.
Western Carolina University has held steady on its rate of tenured and tenure-track professors over the last decade, keeping numbers of permanent faculty that far outstrip the national average.
When Bruce Henderson first came to Western Carolina University back in 1978, he was just happy to have a job. The market was tight when he finished his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, so he took what he was offered. Within a couple years, he figured, he’d be able to move somewhere more notable than the little college in Cullowhee.
Big white stencils of helmeted bikers now adorn a growing number of streets throughout Waynesville.
The plans are set: Waynesville’s getting invaded this fall, and the army will be 1,000 strong.
Semi trucks will haul luggage and portable showers, tents will dominate the lawn of the Waynesville Recreation Center and, most importantly, the soldiers, adventurous souls who have signed up to pedal nearly 500 miles across the state in Cycle North Carolina’s Mountains to Coast Tour, will show up with two-wheeled mounts in tow.
Campus dining is headed for an upgrade at Western Carolina University, with renovation toward a new and improved Brown Building due to start this fall.
The decision to expand the tailgating area at Western Carolina University boiled down to one simple thing, the university’s attorney Mary Ann Lochner told the Board of Trustees’ Administration, Governance and Trusteeship Committee last week.
A fire tax for Sylva and Cullowhee is off the table, at least for now, but Jackson County Commissioners told county staff to keep going on the Cashiers and Highlands fire districts.
It wasn’t long before the management planning process for the Pisgah and Nantahala national forests got heated and emotional, eventually causing the U.S. Forest Service to ease up on its original goal of releasing a draft plan this June.
Blood quantum. Even on their own, the words have a ceremonial, reverent ring to them.
For Cherokee tribal members, reality bears out the ring. Blood quantum — the fraction of one’s ancestry that is purely Cherokee — decides everything from a person’s ability to own land in the Qualla Boundary to availability of scholarships for college to eligibility to receive a share in casino profits each year.
With a slate of issues including steep slope development, cell phone tower construction and zoning rules for fracking facing the county, Sarah Thompson — formerly Sarah Graham — will be taking the helm as chair of the Jackson County Planning Board.
Jackson County’s elected leaders will be have a big decision to make over the coming month: to levy a fire tax forcing property owners in lower-value areas of the county to pay higher bills or watch local fire departments continue to struggle with old equipment and insufficient manpower.
The new Smokies superintendent got his introduction to the North Carolina side of the park amid plates of snacks and the homey trappings of a bed and breakfast in Bryson City last week.
Sipping hot tea while swaddled beside a propane heater, warmth beaming as wind whips snowflakes around the mountaintop outside. A stack of books beside the bed, well-worn titles alongside new adventures, a self-replenishing treasure trove of stories illuminated by kerosene-fueled light. Outside, darkness obscuring what dawn will reveal to be an ocean-like view of mountains upon mountains, frosted with snow and seeming to bow before the 6,594-foot peak of Mount LeConte, the third highest summit in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
It’s a romantic image, an idyll about which a society steeped in virtual reality is still wont to fanaticize. But for the past four winters, those cozy evenings and frostbitten mornings have been J.P. Krol’s life.
For the first time in more than 18 years, fees at the Ralph J. Andrews Campground on Lake Glenville, which is owned and operated by Jackson County, will go up, but Jackson County residents won’t feel the bite.
Attorneys for the Town of Sylva and No Name Sports Pub are busy trying to hash out the legal road forward for the town’s noise ordinance and sound levels at the music-oriented bar.
Following a Feb. 5 town meeting during which No Name supporters and opponents alike filled town hall to sound off during the public comment session, the bar’s lawyer contacted the town.
County and university officials had a sit-down last week over the question of whether Western Carolina University should fall under Jackson County’s revised subdivision ordinance.
The Haywood County Tourism Development Authority plans to grow its staff to five as it dives into reviewing applications for a new group sales manager.
Scanty wireless networks, outdated computer equipment, slow servers — technological woes have been a centerpiece of discussion at Cherokee Tribal Council meetings for quite some time. After months of introducing resolutions only to table them and hours-long meetings with finance, technology and broadband leaders, Council this month took action on a slate of legislation designed to give some direction to the technology overhaul and designate funds with which to do it.
Higher education in North Carolina got some good news with the release of an economic impact study last week, which put its collective economic impact during 2012-13 at $2 billion in the 11 western counties and $63.5 billion statewide.