Trails are just good for communities

Trails are good and we could have more here.

— The board of the Nantahala Area Southern Off-Road Bicycling Association

Our primary thesis is this: trails are good for communities and their economies, and if the political will existed, we could have more in Western North Carolina. We have public lands owned by local town and county governments, amazing terrain, and the potential funding opportunities exist. As a chapter of a regional mountain biking advocacy organization (the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA)), we hear about the amazing things trails have done for towns across the Southeast. We realize this is not common knowledge, nor is there any reason for it to be common knowledge, so we wanted to talk about some of the things we hear about in our advocacy world in a more public forum.

Backyard trails: Local mountain bike trails surge in popularity

In 2013, Western Carolina University cut the ribbon on 7-mile trail system zig-zagging an otherwise unbuildable piece of university property. Over the five years since, the trails have become an indispensible resource for mountain bikers — as well as trail runners and hikers — in the Cullowhee area, and last fall a trio of WCU employees set out to back up those observations with hard numbers. 

Do Republicans in the House and Senate know their voter base?

Republicans in the House and Senate supported a tax bill that was opposed by the majority of Americans. They insisted on passing a flawed, hastily-tacked-together bill with no discussion beyond the Republican caucus in both houses. Why?

Those few of us who will see our federal taxes go down should know that we’re benefitting because the Republicans in the House and Senate have no problem with killing and taking food from the mouths of impoverished children, sick children of the working poor and struggling middle class, and adults with intellectual or physical disabilities. Republicans have admitted that they will sooner or later choose to cut Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security to repay big donors and buy upper-middle and upper class votes. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office told us that 13 million people will lose their present health insurance. What many Americans worry about most is prescription medicine costs, yet the White House has already said they can’t keep their promise to bring your medicine bills down.

Are the majority of Americans actually going to benefit from the tax bill? First, let’s define which North Carolina voters we’re talking about because what’s middle class in every state differs in housing and food costs, local and state taxes, and so on.

According to the US Census Bureau, in North Carolina you’re middle class if you make between $33,890 to $101,170 a year. Every non-partisan expert group (for example, Pew Research/Business Insider and Kaiser Family Foundation) said that the lower middle class ($33,800 to about $56,227 per year household income) won’t see much difference. Half of North Carolinians make less than $50,584 a year. In other words, most Trump supporters will get a few crumbs of crow pie for their loyalty.

The Tax Policy Center explained that only the richest families, the top 1 to nearly 5 percent in the U.S. will see much change. Worse still, by 2027 53 percent of Americans will be paying more tax under the new tax bill. So for over half of Americans, the new Republican tax law is going to make you poorer in the long run.

If you are in that lower middle to mid-range in household income — $33,800 to about $68,795 — your tax savings will likely be wiped out by other costs rising, especially higher medical costs, including insurance. Experts predict that health insurance under the Trump administration policies will increase by at least 10 percent. To make matters worse for the middle class, you’ll gradually lose your standard deductions.

So why on earth did Republicans and Trump do this to most of the people who voted them into office? Because the tiny, rich minority of their supporters who gave them huge donations didn’t mind robbing the middle class to make themselves richer. Apparently they believe that their puppets in Congress really can fool all of the people all of the time. Only time will tell whether enough middle class voters are that gullible.

Mary Jane Curry

Haywood County

Adventure through 2018: WNC offers excursions for every month of the year

When people praise the Smokies, it’s often the area’s status as a four-season bonanza of beauty that spurs the discussion. From snow-blanketed winters to vibrant-leafed autumns, these mountains dress to impress year-round.

Pedaling toward Mitchell: Biking and biology go hand-in-hand for WCU professor

Darby Harris is going on a bike ride Saturday, Oct. 7, but how far he’ll pedal will be a mystery until he wakes up that morning.

Harris’ ride will be fueled by donations to the Western Carolina University Biology Club, with each $10 gift buying 1 mile. And, with the planned route to the top of Mount Mitchell totaling 11,000 feet of climbing, each mile will be a hard-won victory. It’s 110 miles from WCU’s Stillwell Building to the top of the highest mountain east of the Mississippi River, meaning that the Biology Club will have to raise $1,100 to get him all the way there.

Mountain bikes roll into Swain High

A fleet of new mountain bikes has come home to roost at Swain County High School, thanks to a donation from Bryson City Bicycles.

In December 2016, the bike shop landed an award from Synchrony Financial that granted it $10,000 to grow the business and another $10,000 earmarked for a community project of its choosing. Bryson City Bicycles was one of only five small businesses nationwide to land one of the Working Forward Small Business Awards, and co-owner Diane Cutler had no doubts about where in the community she wanted to invest that $10,000.

Canton seeks input on bike and pedestrian plan

Cycling enthusiasts who want to help steer the direction of Canton’s proposed Comprehensive Bicyclist and Pedestrian Plan may want to roll on in to The Colonial Theater to have their say.

‘It was a very good ride’: Blue Ridge Breakaway cancelled for 2017 due to declining ridership, funding challenges

Every August since 2010, the Blue Ridge Breakaway has pulled in tens of thousands of dollars for Haywood County businesses, but for the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce — which organizes the event — the cost-benefit analysis isn’t so glossy. Ridership has been declining, costs have been climbing, and event planning has consistently eaten up large swathes of staff time — leading the chamber’s board to cancel the event for 2017 and consider axing it permanently pending further review. 

Franklin bike walk plan lays out potential projects

A proposed comprehensive plan to improve Franklin’s pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure includes more than 20 recommended projects to fix the town’s sidewalks, increase connections to the greenway and make downtown more navigable for visitors and residents alike.

Resolve to be active in 2017: WNC runs and rides offer ample options for fitness goals

January is universally recognized as the time to make a fresh start, throw away last year’s used-up calendar and dream up a new set of aspirations for the 12 months ahead. And when it comes to New Year’s resolutions aimed at becoming more active in 2017, Western North Carolina offers a dazzling array of options.

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