Archive for Local News

Rising Temperatures and Acid in Streams Could Limit Trout Habitat in NC National Forests

A newly published research study that combines effects of warming temperatures from climate change with stream acidity projects average losses of around 10 percent of stream habitat for coldwater aquatic species for seven national forests in the southern Appalachians – and up to a 20 percent loss of habitat in the Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests in western North Carolina.

Published in the online journal PLOS ONE, the results represent the first regional assessment in the U.S. of aquatic habitat suitability tied to the combined effects of stream temperature and acidity. Authors of the article include researchers from E&S Environmental Chemistry, Inc., the U.S. Forest Service, and Oregon State University.

Previous research has shown that stream-dwelling species in the southern Appalachian region are particularly vulnerable to climate change and that many coldwater species are already shifting their ranges in response to warming temperatures. Headwater streams, which provide the coldest available habitat in many areas, are often assumed to be the ultimate refuges for coldwater species, but many of these species are also acid-sensitive – and many headwaters of the southern Appalachian region are already too acid to support them.

The researchers focused on streams draining seven national forests in the southern Appalachian region, first mapping out how much of the area’s current habitat is suitable for acid- and heat-sensitive aquatic species such as the native brook trout.

“We then used models to forecast future habitat loss in the national forests from expected temperature increases in the region,” says Andrew Dolloff, research fishery biologist for the Forest Service Southern Research Station and a co-author of the study. “Our goal was to help watershed managers identify and assess specific stream reaches that are potentially vulnerable to stress from warming, acidification, or both.”

Of the seven national forests studied, the Pisgah and Nantahala in North Carolina contained the most coldwater habitat – and are predicted to have the greatest losses in suitable habitat for acid-sensitive coldwater species. In these forests the combined effect of acidification in headwater streams and stream warming will restrict acid-sensitive coldwater species such as brook trout to a narrowing band of mid-level stream reaches, increasing the likelihood that these species will disappear locally and possibly regionally.

Though they seem discouraging, results from the study will help Forest Service managers classify watersheds in response to human-produced stressors and develop regional climate adaptation plans. Forest managers and aquatic biologists can use the study’s data on specific streams for restoration planning and to assess the need for intervention (liming, riparian afforestation, native fish reintroduction) in stream reaches that are potentially vulnerable to warming, acidification, or both.

Wife Charged with Murdering Husband in Cherokee County

A Florida woman is facing a murder charge in the shooting death of her husband at their vacation home west of Murphy.

In addition to the murder charge, Cherokee County Sheriff Office investigators also charged Maria Brickman, 53, of Fort Myers, Florida, with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious bodily injury.

Robert Jon Brickman, 70, suffered a gunshot wound Wednesday night following an argument with his wife. The victim died the next day.

Deputies were called to the couple’s home on Laurelwood Circle around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday regarding a domestic situation.

After deputies found Robert Brickman with an apparent gunshot wound, he was airlifted to a Tennessee where he died Thursday morning.

The State Bureau of Investigation is assisting in the investigation.

Maria Brickman is being held without bond at the Cherokee County Detention Center. She is scheduled for a court appearance on the charges Wednesday morning in Cherokee County District Court.

Apply for WNC AgOptions grant by Nov. 13

WNC Agricultural Options is now accepting grant applications from farmers diversifying or expanding their businesses. With funding from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, WNC AgOptions is distributing a total of $178,000 to Western North Carolina farmers in 2016. The application deadline is Nov. 13.

WNC AgOptions helps offset farmers’ risk of trying new ventures with $3,000 and $6,000 grants.

“The WNC AgOptions program is an excellent example of grant funds providing direct support to those who need it most,” said Ross Young, Madison County Extension director and WNC AgOptions steering committee leader. “Our farmers are arguably the most important people in our society. I sincerely appreciate the Commission’s interest in supporting western North Carolina agriculture.”

The commission has supported the mountain region throughout major changes in agriculture, ensuring farmers continue farming.

“Farmers in Western North Carolina have proven time and time again that they are very innovative, resourceful and creative in how they produce and market their products,” said Bill Teague, chairman of the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission. “Our board is committed to the success of farmers in the targeted counties and we know these grants will encourage many successful projects.”

