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Allens Creek Park in Waynesville is closed until further notice while county crews clean it up following last week’s heavy rains and wind. 

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Two organizations dedicated to stewarding beloved outdoor spaces are looking for new board members to help them fulfill their respective missions. 

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The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) announced that its Human Trafficking Unit (HTU) has been awarded a $9.6 million grant over the next five years from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the standard of life and quality of life for people around the world. 

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U.S. 64 between Buck Creek Road and Brush Creek Road will remain closed for more than two weeks while a contractor repairs 80 feet of embankment damaged during heavy storms on Tuesday.

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An eight-week training course for anyone interested in operating an agriculture-based business will kick off Monday, Jan. 15, at Southwestern Community College in Sylva.

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The U.S. Forest Service has released its final analysis and draft decision for the Nantahala Mountains Project, which will touch more than 800 acres over a 24,943-acre project area. 

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A new database cataloguing the work of renowned Smokies photographer, Japan-born George Masa, is now available online. 

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Over the next two months, snowboarders are invited to film their best moves at Cataloochee Ski Area and submit them for The Cat Classic, a premiere and contest slated for Saturday, March 9, at Salty Dog’s Seafood and Grill in Maggie Valley. 

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Friends of Panthertown will host a trail workday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, meeting at Salt Rock Gap Trailhead.

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The 12th annual Plunge Benefit-t-t-ting Kids in the Creek and Environmental Education will take place 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 10, at the Lake Junaluska Pool in Waynesville. 

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Find out how birds talk to each other during a program offered at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 29, at the Cowee School Arts and Heritage Center near Franklin. This talk was rescheduled from its original Jan. 15 date due to inclement weather. 

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Hear the case for building more housing from an environmental perspective with a webinar offered 5:30-6:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 22, from MountainTrue. 

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Explore winter in the mountains with a trio of upcoming hikes led by Haywood County Recreation and Parks. 

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The Carolina Mountain Club has started a new hiking initiative, called Leisure Hikes, with the next event scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 20, on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in Asheville. 

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Western Carolina University’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration will begin Monday, Jan. 15, with its annual Unity March. 

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Sarah Banks, Emily Jenkins, Kelly Martin-Hicks, Abigail Clark, Heather Koonce and Sarah Keener at Haywood County Health and Human Services Agency have successfully completed the N.C. Credentialed Public Health Nurse Course.

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More than 130 leaders from North Carolina and Virginia gathered to discuss a strategic action plan for the entire Blue Ridge Parkway corridor during the Blue Ridge Rising Two-State Summit Dec. 5-6 in Blowing Rock. 

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The National Park Service has announced its intention to collaborate with Native American tribes across the country on a theme study focusing on the Indian Reorganization Period. 

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MountainTrue has recognized the members and volunteers who gave the most to the waters, forests and communities of Western North Carolina and North Georgia this year during a ceremony held in Asheville. 

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Registration opens soon for several upcoming outdoor education opportunities at the N.C. Arboretum in Asheville. 

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While some may have preferred a white Christmas, the rain that covered the region instead has proven the better Christmas gift for a region in continued drought. 

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Take a winter walk on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail Sunday, Jan. 7, in Asheville with the Carolina Mountain Club. 

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During 2023, volunteers with the Highlands Plateau Greenway contributed 640 hours to create new trails and maintain the existing ones that connect the Highlands community, participating in more than 23 workdays over the past year. 

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The nonprofit EcoForesters has crowned its winners for the people who made a difference in forest stewardship and education during 2023. 

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Help remove invasive plants on the Jackson County Greenway 1-4 p.m. Friday, Jan. 12 in Cullowhee. 

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A three-week fly-tying course will teach participants to tie flies from the Southern Appalachians, 6-8 p.m. Mondays Jan. 15-29 at the Folkmoot Center in Waynesville. 

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Cullowhee-based Landmark Learning is now enrolling for a variety of wilderness medicine certification courses planned for the winter months. 

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Clayton Bardall, a graduate student in Western Carolina University’s Engineering Technology program and tight end for WCU’s football team, recently combined his two passions — football and engineering — on a project that will have a major impact on athletes for generations to come. 

