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US Forest Service Next Round of Plan Revision Meetings Announced

The U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina today unveiled the schedule for the next round of meetings held as part of the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests management plan revision. Members of the public are encouraged to attend.

Each of the six meetings will be held from 4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. Every meeting will have the same agenda and present the same information, and provide opportunity for public review and comment.

During each meeting, Forest Service employees will share information about the proposed Forest Plan, including potential management areas and desired conditions. The meeting will open with a presentation on significant issues, management areas, and the development of plan components. The Forest Service planning team will share some proposed desired condition statements and information about watersheds and recreation settings during an open poster session.

New Data Shows Staggering Rates of Poverty in North Carolina

Poverty remained high in North Carolina last year, according to new Census Bureau data released last week. The new data highlight that many people have not benefited from the state’s weak economic recovery and that North Carolina must do more to help struggling people afford basics like decent housing, nutritious food, and reliable child care, and transportation.

One in five North Carolinians lived in poverty in 2013, which translates to an income of less than $24,000 per year for a family of four. The median annual income in North Carolina adjusted for inflation did not rise between 2012 and 2013 and is lower now compared to 2009 when the economic recovery from the Great Recession officially began. Yet other sources show that incomes at the top have grown and the gaps between the top and bottom and top and middle have widened. (As an important an aside, it should also be pointed out that hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians whose incomes place them above the official poverty line still do not, as a practical matter, bring home a “living income.”)

Many feel Lawmakers have also dismantled services that help people get back on their feet when they are struggling, including unemployment benefits, job training programs, and the Earned Income Tax Credit that makes work pay and helps parents avoid raising their children in poverty.

The new Census data show that progress towards eliminating poverty in the state is stuck: North Carolina’s poverty rate is 2.1 percentage points higher than the U.S. poverty rate, and is the 11th highest rate in the nation. The state’s poverty rate (17.9 percent) and median income ($45,906) remained statistically unchanged, meaning there has been no progress in fighting poverty or raising middle class living standards for the average North Carolinian since 2009.

Governor, Congressman address UNC Board of Governors at Western Carolina University

District 11 U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows makes remarks to the audience and Board of Governors.

District 11 U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows makes remarks to the audience and Board of Governors.

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors’ three-day visit on the Western Carolina University campus came to a close Friday (Sept. 12) as the board held its regular monthly meeting and heard remarks from District 11 U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows and N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory.
The Board of Governors, the policy-making body for the entire UNC system, joined UNC President Tom Ross and numerous chancellors from WCU’s sister institutions for the gathering in Cullowhee that included board committee meetings on Thursday (Sept. 11) and the meeting of the full board Friday at WCU’s A.K. Hinds University Center.

Congressman Meadows, a resident of the Glenville community in Jackson County, noted in his comments to the Board of Governors that the ambassadors he meets with from around the world are often familiar with the state’s university system.

“North Carolina is known for a lot of things – a lot of great things,” he said. “The one thing that continues to come back when I mention that I’m from North Carolina is our university system. It is something we must protect. It is an asset that we must continue to tout. It transcends everything else.”

McCrory spoke to the Board of Governors about a wide range of issues involving the state budget and the North Carolina economy. He also expressed concern about an issue he said has not been addressed adequately by North Carolina leaders – the long-term maintenance costs of state-owned buildings.

In one of the meeting’s lighter moments, McCrory announced that he is an alumnus of Catawba College, the WCU football team’s opponent for its Saturday (Sept. 13) game. McCrory provided the coin toss during the gridiron matchup at WCU’s E.J. Whitmire Stadium. He thanked WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher for providing a warm welcome to campus and said, despite the fact that he graduated from Catawba College, “I wore my purple tie just for you.”

Ross delivered his report concerning the UNC system to the Board of Governors during the meeting, and he also expressed appreciation to Belcher and his staff for their work in preparing for the board’s visit. The Board of Governors scheduled its meeting on the WCU campus in honor of the 125th anniversary of the founding of the institution.
“We could not have been treated better this week, during this 125th-year celebration of Western Carolina, and we thank all of you for your warm welcome and hospitality,” he said.

