Holly Kays

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In November, Jackson County voters will weigh in on a proposal to borrow $20 million for an indoor pool complex at the Cullowhee Recreation Center. 

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Five employees at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee have tested positive for COVID-19, and the investigation is ongoing, according to the Jackson County Department of Public Health.

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After a week of impassioned public discussion and protest over the fate of the Confederate solider standing on the courthouse steps in Sylva, Jackson County Commissioners discussed the issue during a regularly scheduled work session Tuesday, July 14.

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July 11 dawned hot and sunny over the 131-year-old town of Sylva, sweltering rays pouring heat in equal fashion over the 106-year-old Jackson County Historic Courthouse on the hill and 12-year-old Bridge Park down below. Also collecting heat was the 105-year-old statue of an unnamed Confederate solider, situated on a pedestal midway between the crest of the hill and the banks of Scotts Creek. 

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It was a long day, but July 11 was a success from the perspective of law enforcement, said Police Chief Chris Hatton. 

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Jackson County Commissioners saw a precursor to the intense public discussion ahead of them when 16 people gave public comment at their July 7 meeting to talk about the fate of the Confederate statue that stands on the historic courthouse steps. 

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Protests, rallies and marches have become commonplace in Western North Carolina over the past six weeks, but dueling demonstrations in Sylva last weekend featured for the very first time a totally new aspect — the presence of trained legal observers. 

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The Sylva Town Board approved a resolution tonight that creates a policy to prohibit the use of Confederate imagery on town vehicles and property purchased after July 10.

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These days, Brendon Voelker’s life revolves around running, but eight years ago the Texas native was still struggling to complete his first mile.   

He was overweight and out of shape back then, and while he could happily spend a day riding around on his road bike, running a mile was out of the question. But after a weight loss journey that left him 80 pounds lighter, Voelker made it a personal goal to get that first mile under his belt. By the end of 2013, he’d completed a nonstop 5K for the first time, and the distances ballooned from there. 

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Western Carolina University’s Board of Visitors no longer exists following the WCU Board of Trustees’ vote June 5 to repeal its charter.

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After two years in the position, Jackson County Public Schools Superintendent Kim Elliott will retire as head of the school system. 

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The public comment portion of tonight’s meeting of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners drew 16 people who spoke for more than an hour about “Sylva Sam,” the Confederate solider statue who looks over downtown Sylva from the steps of the old Jackson County Courthouse.

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UPDATE: Searchers made contact with the hikers around noon Tuesday, July 7. They were able to walk out with search and rescue personnel. 

Search teams are looking for three hikers in the Black Balsam area of the Pisgah National Forest in Haywood County who have been missing since Monday.

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Back when the trip was a new idea, I don’t think either of us took it seriously. Three weeks on the road, at a time when most American cars were sitting idle in the driveway? Thousands of miles of driving through sand and snow, mountain and desert, far from home? Surely this was just a pie-in-the-sky dream borne from the hunger pangs of quarantine, nothing more. 

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Plans for a $14 million bridge project in Dillsboro have changed, with the project now expected to take nine months instead of three years and to cost $3 million less than originally proposed. 

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The 448-acre woodland property sitting right off U.S. 23/19 and Interstate 40 near Canton was almost a speedway. Then, it was almost an indoor ski resort. It was almost a lot of things over the years, but now it will be a public park and conservation area. 

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The U.S. Forest Service has signed the final decision notice for the Buck Project, which will encompass more than 32 square miles on the Nantahala National Forest’s Tusquitee Ranger District in eastern Clay County.

The project will use commercial timber sales toward the goal of providing young forest habitat and producing more oak and hickory trees over time. It will also use prescribed burning to promote the unique Serpentine Barrens and aim to improve water resource conditions through stream improvement projects. 

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Now 31, Steve Yocum was just 22 years old when he moved from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to the mountains of Western North Carolina. 

He was tired of city life, of doing nothing but going to bars all weekend, every weekend. He wanted to get away, and when the company he’d been working for since high school gave him the chance to move south, he jumped on it. That leap led him to photography. 

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After a unanimous vote from the Jackson County Commissioners, an architecture contract with McMillan Pazden Smith Architecture for a planned Animal Rescue Center building in Dillsboro has been approved. 

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A proposal to include a referendum question on the November ballot asking voters to approve funding for an indoor pool in Jackson County will be the topic of a public hearing slated for 5:55 p.m. Tuesday, July 7, at the Jackson County Justice Center. 

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Some campgrounds, visitor centers and previously closed roads in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are reopening.

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Cades Cove Loop Road will now be vehicle-free on Wednesdays through Sept. 30 as part of a pilot study to improve visitor experience in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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The year that Joe Lee turned 21, the Brown vs. Board of Education decision turned 13, the Civil Rights Act turned 3 and last published edition of The Negro Motorist Green Book turned 1. 