Applicants should contact their Cooperative Extension agents by Oct. 16 to set up an appointment to discuss their projects. Applications are available at www.wncagoptions.org or at local Cooperative Extension Centers. Extension agents remain a resource for farmers throughout the year as they complete their projects.

Since 2004, WNC AgOptions has awarded nearly $2 million to farmers. Grants often pay for a simple improvement that make a big difference, such as the purchase of an air-forced refrigerator at Perry’s Berry’s in Burke County. The cold storage reduced Owners Debbie and Terry Perry’s blueberry losses from 20 percent in 2014 to less than 5 percent in 2015.

Cooling their berries immediately after harvest enhances the quality of their product, which they sell to a variety of customers, including Food Matters in Transylvania County, Fonta Flora Brewery in Burke County and Blind Squirrel Brewery in Avery County.

WNC AgOptions offers grants to farmers in the following counties/units: Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey counties as well as the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Applicants are encouraged to attend information sessions, which will be held throughout the region in the next two months. Check the WNC AgOptions website for exact dates and locations or call Project Coordinator Jennifer Ferre at 252-4783

Smokies telethon tops $200,000

Friends of the Smokies raised $202,351 recently through its 21st annual “Friends Across the Mountains” telethon thanks to hundreds of callers, online donations and help from sponsors Dollywood, Mast General Store, Pilot Flying J and Tennessee State Bank.

Since 1995, Friends of the Smokies’ telethons have raised more than $3.2 million in support of America’s most-visited national park. The “Friends Across the Mountains” telethon aired Thursday night on WBIR in Knoxville, Tennessee, and WLOS in Asheville.

“It was heartwarming to see the support pledged by so many individuals during Friends of the Smokies’ telethon. Their gifts will have a lasting impact on the Smokies and we are truly thankful,” said Cassius Cash, superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

During the broadcast, Sugarland Cellars presented a $20,000 check to the organization. Since 2012, the Gatlinburg winery has offered four limited edition varietals with custom labels created by renowned artist Robert A. Tino. Each bottle sold generates a $5 donation to Friends of the Smokies.

Tennessee State Bank also presented Friends of the Smokies with a $15,860 check for proceeds from the bank’s Smoky Mountain Charity cards. Tennessee State Bank customers can carry the debit and credit cards featuring artwork of the Great Smoky Mountains by Robert A. Tino for a $10 annual fee, 100 percent of which supports Friends of the Smokies.

Telethon donations can still be made online at www.friendsofthesmokies.org/donate to help fund more than $800,000 of Park needs this year to protect black bears, educate school children, and preserve historic log cabins and churches from Cades Cove to Cataloochee Valley

Great Smokies Health Foundation Awards “2015 Thrift Shop Grants”

Great Smokies Health Foundation awarded 23 Grants totaling $73,510.00 to non-profit and governmental agencies in Jackson & Swain Counties from the “2015 Thrift Shop Grant Program”. on Thursday, August 27, 2015 at the Great Smokies Health Foundation Thrift Shop, 965 Skyland Drive in Sylva and on Friday, August 28, 2015 at the Great Smokies Health Foundation Thrift Shop, 112 Plateau Street in Bryson City.

The following agencies received grant funding: Community Services of Swain Inc., Cullowhee Community Safety & Parks Association, Inc., Good Samaritan Clinic of Jackson County, HIGHTS/Whee Market, Jackson County Department of Public Health, Habitat For Humanity for Jackson Neighbors in Need in Jackson County, Life Challenge of Western North Carolina, Inc. , MedicForce, Mountain Projects/Circles of Hope in Jackson County, Reach of Macon County, Reach Out and Read Carolinas, Smoky Mountain Pregnancy Care Center, Swain County Caring Corner, Swain County Health Department, Swain Family Intervention Services, Inc., Sweet Thoughts Alzheimer’s Support, The Community Table, United Christian Ministries of Jackson County, Vecinos Inc. Farmworker Health Program & Webster Enterprises.

The mission of the “Great Smokies Health Foundation Thrift Shops is “to raise money to support the health needs of our community by selling, at an affordable price, items donated by and sold to our customers”. “The 2015 Thrift Shop Grant Program is a way to make an impact in the health and wellness of the communities we serve, said Michele Garashi-Ellick, Executive Director, Great Smokies Health Foundation.”
To receive additional information contact Michele Garashi-Ellick, Executive Director of the Foundation at (828) 507-2270 or E-mail: greatsmokieshealth@gmail.com.

