Holly Kays

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It will cost nearly half a million dollars to upgrade facilities at the Smoky Mountain High School baseball fields to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

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A new retail complex featuring a mix of local and national chains is expected to break ground in Cherokee this year, with Tribal Council voting this month to approve an additional $2 million for the project in return for a 5 percent equity stake.

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UPDATE: Ward was found in Tennessee Jan. 18 thanks to help from a citizen and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations. N.C. Juvenile Services will continue assisting in this case. 

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office is looking for help to find a teenager who ran away from the Nations Creek community. 

Aubrey Elizabeth Ward is a 14-year-old white female who is 5 feet, 7 inches, and 115 pounds. She has been gone from her home since Jan. 9, but investigative efforts have found multiple residences in Jackson County where she has been since. Some reports indicate that she has traveled to Tennessee, while others indicate that she is still in the area. 

Contact the Jackson County Sheriff's Office dispatch center with any information at 828.586.1911.

 

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Zeb Powell was 7 years old the first time he tried a snowboard. 

That initial ride wasn’t great — Powell, a lefty, found himself being sent down the mountain right foot forward — but after that something clicked. Powell hit a box the first night and from there on out spent as much time as possible on the slopes at Cataloochee Ski Area. 

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After nearly an hour of debate, Tribal Council voted unanimously last week to place term limits on members of the two boards that oversee tribal gaming operations.

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The Town of Sylva has two new members on its planning board following a pair of unanimous votes from town commissioners Thursday, Jan. 9. 

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Casino gaming is under serious discussion in the Virginia legislature this year, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is hoping to get in on the ground floor with a recently announced proposal to build a casino near Bristol, Virginia. 

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For the second year running, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would return 76 culturally significant acres in Tennessee to Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians ownership.

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Fire education in Jackson County will soon get a leg up following county commissioners’ vote Dec. 17 to appropriate $169,434 for a Smart Fire Safety Training Trailer. 

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A month has passed since the Dec. 7 cyber attack that loaded ransomware on the tribal computer network, but the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is still working to restore its operations to normal.   

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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is the only federally recognized Native American tribe in North Carolina, but that could change if a bill currently making its way through Congress meets success. The Lumbee Recognition Act, also known as H.R. 1964, would extend federal recognition to the 55,000-member Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, ending a 131-year effort to obtain it. 

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It’s often been said that there’s wisdom to be found in the rhythms of nature, and that’s certainly true. But there’s also wisdom — and humor as well — in the words of those who spend their time outdoors, soaking those rhythms into their souls. Some of their words are featured here among The Smoky Mountain News’ favorite quotes from 2019’s outdoors section.

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The Jackson County Commissioners traveled to Cashiers for their Dec. 12 meeting, but Commissioner Mickey Luker — who was elected to represent the Cashiers area — did not attend. 

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The National Park Service is embarking on a system-wide effort to crack down on invasive animal species following the conclusion of a three-year research endeavor conducted by a panel of experts in fields ranging from park management to emerging technology. 

The Park Service reached out to members of the group in 2016, asking them to review the agency’s existing approach to invasive animal management and to look at the results of data collected from park units across the country. Combining panel members’ expert knowledge with data results and information gleaned from questions to park staff, the group produced an internal report to the Park Service as well as a scientific paper published this month in the journal “Biological Invasions.”

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The Sylva Police Department is looking into an incident that occurred on Tuesday, Dec. 17, during a protest downtown that was part of a nationwide string of rallies calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump. 

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Sylva was named the nation’s slowest city for internet in a recent report from internet service comparison website www.highspeedinternet.com, and that struggle continues to be a frequent topic of conversation in town and county meetings. 

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Funding for a new animal shelter in Jackson County has been approved following a Dec. 17 vote to OK $5.39 million in funding for the next phase of a project to redevelop the 19-acre property that is currently home to the Jackson County Green Energy Park. 

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After more than three years of anticipating the expenditure, Jackson County has allocated funds to replace its recently decertified voting machines. 

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Panthertown Valley’s popularity is increasing, and advocates for the backcountry area — located near Cashiers in the Nantahala National Forest — hope its newfound designation as a Leave No Trace Hot Spot will help head off some of the less-than-pleasant effects of that popularity.

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Beer and wine could join hot dogs and sodas as common concessions at Western Carolina University athletic events following a unanimous vote from the WCU Board of Trustees this month. 

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The cost of attendance at Western Carolina University will rise 3.27 percent next year following the WCU Board of Trustees’ vote to approve a schedule of increases to fees and room rates, as well as changes to existing meal plans. 

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Christmas will be extra sweet this year for tribal employees following Tribal Council’s vote to enact a 7 percent cost-of-living raise retroactive to the start of the fiscal year Oct. 1. Employees will start receiving their new salary as well as retroactive pay at the next payday Dec. 20.

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Long before the creation of Western Carolina University, the state of North Carolina or the U.S. Constitution, the valley now known as Cullowhee bore the name Tali Tsisgwayahi — in Cherokee, it meant “Two Sparrows Town.”

Now, that name has returned to a portion of the 600-acre campus with the formal dedication of the Two Sparrows Town Archeological Collections Curation Facility, held Thursday, Dec. 6, at the facility on the ground floor of McKee Building. 