It also happened to be the year that the U.S. Department of the Interior mandated that the national parks get on board with integration and begin hiring African-American rangers. Lee, a rising senior at Talladega College with a strong interest in biology and botany, applied for a naturalist position in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. 

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When the Sylva town board met for its annual budget brainstorming session in January, members had no problem dreaming big about the upcoming fiscal year. A Main Street director, multi-use trails on the Blackrock Creek property, a public bathroom downtown and an all-terrain vehicle for police use all found their place on the wish list. 

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At $66.5 million, Jackson County’s proposed budget for 2020-21 includes a 1.34 percent decrease from the 2019-20 amended budget and a recommendation to re-evaluate various sections of the document come January. The tax rate, however, will remain level at 38 cents per $100 of property value. 

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For the first time since closing March 18, Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos in Murphy and Cherokee are now open to the general public. 

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Southwestern Community College is now open to foot traffic, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The college will remain open as a virtual college from 8 a.m. to noon on Fridays.

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Two new coronavirus cases were confirmed in Jackson County residents today, upping the number to 33, with 1,319 tests completed to date.

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Jackson County saw a 14.8 percent increase in COVID-19 cases among county residents today, with the count rising from 27 to 31.

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Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos will open to the public for the first time since March 18 at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 28.

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Visiting Clingmans Dome is like being in the clouds, Second Lady Karen Pence said when she visited the site Tuesday, May 19 — and she certainly wasn’t wrong. On a clear day, the views from the top of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s highest point extend for 100 miles, and while the aforementioned clouds and accompanying rain slashed that range by roughly 99 percent, Pence said that was more than enough to appreciate the place’s beauty. 

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The arrival of COVID-19 in the United States caused a storm of cancelations, closures, warnings and fears, but there’s one in particular that hit home for Smoky Mountain High School senior Ryan Holler. 

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As February melted into March, Raylen Bark was so busy she had little time to think about the fact that her senior year at Cherokee High School was coming to an end, and her long-anticipated freshman year at Dartmouth College drawing ever closer. 

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For years, Stephanie Morton had focused her daily energy on homeschooling her four kids, but as the children grew into teenagers and young adults, Morton started thinking about her own education. Two years ago, she enrolled in the nursing program at Southwestern Community College. 

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Locally Grown on the Green farmers market offers local produce 3 to 6 p.m. each Wednesday during the growing season at The Village Green Commons on Frank Allen Road next to the post office.

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Appalachian Trail trailheads and access points on U.S. Forest Service lands in the Southeast will reopen on Friday, May 22.

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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has filed a federal lawsuit over a recent decision from the U.S. Department of the Interior that would pave the way for the Catawba Indian Nation to build a casino in Cleveland County near Charlotte.   

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Jackson County saw a modest increase in COVID-19 cases this week, with the disease confirmed in 25 residents as of Monday, May 18, compared to 22 residents on Tuesday, May 12. An additional two part-time residents and 22 non-residents who saw Jackson County health providers have been diagnosed — the part-time figure has held steady for some weeks, while the non-resident category increased by two over the past week. 

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Since its arrival to the United States in the early 1930s, the fire ant has been making a slow but steady march northward from the site of its initial arrival in Mobile, Alabama, but scientists had always assumed that cold winters would at some point put a stop to the tropical invasive species’ spread. 

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Second Lady Karen Pence visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park today to celebrate implementation of the park’s next reopening phase and to highlight the important mental health benefits of time outdoors.

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The Pisgah National Forest has begun to reopen many trails and roads and partially lift restrictions for dispersed camping.

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An additional case of COVID-19 has been announced for Jackson County, putting the total number of residents diagnosed with the disease at 24. In addition, two part-time residents have been confirmed to have the disease, and Jackson County health providers have diagnosed 20 non-residents as well.

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A faculty member in Western Carolina University’s Department of Communication is seeking volunteers to participate in a research study exploring how people obtain and assess information about the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Drive-thru testing for COVID-19 will be available at the Walmart parking lot in Sylva beginning Friday, May 15.

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Visitors from 26 different states and Washington, D.C., traveled to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last weekend after it opened for the first time since coronavirus concerns prompted a complete closure March 24. 

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Jackson County has lifted some local regulations aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 with a Superseding Declaration of a Local State of Emergency that went into effect at 5 p.m. Friday, May 8, the same time that an executive order from Gov. Roy Cooper put North Carolina into Phase 1 of reopening. 

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Forestwide fire restrictions have been lifted in the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests, with campfires now allowed as of Wednesday, May 13.

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Jackson County has allocated $324,000 for a new program that will provide short-term, low-interest loans to small businesses that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis. 

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The Blue Ridge Parkway has reopened its southernmost 14 miles and plans to reopen additional gates this weekend once seasonal mowing and road preparations are complete. 

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Almost 60 days after closing their doors to help slow the spread of COVID-19, Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos will begin a gradual reopening of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort and Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River on Monday, May 18.

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