Church Shooting In Haywood County

Maple Grove Baptist Church

Maple Grove Baptist Church, Waynesville


UPDATE: 01:12pm (08/20/15)

The State Bureau of Investigation was requested to investigate the officer involved shooting that occurred at a Haywood County church yesterday.

The incident took place at the Maple Grove Baptist Church located at 2501 Stamey Cove Road, in Waynesville.  Officers from Multiple law enforcement agencies responded to a 911 call claiming four people were shot. After a brief standoff, Wade Allen Baker, 44, of Clyde, was pronounced dead at the scene. Four law enforcement officers were involved in the shooting.  They have been identified as officer Brennan MeHaffey, of Maggie Valley PD, deputy Jamie McEntire, of the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office and officers Heath Presley and Tyler Howell, of Waynesville PD. There were no other individuals or shooting victims located at the church, as the caller had claimed. As with all officer involved shooting investigations, the investigative report will be delivered to the District Attorney’s office once complete.

(07:38pm 08/19/15)

At approximately 3:15pm on Wednesday, Haywood County Sherriff Dispatchers received a 911 call concerning shots being fired from the vicinity of Maple Grove Baptist Church on Stamey Cove Road. Officers responded and found a lone gunman inside church. Gunfire was exchanged between the suspected gunman and law enforcement. No law enforcement or personnel were injured. EMS were called in to render aid. It is believed that the gunman is deceased, but that is not confirmed at this point. The SBI has been called in to investigate. No one else was injured in this incident.

Famers should have corn tested

Dry weather means that farmers are harvesting their corn a little earlier this year. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler is encouraging farmers to have their corn tested for aflatoxin to prevent contamination of feeds and food.

Aflatoxin is a byproduct of the mold Aspergillus flavus, and can be harmful to both humans and livestock.
“Corn that has been harvested from areas that suffer from drought will be highly susceptible to aflatoxin,” said Troxler. “Farmers in drought–stricken areas are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this testing. We have six drop-off locations at research stations across the state to make it easy for farmers to submit samples.”

Some farmers may need to have corn samples tested for crop insurance or quality assurance purposes. These samples must be submitted to a grain marketing location certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The tests cost $22.20 per sample.
For insurance or quality assurance purposes, farmers must submit a 5-pound sample of shelled corn by mail, UPS or FedEx to a USDA-certified grain marketing location. The following locations can conduct USDA-certified testing, and they will accept samples between 6:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays:
Cargill Soybean Plant
Attn: Jason Jernigan
1400 S. Blount St.
Raleigh, NC 27603
Grain Grading Office
Attn: Judy Grimes
407-G South Griffin St.
Elizabeth City, NC 27909
Farmers who grow or buy bulk corn to feed to their own animals can have it tested for free by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Constable Laboratory, 4000 Reedy Creek Road in Raleigh. This Laboratory is not on the Risk Management Agency’s approved testing facility list; therefore, results from this location will not be accepted for insurance claims.

Farmers may drop off 5-pound samples of shelled corn at the Constable Laboratory or at one of six agricultural research stations. Forms for submitting samples will be available at the laboratory and the following collection sites:
• Border Belt Tobacco Research Station, 86 Border Belt Drive, Whiteville, 910-648-4703;
• Peanut Belt Tobacco Research Station, 112 Research Station Lane, Lewiston-Woodville, 252-348-2213;
• Tidewater Research Station, 207 Research Station Road, Plymouth, 252-793-4118;
• Lower Coastal Plain Tobacco/Cunningham Research Station, 200 Cunningham Road, Kinston, 252-527-3579;
• Piedmont Research Station, 8350 Sherrills Ford Road, Salisbury, 704-278-2624;
• Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station, 74 Research Drive, Fletcher, 828-684-3562.
Samples mailed via the US Postal Service should be sent to:
N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Food and Drug Protection Division
Attn: Forage Testing
1070 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1070
Samples mailed via FedEx or UPS should be sent to:
Forage Testing, NCDA&CS
4000 Reedy Creek Rd.
Raleigh, NC 27607
For more information about the aflatoxin testing program, call George Ferguson, feed compliance officer, 919-733-7366.

