Outdoors Briefs

Outdoors roundup


Church Volleyball League forming

Registration closes Aug. 31 for the Church Volleyball League in Jackson County.

Games will be played Monday nights at the Cullowhee Recreation Center. Register at rec.jacksonnc.org or contact Andrew Sherling with questions at 828.293.3053, ext. 6, or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Get certified with Waynesville Rec

A variety of American Red Cross certifications are now available from the Waynesville Recreation Center, either by appointment, one-on-one or in a group.

Offerings include Basic Life Support for Health Care Providers, Water Safety Instructor, Lifeguarding Instructor, CPR, AED, First Aid, Wilderness Emergency Care and Lifeguarding Instructor/Instructor Trainer Review.

For more information, contact David Bradley at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or 828.456.2030.

Arboretum, Nature Center swap members

During the month of June, the WNC Nature Center and N.C. Arboretum are swapping members, meaning that people who hold a membership at either institution can visit the other free of charge.

Arboretum members can enjoy free Nature Center admission for two adults and up to four children, while Nature Center members will get free arboretum admission for one standard car, plus a $20 discount on an annual membership purchased by the end of June.

Friday Zumba is back in Waynesville 

Friday Zumba Gold group fitness classes have resumed at the Waynesville Recreation Center in Waynesville.

The class joins others offered on Mondays and Wednesdays, all 11 a.m. to noon. Zumba Gold is geared toward active older adults looking for a class that recreates original Zumba moves at lower intensity. Easy-to-follow Zumba choreography focuses on balance, range of motion and coordination.  

For more information, contact 828.456.2030 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



Hunting, fishing licenses to be temporarily unavailable 

Hunting and fishing licenses, as well as vessel registrations, will not be available for purchase between 5 p.m. Tuesday, June 27, and 8 a.m. Saturday, July 1, as the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission transitions to a new registration system.

Those who need to purchase a license or register or renew a vessel registration should do so before June 27. They are available online at ncwildlife.org, in person through various retail outlets that sell them and at most Division of Marine Fisheries offices, as well as by phone Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The number for licenses is 888.248.6834 and the number for vessels is 800.628.3773.

This transition will not impact the sale of Division of Marine Fisheries’ commercial fishing, for-hire, or Recreational Commercial Gear licenses, as they are housed under a separate computer system.

Charter school students explore the outdoors

Students at Mountain Discovery Charter School in Bryson City have been learning through outdoor exploration this spring.

In April, the school’s third graders rafted down the Nantahala River, learning about rowing mechanics and teamwork while building courage and love for whitewater. Meanwhile, seventh graders embarked on a backpacking trip along Noland Divide, hiking the 15-mile trail over three days and two nights while studying the changing biomes as they descended in elevation.

“The trilliums were everywhere, same with the trout lilies and spring beauties and bluets and pink lady slippers,” said seventh-grader Luna Deal. “I really wish I was still out in the woods, hiking through the park, talking to my classmates about our stories.”

Forest Service announces deferred maintenance funding

The U.S. Forest Service will spend $3.8 million in funding from the federal Great American Outdoors Act to support projects in North Carolina during the 2023 fiscal year.

“We are excited to see these funds get put to use across North Carolina’s National Forests,” said Forest Supervisor James Melonas. “The funding will improve visitor experience and access by addressing deferred maintenance on several of our popular roads, trails and recreation sites.”

These projects support a recent announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Interior proposing a combined $2.8 billion in funding for fiscal year 2024 to improve infrastructure, recreation facilities, public lands access and land and water conservation as the Great American Outdoors Act reaches the third of its five years. The Act addresses the growing $7 billion backlog of deferred maintenance on national forests and grasslands.

Including the authorized and funded deferred maintenance projects for fiscal year 2023, the National Forests in North Carolina currently have 11 projects in various stages of development funded through the program, with over $1.2 million already put to work in contracts and agreements on the ground. 

One project currently being implemented is the Cradle of Forestry National Historic Area Major Rehabilitation. This $2 million project will restore chimneys at historic buildings; rebuild the historic sawmill, help to implement the interpretive master plan and improve exhibits. Additionally, trail resurfacing and other important maintenance needs will be completed. 

Wildlife Federation seeks award nominees

Deadlines are approaching for applications and nominations for a pair of annual awards given by the N.C. Wildlife Federation.

The deadline is June 15 for nominations of conservation heroes from across the state to be considered in NCWF’s 59th annual Governor’s Conservation Achievement Awards. Awards honor people and organizations that exhibit unwavering commitment to conserving North Carolina’s natural resources.

Meanwhile, a June 16 deadline is coming up to apply for one of seven scholarships available from the NCWF. This may be awarded as seven $1,000 grants or as six $1,000 grants and one $2,500 award to a student of exemplary merit. Three grants will go to undergraduate students and three for post-graduate candidates.

Learn more at ncwf.org.


New exhibits highlight Black history in the Smokies

A pair of new wayside exhibits are now open at Mingus Mill in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, part of the larger African American Experiences in the Smokies project to tell the untold stories of Black history in the Smokies.

One exhibit tells the story of the nearby Enloe Slave Cemetery, where several African Americans are interred. The other one tells the story of legendary jazz bassist Charles Mingus, Jr., and his family. Charles Mingus, Jr.’s son Eric Mingus gave a musical performance and remarks at an unveiling ceremony for the exhibits. The African American Experiences in the Smokies project is supported by the Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains Association, which help fund research of the historic presence and influence of African Americans in the Southern Appalachian Mountains from the 1540s through today. 

New district ranger working in Ocoee 

The Ocoee Ranger District of the Cherokee National Forest has a new district ranger, with Philip Earhart starting his official duties in the role Jan. 15.

Earhart most recently worked as the forest wildlife biologist at the Forest Supervisor’s Office in Cleveland, Tennessee. He started his career on the Cherokee National Forest in 2011 after working for Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He served as the South Zone Wildlife Biologist on the Cherokee National Forest beginning in 2015 and as the Deputy District Ranger on the Nantahala National Forest Cheoah Ranger District in 2019.

The 660,000 Cherokee National Forest is divided into northern and southern sections by Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The 95,000-acre Ocoee Ranger District is the forest’s southernmost ranger district and sits in the extreme southeastern corner of Tennessee.

Greenbrier Road Reopens

Greenbrier Road, Porters Creek Trail, Brushy Mountain Trail and campsites 31, 32 and 33 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are now open to public use. Old Settlers Trail and Grapeyard Ridge Trail reopened to public use earlier this month. 

Ramsey Cascades Road and Ramsey Cascades Trail will remain closed until the trail is safe to open to hikers. Trail crews are rerouting sections of the trail and rebuilding foot log bridges that were washed out last summer during a July 2022 flood event. During the same flood, the road, trails and culverts were damaged, causing Greenbrier Road to be closed beyond the ranger station. Earlier this year road crews repaired the road, stabilized the slope and replaced culverts. 

Paving planned for Parkway this year

The stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway from Blowing Rock to Balsam Gap is slated for pavement preservation work this year.

Work will begin at Bass Lake Drive near Blowing Rock this week, with paving at the Cone Manor House expected to start the week of May 8. Paving work will continue through the fall.

The project is split into two sections: miles 294-384 between Blowing Rock and Asheville, and miles 394-443 from south of Asheville to Balsam Gap. Work will take place in multiple locations within the identified sections. Once underway, park visitors and neighbors can expect intermittent, short-term closures at individual sites with short, single-lane closures of the mainline road as needed. 

Project locations will be updated regularly at nps.gov/blri/planyourvisit/roadclosures.htm


Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.