Holly Kays

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After a closed session discussion during its Aug. 20 meeting, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to buy a pair of properties along Haywood Road in Dillsboro as part of a plan to remake the county’s existing Green Energy Park. 

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The organization tasked with managing homeless services in Jackson County for the year ahead received official status as a federal nonprofit this month. 

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Tribal Council is slated to vote on a budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1 on Thursday, Sept. 12, but no draft document has been released to the media. 

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Many plotlines weave through the story of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but if the park were a book, some of those plotlines be written in bold, with others buried in small type. 

“We probably go overboard in telling the story of the white Appalachian settlers to this area,” said Susan Sachs, the park’s acting chief of resource education. “We do a better job of telling the stories of the Cherokee, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. But then when it comes to the African-American story, we know that we are failing there.”

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Western Carolina University’s newest chancellor is fairly certain that, of the teachers and students she knew years ago while pursuing her undergraduate degree, none would have guessed that she’d one day end up leading a thriving campus of 11,000 students. 

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More than 300 people crowded Innovation Station in Dillsboro on Monday, Aug. 19, to sip a beer and shake hands with WCU’s new chancellor, Kelli Brown, who holds a Ph.D. in education. 

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It’s been two years since discussions began about the possibility of removing the Cullowhee Dam, and it could take years more to complete the additional studies needed to make a decision about removal and to raise the funds necessary to actually do it. 

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When Election Day arrives in Cherokee Sept. 5, all 12 Tribal Council seats will be up for grabs, as well as the offices of principal chief and vice chief and three school board seats. 

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Nearly four decades ago, vast swathes of the 8,600-acre Waynesville watershed were laid bare, the trees timbered for profit and the soil harvested to build the earth-filled dam now holding back the reservoir.

Fast forward to 2019, and the landscape has changed dramatically. There is no more bare soil, and no more open canopy. It’s a full-grown forest, sunlight filtering through a green canopy below which the only sounds are those produced by the birds, insects and wind. The white pines planted to stabilize the stripped soil have thrived, perhaps too much. In 2014, a good many of them were cut down during a thinning conducted on a 50-acre portion of the property, as the seedlings were planted too close together to serve them well as they grew larger. But white pine is still a common species in the 8,600-acre watershed.

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The Unity Healing Center in Cherokee has become the subject of intense focus from the U.S. Indian Health Service’s regional office in Nashville following a June report from The Wall Street Journal alleging that suspected sexual abuse at the facility resulted in a suicide attempt by one of the teenaged residents — but no report to law enforcement. 

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Nearly a year to the day since a standing-room-only crowd filled Sylva Town Hall for a forum on the proposed N.C. 107 project, a town meeting Thursday, Aug. 8, drew a full house of folks determined to speak out against the road during the meeting’s public comment section. 

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The more you know about the Camino de Santiago, the harder it is to define. 

The simple explanation is that it’s a walking path that travels through Spain. But in reality that description is a mix of truth and fiction. 

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Over the last four years, Richard Sneed and Teresa McCoy have found themselves on the opposite side of many an argument, and in September the incumbent chief will face the former Big Cove councilmember once more, at the ballot box. 

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Based on information presented at a joint government meeting in Jackson County July 23, The Smoky Mountain News reported in its July 31 issue that an updated list of businesses slated for relocation as a result of the N.C. 107 project in Sylva now numbered 39, not the 55 businesses and organizations named in the preliminary plans released last year. 

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The Cherokee Tribal Council voted to allocate an additional $50 million to Kituwah LLC, the tribe’s economic development arm, during its regular monthly meeting Thursday, Aug. 1. 

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Jackson County residents will have the chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at how county government works during the third annual Citizens Academy, which has extended the call for applications through Sept. 5. 

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A new state park has been created in Buncombe and Haywood counties following Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature on a state Senate bill July 19, but it will be years before Pisgah View State Park will bridge the gap from concept to reality. 

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CORRECTION: Due to inaccurate information presented at the July 23 government meeting when the road project was discussed, the number of businesses slated for relocation in the story is incorrect. The project will require relocation of businesses located on 39 parcels of property, but the total number of businesses on those parcels is 55. The list of businesses included with the story names all 55 businesses.