Mountain State Fair offers new attractions, rides and more

Each year, thousands of visitors flock to the WNC Agricultural Center for the N.C. Mountain State Fair to celebrate the people, agriculture and traditions of Western North Carolina. This year, organizers are adding new rides, attractions and exhibits to the lineup of annual favorites.
“This year, we’ve brought in several new attractions,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “We’ve also expanded the footprint of Heritage Circle to highlight even more traditional crafters that continue to add to the region’s rich culture.”

Heritage Circle adds exhibitors

Heritage Circle will feature craftspeople offering daily demonstrations, ranging from molasses making and blacksmithing to pottery and basket weaving. New exhibitors will demonstrate traditional canoe-building techniques and teach fairgoers how to dye fabrics using natural materials. Visitors will have a chance to ask artisans about their crafts and the traditions intertwined with the mountains of North Carolina. In addition, visitors can purchase unique handmade gifts from exhibitors.

New attractions on midway

The midway is one of the more popular draws for many visitors. James H. Drew Exposition will return with a full midway featuring more than 40 rides and carnival games for the whole family. Crowd favorites, such as the chair lift and Seattle wheel, will return along with three new family-friendly attractions:

The Balloon Ferris Wheel, a pint-sized Ferris wheel, has eight enclosed cars that rotate around a smiling sun.
The Lollipop Swing, another miniature version of a popular fair attraction, will send children soaring through the air in seats attached to colorful lollipop arms.
The Black Forest Fun House offers children a unique place to explore and have fun.
Ice Cream Eating Contest

One of the new competitions is the Ice Cream Eating Contest, sponsored by PET and Ingles. The contest will be held in the Davis Event Center at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 15. Anyone 5 and older attending the fair the day of the contest is eligible to participate, but space is limited. Registration will take place the day of the event, and all contestants must be registered by 6 p.m. The competition has five categories: ages 5-7; 8-12; 13-17; 18 and older; and celebrity. Trophies will be awarded to winners, and ribbons will be given to second- and third-place finishers in each category.

New performances aim to educate and dazzle

The fair will have four new performing attractions in 2015:

The Mobile Dairy Classroom teaches children about the dairy industry with the help of a live dairy cow. Instructors demonstrate how to milk a cow, describe how milk gets from the farm to the consumer, and answer questions from the audience.
Horses Horses Horses! is a performance featuring 12 miniature stallions, a Friesian horse and a black Arabian horse. The horses will waltz, dance and perform other tricks to the delight of the crowd.
Hansen’s Spectacular Acrobatic Sensations joins the entertainment lineup with lots of high-flying aerial acts. The act includes juggling, trampoline routines, skating tricks and cloud-swinging.
Rowdy Rooster and his sidekick, Diesel the Weasel, perform an interactive puppet show that’s well-suited for families with small children.
Save money with advance tickets

The 2015 N.C. Mountain State Fair runs Sept. 11-20 at the WNC Agricultural Center in Fletcher. Advance tickets are now available at area Ingles stores, the WNC Agricultural Center and the WNC Farmers Market. Fairgoers can save $2 on admission tickets and 50 percent on ride tickets by purchasing in advance. More information about the fair is available at www.mountainfair.org.

Buncombe Commissioner Holly Jones to run for Lt. Governor

Buncombe County Commissioner Holly Jones announced today that she is entering the race for Lieutenant Governor. Jones, who has spent the last 14 years serving in local government, said she is running because of the General Assembly’s constant meddling in local affairs. She says that Raleigh needs new leaders who better understand and respect the role of local government instead of partisans who just want to score political points.

“As County Commissioner, I’ve seen firsthand the damage these legislators have done to our counties,” Jones said. “In 2011, Buncombe became ground zero for their heavy-handed tactics. They’re playing politics while we’re trying to govern.”
Jones says the legislature redistricted Buncombe County, meddled in airport business, and even tried to seize Asheville’s water supply, a multi-million-dollar asset. She also points to redistricting in Wake County and Greensboro, as well as changing nonpartisan elections to partisan ones in Lee County.

Jones also criticized Republicans for cutting budgets that pass expenses to local governments. She called them unfunded mandates, and said they hurt the state as a whole.

“In their ideological zeal, Republican legislators have slashed public education, leaving our schools underfunded and our teachers underpaid,” said Jones. “They’ve short-changed our children and our future.”

