Holly Kays

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This year marked both the 16th birthday of the Benton MacKaye Trail and the 100th anniversary of its namesake’s flagship idea. Proponents of the trail want Congress to honor these milestones by designating the Benton MacKaye Trail as the nation’s 12th National Scenic Trail

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On the afternoon of Tuesday, Aug. 17, Rob Young was watching the rain fall. He watched it first through the windows of his office at Western Carolina University and then later at his home in Webster — and, continuously, on his computer screen, where ever-changing river depths were displayed through the state’s Flood Inundation Mapping and Alert Network, or FIMAN

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The $633 million budget Tribal Council approved Sept. 7 represents a return to growth, after a cautious 2020-2021  budget relied on just 50% of the previous year’s casino proceeds and clocked in 19.5% slimmer than the 2019-2020 document. 

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After nearly two hours of discussion, debate and even tears during its Thursday, Sept. 9 meeting , the Cherokee Tribal Council shot down an effort to change a law banning the licensing and solemnization of same-sex marriages on the Qualla Boundary. 

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For the first time since 2015, Western Carolina University has posted a fall enrollment figure lower than that of the previous year.

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Eric Romaniszyn had been Haywood Waterways Association’s project manager for less than six months when the legendary floods  of September 2004 tore through Clyde and Canton, challenging him to execute his new role addressing watershed health and education in the face of a once-in-a-lifetime weather event. 

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Bernadette Peters arrived in Western North Carolina in 2011 as a novice in the world of food service and an outsider to the tight-knit Sylva community. 

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Until 2016, then-Chancellor David O. Belcher spent much of his time and energy as leader of Western Carolina University in Cullowhee telling anyone who would listen that WCU’s future was in danger. Specifically, the future of its engineering, science and nursing programs. 

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Tribal Council passed a 2021-2022 budget today that incorporates recommended salary increases for employees, board members and elected officials following the results of a compensation analysis from the consulting firm REDW.

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Three current Tribal Council members will not return in October following the Sept. 2 General Election, but the 2021-23 government will feature only one new face — unless a potential recount should change the results in Painttown. 

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In a historic vote, Cherokee voters said yes to expanded alcohol sales on the Qualla boundary following a Sept. 2 referendum. 

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A “reasonably colorful” fall leaf season with a less pronounced peak than usual is predicted for Western North Carolina, according to Western Carolina University fall color forecaster Beverly Collins.

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A week before Tropical Storm Fred unleashed historically high floodwaters on Western North Carolina, Greg Philipp was in Washington fighting the wildfires  now enveloping the bone-dry American West. Now, Philipp is the U.S. Forest Service incident commander for the aftermath of heavy rainfall that will impact favorite recreation sites in the Pisgah National Forest for years to come. 

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Sylva Town Manager Paige Dowling presented two options during the town board’s Aug. 26 meeting for funding the $2 million needed to repair landslides on Allen Street, but her ultimate recommendation was that commissioners pass on both and wait for help. 

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The Cherokee Tribal Council approved more than $110 million for new health facilities on the Qualla Boundary and in Cherokee County, giving unanimous endorsement to two separate projects during its Aug. 5 meeting. 

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For the second year running, the much-awaited Cherokee Indian Fair is canceled due to COVID-19.

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After a three-month lapse, Jackson County has re-instituted its masking requirement for county facilities. The mandate applies when entering “interior public spaces” and being within 6 feet of another person.

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A man found dead in the Hazel Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last September likely died due to a bear attack, making Patrick Madura’s death the second bear-related fatality in the park’s history. 

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In addition to claiming lives, homes and livelihoods, Tropical Storm Fred has had a significant impact on many beloved sites on Western North Carolina's public lands. News related to closures, impacts and damage to WNC's outdoor offerings will be posted here as it is received. 

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Friday, Aug. 13. Rivers are at normal levels, with a gauge about a mile upstream from Jukebox Junction on the East Fork Pigeon River reading 0.4 feet at 8 a.m., while a gauge on the Pigeon River just outside of Canton reads 1.61 feet.

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Election Day is coming to Cherokee on Thursday, Sept. 2, with voters set to choose Tribal Council and School Board representatives, as well as weigh in on three alcohol-related referendum questions. 

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Though Tropical Storm Fred bears the brunt of the blame for last week’s flood, a cold front moving ahead of the tropical storm set the table for destruction. 

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Rain was coming down hard as Gary Griffith surveyed his fields in Bethel, around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 17. Harvest season was in full swing, and before he went home to Ratcliff Cove, he wanted to make sure his 15 acres of peppers and cucumbers growing along the Pigeon River would make it through the storm. 