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January is National Mentoring Month, a great start to 2024 and an opportunity to give a young person a great start in life. 

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At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 4, in Bryson City, Frank March and Henry Chambers will present “The Lamon Chambers Map” at this year’s first Swain County Genealogical and Historical Society meeting. 

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Haywood Regional Medical Center has named Amanda Pruitt Motley as its new chief financial officer, effective Jan. 8, 2024. With more than 12 years’ experience in private and healthcare finance, Motley joins Haywood Regional from Highpoint Health System in Tennessee, where she previously served as interim market CFO. 

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The Grinch who Stole Christmas and Pactiv Evergreen have a lot more in common than just a shared color scheme and stealing presents right out from under the Christmas trees of children.

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When Pactiv Evergreen announced it would close its 115-year-old paper mill in Canton earlier this year, local leaders had to deal with a host of issues: the plight of the workers and their families, their health care coverage, declining school enrollment, pollution and the future of the site itself.

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This one goes to the Pigeon River, due both to the actual metals found in a sampling site along its bank and to the very metal way its fish populations have rebounded after the Canton paper mill shut down in June. 

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Sometimes there are awards that call for two winners, like back in the day before the College Football Playoffs system when two schools would sometimes share a national championship. 

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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has earned this one for its decision to begin charging for parking, effective March 1 this year. 

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Newly elected Haywood County Sheriff Bill Wilke stepped into some big shoes following the retirement of longtime Sheriff Greg Christopher, but earlier this year Wilke showed Haywood County, along with some of its most vulnerable residents, that he wears some pretty damn big shoes himself. 

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The classic 1980s dance film Dirty Dancing taught all of us that “nobody puts Baby in a corner.” And if one does, that baby might just erupt from the corner with wild and salacious dance moves. 

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Congrats to Macon County GOP’s newest slate of officers. A dedicated bunch who fought hard, and allegedly dirty, to secure their seats. 

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This little award may not mean all that much to him — after all, he’s one of Southern Appalachia’s most revered literary figures and has won a number of far more significant awards for his books and plays, including the Book of the Year Award from the Appalachian Writers Association in 2001, the Brown Hudson Award for Folklore in 2006 and the North Carolina Arts Council Award for Literature in 2012 — but we’re going to give it to him anyway because we’ve all been big fans of his work for a long time. 

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This one goes to Cherokee voters, who decided in this year’s election to look back to build their future. 

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Sharing smokes has proven more difficult than anticipated for the winners of this award, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ cannabis business Qualla Enterprises LLC. 

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We can’t say for certain whether Cherokee County Sheriff Dustin Smith backed into a literal bush as the events of Dec. 13, 2022, unfolded, but at this point it’s pretty clear that in the aftermath he did his best metaphorical impression of the infamous Homer Simpson meme.   

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This award goes to Cherokee’s Sgadugi Constitution Committee, which, as the namesake band sang in its 1997 classic “Tubthumping,” keeps getting knocked down — but just gets up again. 

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Maggie Valley is gonna Maggie Valley.

It comes with the territory. To win a seat on that town’s board of aldermen one has to endure some contentious moments, likely over a residential development or (gasp) a park. 

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This year, the Sylva Police Department received a grant from the Dogwood Health Foundation to continue the Community Care Program with a paid, full-time community care liaison position for the next three years. 

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O Zito, O Zito, wherefore art thou, Zito? In case you didn’t know, the phrase “wherefore art thou” is fancy Shakespeare talk for “why?” Which brings us to the point. Why, Zito. Why? 

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This year was filled with slights and attacks on the LGBTQ+ community by local elected officials. But despite the environment, Sylva Pride and Sylva Belles Drag have continued to do their work of celebrating, uplifting and bringing together the LGBTQ+ community. 

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This award goes out to the Fontana Regional Library, which, despite consistent attacks throughout 2023, is still standing, and continues to serve the residents of Jackson, Macon and Swain counties. 

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Congressman Chuck Edwards apparently doesn’t read The Smoky Mountain News, but if he did, it may have saved him some humiliation earlier this year. 

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