Jones was elected to the Buncombe County Commission in 2008, and before that, spent seven years on the Asheville City Council, including two as Vice Mayor. During her tenure, Asheville and Buncombe County have seen impressive economic growth. In the last five years, Jones and her colleagues have created 2,860 jobs paying an average of $44,667 a year, and Buncombe County has the lowest unemployment rate in the state. They have accomplished this while passing the state’s most ambitious carbon emission reduction goals and awarding teachers among the dozen highest salary supplements of any county.

Jones is the Director of Member Services for YWCA USA. Prior to that, she was the Director of the Southeast Region and Executive Director of the Asheville YWCA. She began her career as a public health educator in Durham after obtaining her B.A. in Public Policy Analysis and a Masters of Public Health from UNC-Chapel Hill. Jones also has a Masters in Divinity from Duke University and spent three years doing mission work.

“I’ve never been one to sit idly by, and I’m certainly not going to now,” Jones said. “I’m ready to fight to put North Carolina back on the right track, and to bring the Buncombe success story to the rest of the state.”
Jones grew up in Wadesboro and Asheboro, the daughter of a public school teacher and a former state senator and county commissioner. For the last 19 years, Jones has made her home in Asheville, where she lives with her husband, Bob Falls, and their daughter, Gabriela.

N.C. wine and grape industry has $1.71-billion impact on state’s economy

Wine lovers may raise a glass to a new report that shows the North Carolina wine and grape industry contributes $1.71 billion to the state’s economy.

“It is encouraging to see continued growth in the wine and grape industry, not only for our wineries, but also for our grape growers,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “More than 77 percent of all wine produced in North Carolina comes from North Carolina grapes.”

The study was commissioned by the N.C. Wine and Grape Council and conducted by Frank, Rimerman + Co. using data from 2013. The firm also conducted the council’s 2009 economic impact study.

The economic impact of the industry grew 33.6 percent from 2009 to 2013.

Tourism accounted for the most significant increase in the study. Between 2009 and 2013, tourism expenditures increased 65 percent, to $257 million. The number of tourists visiting N.C. wineries increased by nearly a half-million people from 2009 to 2013.

“Many of our wineries are opening up their vineyards to wine-related events, private parties, weddings and other special occasions to attract more visitors and diversify their income,” said Whit Winslow, executive director of the Wine and Grape Council. “The new numbers reflect an increase in consumer demand for experiences beyond the tasting room.”

According to the report, North Carolina is home to 130 wineries and 525 commercial grape growers. Winslow said that because of substantial growth over the past two years, North Carolina now has 159 wineries.

There will be plenty of opportunities to visit local wineries in September as the state celebrates North Carolina Wine and Grape Month. The harvest season will be under way, and visitors can participate in grape stomps, wine festivals and other events at many of the state’s wineries. In addition, the N.C. Wine and Grape Council will sponsor Grape Day at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh on Sept. 18. The council also will hold the annual N.C. State Fair Wine Competition for amateur and commercial wine producers. Judging will take place Sept. 2 and 3 in Raleigh.

Death Penalty Recommended in Buncombe County Murder Case

B9316753461Z.1_20150326162017_000_GPSA9M2MN.1-0A Leicester man suspected in the murder and dismemberment of Former Food Network celebrity chef Cristie Codd, her husband Joseph “J.T.” Codd and their unborn child, will face the death penalty if convicted. The Codds went missing in March. Their remains were later found inside a woodstove on Owens’ property. Owens had been hired as a handyman by the Codd’s who were neighbors.

Robert Jason Owens, 37, appeared Buncombe County Superior Court Monday afternoon. District Attorney Todd Williams recommended the case against Owens be punishable by death.

In addition to two counts of first-degree murder, Owens is charged with two counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon, two counts of dismembering human remains and murder of an unborn child.

There are 10 convicted murderers from Buncombe County who were sentenced in the last 25 years and are still sitting on state and federal death rows.

Methamphetamine Trafficking in Macon County

On Friday, July 24, agents of the Appalachian Regional Drug Enforcement Office, the Rabun County Sheriff’s Office, the Macon County, Sheriff’s Office, and the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation took action in an ongoing methamphetamine trafficking investigation.