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While the Cruso area undisputedly received the worst of the flooding in Western North Carolina, it did not receive the worst of the rainfall.

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The Indiana Gaming Commission has approved a deal that would put an Indiana casino in the ownership of a company held by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. 

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A man found dead in the Hazel Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last September likely died due to a bear attack, making it the second bear-related fatality in the park’s history.

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The highest-elevation mountain bike trail on the East Coast is on the path from concept to reality after the Cherokee Tribal Council and Sylva Board of Commissioners approved an agreement to begin a joint master planning process for the 912 acres of ridgetop land.

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The N.C. General Assembly has declared 2023 to be “Year of the Trail” in North Carolina, marking it as a year to showcase, promote and celebrate trails in the state.

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Kaitlyn Nelson was three-and-a-half months into living her Australian dream when the Coronavirus Pandemic hit, forcing her and her partner to cut short their plans for a yearlong adventure driving their van around the Pacific continent. 

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Fixing ongoing landslide issues on Allen Street could cost up to $2 million — an amount equivalent to more than 40% of the town’s current budget — Sylva commissioners learned during a discussion at their Aug. 12 meeting  that lasted over an hour. 

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Amid a nationwide struggle to fill open positions in a multitude of sectors, higher education institutions in Western North Carolina say they’re not experiencing more vacancies than is typical as they navigate their most hiring-heavy season of the year. However, in some instances filling those vacancies is taking longer than in years past. 

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Morning cool still hangs over the grassy fields at Smoky Mountain Mangalitsa Farm  as Catherine Topel approaches a pair of 350-pound sows with a bucketful of breakfast. 

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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will establish a medical marijuana program on tribal lands even as the drug remains illegal in the state of North Carolina, following a divided vote on Thursday, Aug. 5. 

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With case numbers surging and fall semester beginning, local colleges and universities are reinstituting indoor masking requirements that had been lifted for the summer months. 

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Sylva may soon be home to the first certified forest therapy trail in North Carolina following the town board’s unanimous vote to enter into a memorandum of understanding with Mark Ellison, a certified nature and forest therapy guide who lives in Jackson County. 

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On Thursday, Sept. 2, Cherokee voters will select the next Tribal Council, three School Board representatives and answers to three alcohol-related referendum questions.

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The Cherokee Tribal Council today approved a 42-page ordinance that will establish a system to support legalized medical marijuana on the Qualla Boundary.

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After twice refusing  to grant the legislation a perfunctory first reading, during its Aug. 5 meeting the Cherokee Tribal Council allowed an ordinance seeking to legalize same-sex marriage on the Qualla Boundary to be read into the record for consideration at its Sept. 9 meeting. 

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With case numbers surging, Western Carolina University has announced that it will ask members of the campus community to report their vaccination status and require masks in all indoor public spaces.

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With his 90th birthday now approaching, John Edwards is retiring from his two-decade-long role organizing one of the region’s largest annual celebrations of mountain wildlife — but he hopes a successor will pick up the mantle. 

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Dr. Ben Guiney wasn’t sure what he’d find when he showed up for his weekend shifts at Harris Regional Hospital last week. 

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After a mass migration from boardrooms to cyberspace last spring, one by one Western North Carolina’s public bodies have transitioned back to in-person meetings — with the exception of Sylva’s town board. 

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For the first time in six years, Jackson County will have a new vendor providing meals at its jail and senior center after commissioners voted unanimously July 20 to award the contract to Georgia-based Skillet Kitchen

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Bryson City Olympian Evy Leibfarth will leave Tokyo without a medal, but the 17-year-old is already setting her sights on the 2024 games in Paris. 

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The indoor mask mandate is back on the Qualla Boundary following a July 29 executive order from Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Richard Sneed.

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As visitor use in the already-crowded  Great Smoky Mountains National Park continues to climb, for the first time ever the park will try out paid trailhead reservations as a potential answer to overcrowding. 

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On a perfectly sunny and gloriously cool July morning, Tucker Worley starts up the John Deere golf cart and takes off down the gravel road. 

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Bryson City Olympian Evy Leibfarth , 17, came up short in her quest for an Olympic kayaking medal but will have another shot at the podium in Tokyo when she races in the first-ever Olympic women’s canoe slalom. 

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Throughout her 20-year museum career, Shana Bushyhead Condill had wondered what it might be like to work on the Qualla Boundary, at The Museum of the Cherokee Indian . But when she first saw the Cherokee One Feather ad calling for applicants to the director’s position, she hesitated. 

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Bryson City Olympian Evy Leibfarth, 17, will advance to the semifinal women’s kayak slalom competition following her performance in the qualifying rounds Sunday, July 25.

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