The number of businesses to be displaced by the upcoming N.C. 107 project in Sylva could be fewer than the 54 named in last spring’s preliminary plans, but the cost and duration of the project will be greater than initially expected, according to an update N.C. Department of Transportation Division Engineer Brian Burch gave to an assemblage of Jackson County’s elected leaders last week. 

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Sports wagering is now legal in casinos on the Qualla Boundary following Gov. Roy Cooper’s signature on Senate Bill 154 Friday, July 26. Harrah’s Cherokee Casinos is hoping to open sports betting areas at both its Cherokee and Murphy facilities by late fall. 

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Cherokee’s Sept. 5 Election Day is coming up, and the 24 candidates running for 12 available Tribal Council seats are working to get their message out. The Smoky Mountain News has been reaching out to candidates with a series of questions about various issues facing the tribe, with the responses received thus far included here. 

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An investigation into a June 2018 incident involving the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Pisgah District Ranger Greg Wozniak concluded that Wozniak violated both Tennessee drug laws and federal rules found in the U.S. Department of Interior Personnel Bulletin and in a 1986 executive order mandating a drug-free federal workplace. 

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A successor has been chosen for Sylva Police Chief Tammy Hooper following a three-month search by a panel of Western North Carolina law enforcement and managers.

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“When we get out, we’re going to walk across the street and I’m going to show you the most sacred spot,” Larry Mellichamp said as he began his botanical tour of the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

The spot in question wasn’t a gravesite or a cultural landmark or even one of the many breathtaking overlooks spread along the Parkway’s 469-foot length. Rather, it was a seemingly dead end — a face of rock bordering the north side of the road, slick with water seeping from within, partly shrouded by flourishing vegetation. 

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By now, most everyone is familiar — often far too personally — with the toll of the opioid epidemic. Lost lives, stolen futures, vanished trust. Loved ones transformed into unrecognizable ghosts of themselves. Law enforcement, mental health and emergency services pushed past capacity. 

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A group of residents living along South River Road in Jackson County say they’ve noticed an uptick in the number of speeders and commercial vehicles along the rural two-lane, and they’re asking the N.C. Department of Transportation to do something about it. 

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Unless someone else signs up to run for Mayor of Forest Hills by noon on Friday, July 26, the Sylva Board of Commissioners will be the only contested race in Jackson County this year. 

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Investigators with the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch are trying to determine the circumstances surrounding the death of David Carver, Jr., who was found in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Monday, July 8. They are seeking information from the public to make that determination. 

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On Friday, June 21, a 15-year-old girl from Bryson City took her place in the water for the first heat of her first run as an adult competitor on the international circuit. The roiling World Cup course in Bratislava, Slovakia, was thousands of miles away from her home in Western North Carolina, and her competitors were veteran paddlers, some with Olympic appearances and even Olympic medals to their name. 

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With just three days to go before election filing closes, there is still a dearth of candidates for open seats on the Webster Town Council and Village of Forest Hills Council.

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A survey aimed at gauging support for an indoor swimming pool in Jackson County came down favorably for pool proponents, with 68 percent of respondents saying that they’d support such a project — even if it meant raising property taxes. 

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The price tag on a project to install sidewalks along Skyland Drive in Sylva has more than doubled, with town commissioners voting July 11 to allocate an additional $175,000 for the endeavor. 

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After putting nearly 300 hours and just short of a year toward an effort to develop an alternative vision for the N.C. 107 project in Sylva, the Asheville Design Center presented its findings to the Sylva Board of Commissioners Thursday, July 11. 

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A development on Western Carolina University’s Millennial Campus in Cullowhee has been cited by the state for violating North Carolina’s Sediment Pollution Control Act and the terms of the project’s construction stormwater permit.

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Sports betting is likely to come to Cherokee following the N.C. House of Representatives’ July 15 vote to pass a Senate bill allowing it to occur on the Qualla Boundary. 