Joseph Anthony Persicketti, 26, of 214 Omega Hills Road, Franklin, was arrested in Clayton, Ga., and charged with trafficking methamphetamine.

Denise Andrews, 35, of 713 Eskona Street, Newland, N.C., was arrested in Franklin, and charged with trafficking methamphetamine.

Karrie Elisa Varner, 33, of 214 Omega Hills Road, Franklin, was arrested in Clayton, Ga., and charged with trafficking methamphetamine.

Rona Burrell Stone, 48, of 192 Omega Hills Drive, Franklin, N.C., was arrested, in Franklin, and charged with trafficking methamphetamine.

Agents executed three search warrants in North Carolina which resulted in the seizure of approximately 11.5 ounces of crystal methamphetamine (street value of $32,890).

These arrests were the result of an extensive investigation into methamphetamine trafficking in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

Beer has $3.8 billion impact on NC Economy

tapsIn North Carolina, beer accounts for 26,480 “direct economic impact” jobs, which the study breaks into three areas: Brewing, 1,347; distributing, 4,070; and retail sales, 21,063.

North Carolina has 130 breweries with more on the way. The largest N.C. brewery is the MillerCoors plant in Eden which employs 522 persons with an average compensation package of more than $100,000.

On a national level, the U.S. beer industry contributes $252.6 billion in economic output which is equal to about 1.5 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. Federal, state and local taxes amounted to more than $48.5 billion in 2014.

Brewers and beer importers directly employ 49,576 Americans. More than 70 percent of brewing jobs are linked to large and mid-sized brewers and beer importers. Meanwhile, the number of distributor jobs has increased by more than 20 percent in the last decade, to more than 131,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

“Independent beer distributors provide significant economic benefits in their communities through local business-to-business commerce, investments in local infrastructure and capital assets, along with tax revenue,” said Tim Kent, executive director of the North Carolina Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association. “Independent beer distributors provide services that improve efficiency for trading partners, especially small brewers and retailers, and they ensure fair prices and a broad selection of products for consumers to enjoy.”

Haywood County Drug Arrest

jillsuddrethOn Thursday, July 23rd 2015, Jill Rebecca Suddreth, 42 years of age, of Monte Vista Road in Candler, North Carolina, was arrested in Waynesville, North Carolina, by DECU Agents (SBI), DEA Tactical Diversion Squad Agents, and members of the Haywood County Multi-Agency Drug Taskforce, The U.N.I.T. Suddreth was employed by, but on leave from employment as, a North Carolina Probation Officer during the commission of the offenses and at the time of arrest. Suddreth was arrested and transported to the Haywood County Sheriff’s Detention Center where she retrieved dosage units of some type pills from a concealed location on her body and attempted to flush them down a toilet at the facility. In addition two other controlled substances were located in her possession. Suddreth was held at the Haywood County Detention Center in lieu of a $25,000.00 secured bond. The investigation is continuing.

Hiking and Waterfall Safety Tips

No preparation is really needed to visit a waterfall if you know where it is. However, for any serious waterfall trek, there are several things to keep in mind to make your trip more productive and enjoyable.

Keep dry – It’s easy to get wet while visiting a waterfall. Be sure to bring a spare pair of shoes and/or socks. If you are really ambitious, you can even bring a change of clothes. Check the list of useful clothing and equipment for more information.
Be safe – Waterfalls are dangerous places. Wet rocks can cause broken bones. Fast currents can cause drownings. High cliffs can…well, you get the point. Check the list of safety tips in order to stay safe as you visit.
Bring your camera – With the changing nature of waterfalls, you never know what you might want to record for all time. There are many photography tips that can help you get memorable records of your trip.
Don’t do to much in one day – If you only have one day to visit waterfalls, don’t rush around trying to get in as many waterfalls as possible. Pick a few and spend your time relaxing near the falls instead of in the car.
Courtesy is next to godliness – Well, maybe not. But remember to be courteous to other waterfall visitors. Most people visit waterfalls for peace and beauty. Swimming, sunbathing, and large groups disrupt that peace and can ruin someone else’s trip. In particular, photographers can go crazy trying to get a shot of a waterfall when people are climbing on or swimming around a waterfall. This is not to say that swimming should not be done. However, be reasonable and aware of others. In addition, smoking ruins the whole “fresh air” bit for many people.

