Holly Kays

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Casinos in Cherokee and Murphy will be permanently smoke-free following a majority vote from Tribal Council Dec. 9, codifying a policy that’s been in place since the Coronavirus Pandemic spurred a temporary ban on lighting up indoors. 

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Lewis Easton Cantwell, a Sylva resident facing charges related to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol Building, was expected to strike a plea deal during a virtual court hearing last week but instead announced a change in representation, along with a request to continue the case into 2022. 

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Tribal Council voted Dec. 9 to support the Nikwasi Initiative’s  efforts to land $5 million in grant funds for a cultural corridor around the Nikwasi Mound in Franklin, but the precise details of the tribe’s involvement have yet to be determined. 

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The statewide burn ban enacted Nov. 29 was lifted for 67 counties as of noon Wednesday, Dec. 8, due to rainfall touching much of the state in the early part of the week.

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It was around 1 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 4, when Ken Brown’s phone started lighting up with photo texts depicting a massive sediment load dropping into the Oconaluftee River below Ela Dam, also known as the Bryson Hydroelectric Project. Within half an hour, he was standing on the riverbank. 

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Sylva is slated to receive a total of $880,000 in American Rescue Plan funds, but the town has not yet made any decision as to how it will spend the money. 

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A long-term care center, massive expansion to broadband access and direct payments to tribal members are some of the many uses the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians plans for the $117 million it will receive directly from the American Rescue Plan — with even more money likely to come from ARP-funded grants other agencies are in the process of awarding. 

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Too often at the Center for Domestic Peace in Jackson County, a staff member picks up the phone to encounter a client who is trapped in an abusive relationship and ready to seek emergency housing. But then they learn the closest domestic violence shelter is in Franklin, and they back out. 

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Open burning is banned in North Carolina until further notice as a wildfire rages at Pilot Mountain State Park near Winston-Salem. 

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Western Carolina University leaders are celebrating passage of a state budget bill that funds every item on the university’s legislative agenda, including raises for faculty and staff and $35.5 million to renovate Moore Building, the oldest building on WCU’s campus. 

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More than $3 million in the recently enacted state budget will help Sylva reopen Bryson Park, install long-discussed public bathrooms downtown and possibly assist with the expensive repairs the town faces on Allen Street. 

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Western North Carolina will see a new state park, rail trail and miles of backcountry paths following Gov. Roy Cooper’s Nov. 18 signature on the first state’s first comprehensive budget law since 2018.

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Western North Carolina will see a new state park, rail trail efforts and miles of backcountry paths following Gov. Roy Cooper’s Nov. 18 signature on the first state’s first comprehensive budget law since 2018. 

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A restless autumn wind ripples through the valley, passing over green fields, across turned-up garden plots and through tall rows of dried corn stalks. Their raspy skeletons rustle in the breeze, which exits the field to send a few glimmering strands of gossamer sailing over the gravel path that leads past Kituwah Mound. 

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The Cherokee Tribal Council voted unanimously this month to allocate $15 million to Kituwah LLC as an equity investment from the tribe. 

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Shandra Sims will serve as the new register of deeds for Jackson County after being sworn in Thursday, Nov. 18. Her appointment was approved unanimously by Jackson County Commissioners. 

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A bridge replacement project underway in the Pigeon River Gorge will temporarily close a section of Interstate 40, but once completed it will make the highway a safer thoroughfare not only for vehicles, but for wildlife as well. 

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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced last week that it would withdraw its 2018 proposed red wolf management rule , which conservation groups decried as a “death sentence” for red wolves in the wild. 

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Nearly three years after a Sylva woman was found dead  in the Jackson County Detention Center, the county has agreed to pay $725,000 to settle the resulting wrongful death lawsuit. 

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If the proposed master plan is adopted, over the coming years the university will focus its development efforts on five districts described in the document. 

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At a board retreat this month, Western Carolina University trustees got their first look at a draft proposed 10-year master plan update that calls for a reimagined library, beefed-up athletic facilities, and overall improvements to campus organization and aesthetics. 

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Seth Alvo makes defying gravity look easy. Pushing off on his mountain bike, he gathers speed on a rolling portion of Berm Park’s double black diamond trail, careening around a curved berm until it joins a vertical wall. The bike lifts off the berm and, for just a moment, rolls perpendicular to the wooden boards before a solid landing again submits it to gravity’s rule. 

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In the space of two days last week, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians announced its biggest per capita distribution and approved a loan agreement for a $275 million expansion to the Valley River casino in Murphy. 

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Beating out two incumbent board members, Natalie Newman took the top spot in last week’s Sylva Board of Commissioners election

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As the September start date for Maranda Bradley’s long-planned bicycle ride along the Trail of Tears  approached, its carefully woven threads began to unravel, and Bradley’s nerves began to fray. 

