Holly Kays

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With 51.41 percent of voters in favor of the measure, Jackson County residents approved a referendum that will allow the county to borrow $20 million for a new aquatic center.

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The Democratic majority on the Jackson County Board of Commissioners could strengthen to a 4-1 hold following Election Day results. In District 3, Republican Ron Mau will pass the torch to fellow Republican Tom Stribling, but in District 4 Democrat Mark Jones is currently ahead in the race for the seat currently held by Republican Mickey Luker.

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Due to decreased casino profits related to the pandemic, December per capita payments to members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will be only about two-thirds the size of last year’s distribution — but that number is better than expected.

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Tribal Council voted 11-1 during Annual Council Oct. 29 to approve the Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise’s request to borrow up to $80 million more than the $250 million initially budgeted to finish an expansion project at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee. The decision came following an hour of closed session discussion and just four days after initially voting to table the request. 

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Amid a spike of coronavirus cases in October, some members of the Sylva town board advocated for passing a mask mandate for the downtown area during the Oct. 22 meeting. However, it now appears that such a mandate is unlikely to come to a vote — for the moment, anyway. 

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After a 15-minute closed session discussion, Tribal Council voted unanimously Oct. 29 to allocate up to $25 million to develop the 197.5-acre property it purchased last year in Sevier County, Tennessee. 

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Due to decreased casino profits related to the pandemic, December per capita payments to members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will be only about two-thirds the size of last year’s distribution — but that number is better than expected.

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Search and Rescue Team members in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park found missing hiker Fred Braden Jr. last night approximately 21 hours after he was reported missing. 

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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has gotten a lot busier since its creation in 1931. In 1932, its first full year of existence, the park received only 300,000 visitors — these days, annual visitation is more than 40 times that figure, coming in at 12.5 million last year. 

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A Knox County man was reported missing yesterday after day hiking alone on the Middle Prong Trail in the Tremont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

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Two years into construction of a $250 million expansion at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort, the Tribal Casino Gaming Enterprise approached Tribal Council Oct. 26 requesting permission to borrow an additional $50 million for the project — and council members were not pleased. 

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Buildings at Smokey Mountain Elementary School will remain closed through Friday, Oct. 30, following identification of a COVID-19 cluster there on Monday.

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As the Coronavirus Pandemic continues, people worldwide are rediscovering the outdoors in a big way — leading to record visitation at public lands in Western North Carolina and offering a marked boost to outdoor-oriented businesses and communities even as the nationwide economy continues to suffer. However, even this successful sector has met its share of challenges related to labor market shortages, supply chain disruptions and the sheer challenge of making up for revenue lost during full-on closures this spring.

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Lured by the promise of drivable, socially distanced adventure, visitors from across the region have flocked to Jackson County in record numbers this year.

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With the economic powerhouse that is Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort surfacing as one of the pandemic era’s most-impacted local businesses, it stands to reason that the future of Cherokee’s business community would be among the region’s most uncertain. 

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Jackson County commissioners voted 4-1 Oct. 20 to approve a $4.33 million contract to build a new animal rescue center as well as walking trails and other improvements at the Green Energy Park in Dillsboro. 

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The Town of Dillsboro is launching a grant program to help struggling businesses using $200,000 it received as part of the value engineering proposal for the Haywood Road bridge project.

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For Western North Carolinians who see the outdoors as a safe haven when life gets hard, perhaps the most distressing part of the pandemic’s early days was the domino-like succession of closures in the region’s parks, forests and other open spaces. 

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Things were looking bleak for the tourism industry — for all industries, really — as coronavirus shutdowns and stay-at-home orders fell into place this spring, but six months into the pandemic, the outlook for Jackson County’s biggest business is downright rosy. 

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Many tribal offices are closed or operating at reduced levels this week following what Principal Chief Richard Sneed called an “exponential increase” in COVID-19 cases among tribal members. 

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Jackson County commissioners plan to vote next week on a construction contract to build a new animal rescue center as well as walking trails and other improvements at the Green Energy Park in Dillsboro.

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A new detour for local traffic and passenger vehicles is now available to bypass the road closure caused by the ongoing bridge replacement on Haywood Road over Scott Creek in Dillsboro.

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The Sylva Town Board has voted unanimously this evening to cancel this year’s Christmas Parade, citing coronavirus concerns.

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Back in the 1990s, Karen and Johnny White were in a nomadic phase of life, spending several months traveling the country in search of a place to call home. Time after time, they found themselves most drawn to small towns with vibrant farmers markets. 

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Like voters across the country, Jackson County residents are electing representatives for offices ranging from congressman to commissioner, but this fall they’ll decide a more tangible question as well — whether or not the county should borrow $20 million to build a new aquatic center in Cullowhee.