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers responded to a single-car motor vehicle accident on Clingmans Dome Road at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Monday, July 15. The driver of the vehicle, Timothy Patrick James McCauley, 37, of Farmington, Missouri died as a result of his injuries. The passenger, Angela Walker, 38, was flown to University of Tennessee Medical Center by Lifestar.

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The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will enter into a $13.5 million contract to purchase 197.62 acres of land along Interstate 40 in Tennessee following a unanimous vote from Tribal Council July 11.

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The identity of a man whose remains were found in an off-trail area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park this week has been released.

Searchers found David J. Carver, 64, of Blount County, Tennessee, near Laurel Creek Road between Townsend and Cades Cove on Monday, July 8, after receiving a tip from an off-trail hiker. His remains appeared to be several months old.

The Knox County Regional Forensic Center identified Carver by comparing medical records. The cause of death and activity at time of death are under investigation. An autopsy is being performed, and no additional details are currently available.

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Rob Gudger shares his Haywood County homestead with three canines and a housecat, but of the four the feline is the only one he considers a pet. 

The canines live outside, get their sustenance in one massive feast per week, and give no visible indication that they know their names. That’s pretty well out of the normal for the life of a domestic dog, but the animals aren’t domestic dogs. 

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Western Carolina University and the Tuckaseigee Water and Sewer Authority will explore the possibility of combining their water systems following receipt of a $50,000 grant from the State Water Infrastructure Authority, which the TWSA board voted to accept at its June 18 meeting. 

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After more than a year in flux, Jackson County’s health and social service boards are likely to be re-established within the next couple months. 

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After more than a decade working together as members of Tribal Council, Alan “B” Ensley and Jim Owle are vying for the position of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ next vice chief. 

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A program that’s been getting Western North Carolina kids outside since 2016 is now a statewide offering, with a whirlwind tour of 10 North Carolina state parks over the next couple weeks celebrating ecoEXPLORE’s arrival at all 41 park units. 

“There’s a lot of benefits to being outdoors, and it’s something that we’re seeing less and less in adults and children,” said Jonathan Marchal, youth education manager at the N.C. Arboretum in Asheville. “A lot of times it’s almost like a competition — you can go outside and be screen-free, or you can go indoors and be completely immersed in a screen. I think one approach that is helpful is utilizing those items like smartphones as tools to explore the environment, and not just as tools to explore the environment but to engage kids in doing conservation work.”

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Principal Chief Richard Sneed and challenger Teresa McCoy will face off at the ballot box this September as Cherokee voters decide who should be their chief for the next four years, but last week they met onstage at the Joyce Dugan Performing Arts Center for a debate hosted by The Cherokee One Feather. 

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UPDATED 1/24/2020: Following several meetings with the alleged victim and family, the District Attorney's Office declined to file charges in this case. Anyone accused of a crime is considered innocent until proven guilty. 

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In a ceremony held at the Cherokee Indian Hospital today, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians was awarded the Redefining American Healthcare award from the Healthcare Leadership Council.

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Trillium Gap Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be temporarily closed through Thursday, July 11, due to hazardous trail conditions. The area received heavy rainfall over the last couple of weeks causing extremely slippery, muddy conditions on the trail surface undergoing rehabilitation.

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After more than 20 years of wood chopping and log sawing and award winning, the Haywood Community College Lumberjacks — the school’s timbersports team — will soon gain a permanent home. 

“The current practice facility is back where the old mill used to be, and it’s probably just as old as that was, late ‘60s,” said Matt Heimburg, dean of arts, sciences and natural resources at HCC. “It has a tin roof and a few logs somehow holding it up. So it’s long overdue for them to get a new practice space, for sure.”

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In his first public statement on a bill he cosponsored in March, Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., wrote an op-ed published in The Charlotte Observer June 19 decrying the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ opposition to legislation that would pave the way for a Catawba Indian Nation casino in Kings Mountain. 

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An effort to get a proposed constitution on the Cherokee ballot as a referendum question this September will not come to fruition following Tribal Council’s June 13 vote to withdraw the legislation.

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The Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River has a new leader.

Two years after former executive director Roger Clapp retired from the position, Ken Brown is taking over.

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