Bring sturdy boots since many waterfall trails are muddy and some require water crossings.
Bring water since it isn’t advisable to drink stream water.
Bring your camera as already noted above.
Bring clothes you don’t mind getting dirty since they WILL get dirty.
Bring food since a waterfall is a perfect place to picnic after a long trip. Make sure to bring your trash back with you, though.
Bring a map or clear directions since there is nothing worse to hiking to waterfall and not being able to find it.
Bring a friend because hiking alone is boring. Well, not always but it is still a good idea from a safety standpoint.

Safety Tips

Be careful when rockhopping because, while fun and sometimes necessary, it’s dangerous and slippery. At the very least, you could get your boots wet.
Don’t climb on the falls unless you are an experienced rock climber. Waterfalls are slippery and the top of a waterfall usually isn’t too special.
Be smart when swimming since cold waters and strong currents can end a life easily. Swimming should only be done in the calm pools below waterfalls and never never NEVER above a waterfall. Stop swimming at the first sign of any problems.
Don’t walk on the ice in the winter unless you are very sure that it is rock solid.
Bring water. Yes, this was under the list of equipment as well, but dehydration is a real danger on long hikes.

Follow the Famous Dog The Road “Max” Traveled to Bring Hollywood Back to the Mountains

Mountain movie-goers are seeing more familiar scenes on the big screen. The film “Max”, now in theatres, tells the story of a dog helping Marines in Afghanistan. Look closely, and you may notice the backdrop for Max’s new mission in the U.S. is North Carolina.

One setting prominently featured is the DuPont State Forest, a short distance off U.S. 64 near Brevard.
“It’s so beautiful. All the different types of areas, the forest, the waterfalls, all the little cities around,” says hiker Kevin Toshner of Greensboro. “It’s got everything you need for a movie.”

Hollywood plots have also made the forest frightening. DuPont was the site of Katniss Everdeen’s first foray into “The Hunger Games”, which led many to discover the scenery for themselves.

“Many times, when these locations are shown, it’s like a commercial for North Carolina and our beautiful sites,” says Guy Gaster, director of the North Carolina Film Office. “You can certainly see a correlation between visitor attendance figures after productions are shown, like we saw with the forest after “The Hunger Games” and Chimney Rock after “Last of the Mohicans” came out.”

There’s a lot of responsibility making the real world look as good as the digitized Hollywood version. It’s a mission accomplished with the help of the state forest service, and the roadside environmental teams of the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

“We know visitors come to the mountains expecting them to look as pristine as they’ve seen portrayed, and have the area be as nice as their friends and relatives who vacationed here told them it was,” says Richard Queen, NCDOT Division Roadside Environmental Engineer. “We want to exceed their expectations, from beautiful landscaping to litter-free roadsides.”

Roadside environmental crews from NCDOT’s 14 statewide divisions cultivate award winning wildflower beds, maintain everything growing along the roadways, and protect waterways and animal habitats. Their work plays an important part in a making a good first impression to visitors, as well as filmmakers who drive from shoot locations to their hotels and area restaurants.

“Preserving the natural beauty of North Carolina is so very important,” says Division Roadside Environmental Engineer Jason Joyce, whose crew takes care of N.C. 268 near Elkin. A railroad trestle there at the junction of the Yadkin and Mitchell rivers is also seen in “Max”. “You can’t find scenery like this just anywhere. We’re glad it attracts Hollywood and tourists,” adds Joyce, “but it’s also a big reason a lot of folks want to live here. We’re proud to care for it.”

It’s what keeps bringing stars to the state, and audiences to the box office, from “Dirty Dancing” in Lake Lure to “Dawson’s Creek” in Wilmington and locations in between. Those productions also continue to fuel film tourism for fans. The North Carolina Division of Tourism features links for road trips to scenes used in TV and movies. In addition to “Max”, there are links to tours for “Nights in Roadanthe”, “Under the Dome”, and “The Longest Ride”.

However, the famous locales don’t get treated any differently by NCDOT. “We want everywhere to be “camera ready” all the time,” adds Queen.

Folkmoot International 2015 Parade

North Carolina Gets Failing Grade in National Report on Democracy

Forget the honor roll – North Carolina isn’t making the grade when it comes to the democratic process. That’s the assessment of a national report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. “The Health of State Democracies” awarded the Tar Heel State an F when it comes to ballot accessibility, and the fact elected leaders do not always reflect the demographics of their community earned the state a D minus.