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COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are continuing to fall to the lowest levels seen in months, but hospitals say that staffing shortages and increasingly acute presentations of non-COVID ailments are keeping them busy. 

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In a unanimous vote Oct. 11, Tribal Council approved a resolution that aims to drastically reduce the tribe’s carbon emissions over the coming years. 

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July 15 was a busy Thursday night at Bogart’s Restaurant  in Sylva. The dining room was full of people and conversation, the kitchen hopping. 

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The 2021-2025 Sylva Board of Commissioners will feature one new face, according to unofficial results from today’s municipal election.

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Combing through the dustiest tomes of park history, Great Smoky Mountains National Park researchers have since 2018 been working to elevate a plotline that so far has been relegated only to the smallest of small type — the history and contributions of African Americans within the park and in its outlying communities. 

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After extensive negotiation and revision, a bill aiming to steer North Carolina toward carbon neutrality by 2050 has been signed into law. 

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The housing crisis gripping the entire region hasn’t spared Sylva, and the town board hopes to partner with Jackson County to alleviate it. 

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During this month’s Annual Council sessions, Tribal Council’s structure and compensation loomed large in the discussion — and in the vote. 

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By the end of this year, a new championship-caliber disc golf course will debut on a wooded property along Raven Fork in Cherokee, right on the border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

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Trail closures and food prohibitions are expected to remain in place on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville through the end of the week after a bear attack sent two people to the hospital last week. 

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After three years and $330 million, a new hotel tower and convention center is now open at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee. 

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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians marked the start of a new Tribal Council term this week, with 2021 election winners sworn in and new officers selected Monday, Oct. 4. Through 2023, Big Cove Representative Richard French will serve as chairman and Birdtown Representative Albert Rose will serve as vice chairman.

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This November, Sylva voters will have their pick of four candidates to fill two seats up for election on the town board. Incumbents Mary Gelbaugh and Barbara Hamilton will face challengers Natalie Newman and Carrie McBane to earn the job of shepherding Jackson’s county seat through the next four years. 

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A black bear injured two people near the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville when it attacked on Wednesday, Sept. 29.

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On a sunny Saturday in September, tall grasses wave a fringe atop Max Patch, framing mountain layers fading from ripened green to hazy blue. Blooming heads of goldenrod and aster dot the slope, a brisk wind whisking autumn chill into the sun-warmed air. Slope and shrubbery combine to create pockets of privacy on the open bald, fostering an illusion of wilderness that’s broken only when the white-blazed trail brings two travelers together.

It’s a wholly different scene than the one that sprawled across the mountaintop just one year ago, when Asheville artist Mike Wurman flew his drone over the bald to capture what became a viral image of 130 tents blanketing a trampled-down Max Patch.

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Waynesville Middle School student Kate Clark is the winner of this year’s Haywood Waterways Association Kids in the Creek T-shirt design contest, meeting success at her first try entering an art contest.

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Patrick Brannon, outreach specialist at the Highlands Biological Station, has received the 2021 award for exceptional environmental education programs from the Environmental Educators of North Carolina.

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Due to the Delta variant’s continued impact on public health, the Outdoor Economy Conference originally scheduled for Oct. 12-15 has been postponed until April 2-7, 2022 — but other opportunities to connect with the outdoor community will be scheduled in the meantime.

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Chiseled by an Emmy- and Academy Award-winning artist, a 2,400-pound bronze piece depicting Harriet Tubman leading a young girl out of slavery is now installed at Bridge Park in Sylva. 

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In celebration of its 50th anniversary year in 2022, the Nantahala Outdoor Center has announced a schedule of international travel tours beginning in the spring.

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Mainspring Conservation Trust recently closed on an in-holding of the Nantahala National Forest Service in the Caney Fork Valley of Jackson County.

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Nearly $3 million in newly announced funding will support further development of the outdoor-driven community and economy in Western North Carolina. The project aims to generate 325 jobs and generate $18.1 million of new investment in the region’s outdoor economy.
The three-year project, managed by Mountain BizWorks and the Growing Outdoors Partnership, will rely on three core pillars to accomplish its goals.

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The number of new daily COVID-19 cases in North Carolina fell below 3,000 last week for the first time since Aug. 10 as the summer surge due to the Delta variant appears to be receding. 

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The 30th annual Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Chamber Challenge Golf Tournament drew 92 golfers to participate in 23 four-person teams on Wednesday, Sept. 15.

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The future of a three-star hotel project at the Sequoyah National Golf Club in Whittier is uncertain after Tribal Council voted unanimously Sept. 20 to withdraw a resolution requesting $3.5 million to pay Tribal Construction for site work on the property. 

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