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Concerned by ongoing erosion issues at the Western Carolina University Millennial Apartments construction site in Cullowhee, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners has sent a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper and Secretary of Environmental Quality Michael Regan requesting more frequent monitoring on the site. 

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With updated plans hot off the presses, the N.C. Department of Transportation welcomed well over 100 people to an open house Dec. 9 dedicated to the N.C. 107 project.

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Computer systems at the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are down this week after a tribal employee allegedly attacked the network with ransomware on Saturday, Dec. 7. 

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A $30 million deal to bring a story-themed resort to Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians-owned land in Sevier County, Tennessee, will not go forward following a unanimous vote from Tribal Council Dec. 5 to kill a resolution Principal Chief Richard Sneed submitted in October. 

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Growing up in West Asheville, Daniel Pierce was a frequent visitor to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park was — and still is — free to enter, and to Pierce that was normal. 

“I’ll never forget the first time I went in a national park that charged an entrance fee,” said Pierce, who now holds a doctorate and is a history professor at the University of North Carolina Asheville who specializes in Smokies history. “I was just horrified by the thought that you would have to pay to go into a national park.”

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The quarter-acre parking lot on the corner of Main and Landis streets in Sylva is officially town parking following a 4-1 vote from the town board Nov. 14. 

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Tribal Council voted unanimously last month to expand the tribe’s roster of attorneys in hopes of moving child custody cases through the courts more efficiently. The cases often take multiple months to reach resolution, prompting complaints from community members. 

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Christopher Lile, 23, was just months away from graduating to begin a career in wildlife conservation when he first learned that North Carolina has a native wolf population. He was sitting in a senior-year class at Gardner-Webb University, and a Defenders of Wildlife representative was speaking about the red wolf. 

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A fire in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area burned about 200 acres last week after a 911 call at 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 21, alerted authorities to the blaze, but heavy rain Saturday helped halt its growth. 

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For most kids, this is the season of anticipation, a magical time of year marked by stuffed turkeys, Christmas cookies, presents under the tree — and the promise of some long, lazy breaks from classes and homework. 

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The Cold Mountain Fire is still burning in Haywood County, with a helicopter flight measuring it at approximately 126 acres as of noon today.

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A wildfire near Cold Mountain in Haywood County was reported at 3 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 21, and as of 7:30 p.m. Thursday night it had grown to about 106 acres.

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Westbound drivers are once again good to go through the Pigeon River Gorge on Interstate 40.

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As it nears the end of its 50th anniversary year, the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont has its eyes set on the half-century to come. Within five years, the nonprofit aims to build out a second campus to supplement its existing facilities in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Walker Valley. 

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Railroad Avenue in Sylva will soon be converted to a one-way street following a unanimous vote from the town board Nov. 14. 

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An effort to adopt a constitution for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians through a referendum question failed to come to fruition this year, but the grassroots group Citizens for a Constitution isn’t giving up, now setting its sights on a referendum question in 2021. 

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The N.C. Department of Transportation will pay water and sewer hookup fees for businesses displaced by the N.C. 107 project, but it will be up to business and property owners to ask for reimbursement, right-of-way agent Jake Day told the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority board last week. 

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Jackson County Commissioner Ron Mau hopes to unseat Rep. Joe Sam Queen in the 2020 election, announcing before a gathering at the Jackson County Republican Party headquarters Nov. 18 that he will run on the Republican ticket for District 119 of the N.C. House of Representatives. 

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For the second time in three election cycles, a coin flip decided the outcome of a Sylva town board race. 

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Unofficial tallies show a total of four uncounted ballots at play in the Sylva town elections going into the final vote count, which will begin at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 15, at the Jackson County Board of Elections Office on Skyland Drive.

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The mud problems at Catamount Homes began early on Thursday, Oct. 31. 

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Haywood County has seen its share of change over the past century, and nobody knows that better than Joe Morrow. 

Morrow, 86, grew up on 107 acres of steep mountain land that today is located just down the road and across from the Haywood County Fairgrounds. It’s been in the family since his grandparents were farming, but he and his wife Sue have now placed 53 acres in a conservation easement that allowed it to become Haywood Community College’s newest teaching forest. 

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Five working families in Jackson County will have the chance to move into brand new homes once a project currently underway by Mountain Projects reaches its conclusion. 

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Cherokee leaders are hoping to establish a lucrative business on a portion of the 300-plus acres of Interstate 40 frontage the tribe purchased in Tennessee earlier this year while also advancing plans for an adventure park on the Qualla Boundary, but first Tribal Council must sign off on the venture. 

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The General Election has been over for a week, but in Sylva the results won’t be certain until provisional ballots are counted on Friday, Nov. 15. 

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The first time Nancy East visited the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it was the 1990s and she was in veterinary school. But those squeezed-in backpacking excursions provided the catalyst for her later decision to move to Western North Carolina, and 25 years later, East finished hiking all 850 miles of trail running through the park’s 816 square miles of land. 

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It could cost less than originally anticipated to build a new 10,000-square-foot animal shelter facility in Jackson County, according to the most recent architectural estimates. 

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