Lauren Harmon co-authored the report and says democracy isn’t a partisan issue, “These are really common sense things that most people should agree on, unless their ultimate goal is in fact to impact the outcome of elections either by making it harder to vote or by making it so that money is seen as having the same weight in election as someone’s actual speech. ”

Beginning in 2014, North Carolina eliminated same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting and starting next year will require a government issued photo ID. That law is currently being challenged in court. Overall, North Carolina ranks 42nd in the country in terms of the health of it’s democracy.

Harmon says much of the damage to the state’s democratic process has happened in recent years, “As these voting laws are taking effect, the government just doesn’t look like who’s actually in the state, in terms of people of color and women. We find that districts are being skewed in favor of partisan outcomes. In North Carolina’s case it happens to be Republican outcomes. ”

On a positive note, North Carolina received an A for its accessibility of legislative data for members of the public.

Harrah’s Cherokee Donates $30,000 to MANNA FoodBank

Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort donated $30,000 to MANNA FoodBank for the organization’s 2015 fundraising efforts. This is the 17th year Harrah’s Cherokee has supported MANNA’s mission to end hunger.

“When you examine MANNA’s more than 30 years in operation, their success is due to their interest and concern for the people they serve and the relationships they build with their corporate sponsors, volunteers, and generous donors,” Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort Regional SVP and GM Brooks Robinson said. “We proudly support MANNA and their commitment to the communities our employees live in.”

The $30,000 donation from Harrah’s Cherokee was used to fund the Blue Jean Ball and will also support MANNA’s upcoming fundraiser, Empty Bowls in September. The Blue Jean Ball, this year themed “Bowl Full of Soul,” raised enough money to provide more than 283,000 meals to WNC families in need. The sold-out event was attended by 900 guests and was held on the MANNA campus along the banks of the Swannanoa River in Asheville on June 6. Empty Bowls, which will be held at the Doubletree by Hilton at Biltmore, celebrates community, art, and collaboration while bringing awareness to the problem of hunger in Western North Carolina.

“While many families are busy planning vacations, too many families in our region are busy trying to figure out how they will keep food on the table once the school year ends. In some of our rural communities this is especially difficult,” said MANNA FoodBank Executive Director Cindy Threlkeld. “We are especially grateful to Harrah’s for their generous monetary sponsorship and culinary sponsorship of the Blue Jean Ball and Empty Bowls. They bring a large team of culinary professionals to the event each year and provide first-class fare and service.”

The Blue Jean Ball is MANNA’s largest annual fundraising event. Every dollar raised or donated to the food bank provides enough food for 3 meals. Current estimates in Western North Carolina indicate that 107,600 people in the area sought food assistance last year. MANNA partners with 248 agencies throughout the region to get food to those facing hunger. In 2014, MANNA distributed 15 million pounds, or enough food to provide 34,000 meals a day throughout the 16 counties in Western North Carolina.

Amber Alert out for a missing child, Hayleigh Wilson.

hayleigh2As part of its ongoing search, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is asking for the public’s help to locate 14-year-old Hayleigh Wilson.

Hayleigh disappeared from her residence in Surgoinsville, Tennessee, on the night of June 22, 2015. Hayleigh has been spotted at a Walmart in Marion, North Carolina, in the early morning of June 23, 2015.

She was in the company of the listed 41-year-old suspect, who currently has an active warrant for Failure to Register as a Sex Offender out of Georgia.

Hayleigh and Benjamin may be in the Appalachian Mountains area of Smyth/Washington County, Virginia.

Hayleigh is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 150 pounds. Hayleigh has brown eyes and brown hair. She was last seen wearing a sleeveless flowery top with dark colored shorts or a skirt and boots.

Benjamin is 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 175 pounds. Benjamin has blue eyes and brown hair. He has multiple tattoos. He may have shaved off his beard and may have removed his glasses. He was last seen wearing a blue shirt with the letters “Ford” written on it, dark shorts and a camouflage baseball hat.

The public is urged to call 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) with any information concerning the disappearance or current whereabouts of Hayleigh and/or Benjamin.

Calls may be made anonymously.