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As in the District 4 race, the ballot for the District 3 county commission seat in Jackson County is devoid of incumbents. But unlike in District 4, both choices are first-time candidates who have not previously served on any elected or appointed board. 

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After years of planning, public meetings and emotionally charged back-and-forth, right-of-way acquisition for the N.C. 107 project in Sylva was set to begin in February, with construction starting in early 2023. 

But that was before COVID-19 hit. 

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Western Carolina University has announced changes to the spring 2021 schedule related to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

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Mike Wurman visited Max Patch for the first time in May 2014, and the experience changed his life. 

Wurman, an artist, had only lived in Asheville for about two years at the time after moving from Texas. He wasn’t much of a hiker, but his brother-in-law suggested that he check out the iconic bald, located in Madison County just past the Haywood County line. At the time, Wurman was feeling lost and full of self-doubt about his art. But something changed when he knelt down to take a photo of the white-blazed post marking the Appalachian Trail’s path across the bald.

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There’s no incumbent on the ballot for Jackson County’s District 4 commission seat, but voters will still find themselves choosing between a known quantity and a new contender this election season.

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A new grant program approved by a unanimous vote from the Sylva Board of Commissioners Sept. 24 will allocate $20,000 to help nonprofit organizations better serve Sylva residents during the pandemic. 

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During its Sept. 3 meeting, Tribal Council voted unanimously to approve a slate of changes to its election ordinance ahead of the Sept. 30 deadline enshrined in Cherokee law. 

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During a Sept. 15 meeting, Jackson County commissioners voted unanimously to terminate a pair of billboard leases the county holds with Allison Outdoor Advertising, the oldest of which has been in place since 1976. 

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An updated and expanded version of this story is now available here

A widely circulated drone photo showing Max Patch covered with more than 100 tents — along with pictures of large amounts of trash left by the campers — has gone viral over the past week, leading many to question what should be done to keep the iconic location from being loved to death.

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Delayed Harvest Trout Water restrictions will take effect in North Carolina on Thursday, Oct. 1.

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Candidates for offices ranging from county commissioner to state senate will appear in upcoming debates. 

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Tribal Council unanimously approved a $3.4 million land purchase in the Painttown Community during its meeting on Thursday, Sept. 3. 

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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is asking the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs to give it a new agency superintendent following a unanimous vote from Tribal Council Sept. 3. 

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A recently released report from the National Recreation and Park Association shows that most U.S. adults — 82 percent of them — believe that parks and recreation are essential services. 

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Fairview resident Virginia Ward has received the 2019 Youth Award as part of the George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service, an annual recognition of volunteer excellence offered by the National Park Service. 

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When Karly Jones began the Appalachian Trail on Feb. 27, the weather was cold and the trail crowded. She quickly earned the trail name Jitter, short for jitterbug.

“I was constantly moving to try to stay warm, so I would hop from one foot to another and rub my hands together or jump around, or anything to keep warm,” she said. 

As February turned into March, Jones climbed Springer Mountain, traversed Neels Gap and then Dicks Creek Gap, summited Standing Indian Mountain and made her way through the challenging terrain of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That’s when she first heard about COVID-19, from a group of pre-med students who had just been notified that their classes would be canceled for the next two weeks. By the time she reached Hot Springs, the world had changed. 

“That was when a lot of people were making decisions and plans to go home,” she said. “I significantly noticed it.”

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Emergency responders have found the body of a 25-year-old man reported missing at 7:36 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14, after falling into the water at Midnight Hole in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

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Racially charged vandalism in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has prompted an investigation searching for those responsible. 

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Jackson County commissioners voted unanimously Sept. 15 to ask for the N.C. Association of County Commissioners’ support for state legislation to give counties more control over state and federal construction projects within their borders.

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At 5 p.m., the August sun is hot and high overhead as my husband and I walk through the hodgepodge of parked cars at The Ten Acre Garden. It’s more crowded than I expected, but then again, I didn’t really know what to expect — I’ve never been here before. 

By the end of the night, I’ll be wondering why it took me so long to arrive. 

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Emergency responders have found the body of a 25-year-old man reported missing at 7:36 p.m. Monday, Sept. 14, after falling into the water at Midnight Hole in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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Tax values for Jackson County properties are set to rise next year as the county enters the final stages of its process to revaluate property values last set in 2016. 

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A search is underway for a missing man in the Big Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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On the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 11, backpackers were hiking the Hazel Creek Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park when they found an unoccupied tent at Campsite 82 with a single sleeping bag inside. Across the creek, they discovered human remains and a scavenging bear. 

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With nearly six weeks now elapsed since Jackson County Commissioners voted to cover up the Confederate flag on the base of the controversial statue overlooking Sylva, town commissioners are asking the county to either make the fix quick or put a temporary covering over the image. 

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