During his presentation, Ross introduced WCU engineering technology major Ben Strawn, who spoke about his experiences as an intern this summer with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. The WCU senior from Peachland said the primary project he worked on during his internship, an electronic explosive initiator, is expected to be produced by the Army and used in the field.

In his comments, John Fennebresque, chairman of the Board of Governors, joined Ross in thanking the WCU community for its hospitality.

“I have noticed for the past three days – there is something about this place,” Fennebresque said. “Everybody seems to have a smile on their face. It’s unbelievable. So if there’s special water or something like that, I want some.”

Belcher’s time before the Board of Governors included the screening of a video produced by Joseph Hader, a WCU alumnus and member of the staff of the university’s Office of Communications and Public Relations. The video focuses on WCU’s service to Western North Carolina.

“It has truly been a pleasure and a privilege for us at Western Carolina University to host the Board of Governors, President Ross, staff of UNC General Administration and chancellors and staff from our sister institutions across North Carolina,” Belcher said. “I hope during your brief visit here you caught a glimpse of who we are and why this little slice of paradise we call Cullowhee is so special.

“We love Western Carolina University, and I think it shows,” Belcher said. “For 125 years, WCU has been in the business of changing lives. I assure you, the best is yet to come.”

Two Convicted In Black Bear Poaching

A federal jury sitting in Asheville convicted on Monday, Sept. 8, Jerry Francis Parker, 63 and Walter Henry Stancil, 66, both of Rabun County, Ga., for their involvement in illegal bear hunting activities and related offenses, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

The defendants are subject to one year in prison, a $100,000 fine, the loss of their hunting licenses for five years, and a period of banishment from the national forests.

According to evidence presented at trial and documents filed with the court, the defendants engaged in a number of illegal hunting activities in 2011, including using chocolate candy as bait at a site that one of the defendants described as “probably the most active bait site in the United States.”

The defendants were convicted of violating the Lacey Act, which criminalizes the interstate transportation of wildlife taken in violation of state or federal hunting laws.

American black bears are a species of special concern warranting federal and state protection. The hunting of American black bears is illegal at any time within the National Parks. Hunting on Forest Service land is only permitted during open season and in compliance with federal and state law. The U.S. Attorney is committed to the protection of natural resources from illegal hunting activities, including baiting, spot-lighting and exceeding hunting limits.

The investigation was conducted by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Forest Service, the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The prosecution was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Edwards of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville.

Tunnel Repair Begins on Newfound Gap

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced upcoming tunnel repair work inside the Morton Mountain Tunnel from September 2 through September 27. A full-time, single-lane closure will be in effect throughout the duration of the project. The tunnel is located 12 miles south of Sugarlands Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road.

 A leak in the tunnel ceiling and walls caused significant damage on the north end of the tunnel. Last winter, the leak formed very large icicles and an ice mound on the road surface causing roadway hazards for drivers that had to be cleared before the road could be opened for safe travel. During the repair, the tunnel will have one lane closed to allow workers to cut channels for the installation of drainage pipes in the walls and ceiling of the tunnel. Debris curtains will be set up to shield vehicles from construction activities in the closed lane.

 Visitors should expect delays through the 0.25-mile, single-lane closure area. Bluegrass Contracting Corporation of Lexington, KY was awarded the contract and will maintain traffic flow through the area using a temporary traffic signal. On weekends, flaggers will direct traffic through the area from 7:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. on both Saturdays and Sundays.

Local Hospitals Earn Top Awards for Patient Satisfaction

WestCare Emergency Medical Services and Swain County Hospital Emergency Department were recently awarded for excellence in patient satisfaction in the U.S. by Professional Research Consultants, a national healthcare research firm and leader in gauging healthcare consumer perceptions.

PRC annually recognizes healthcare facilities, providers, outpatient service lines, and inpatient units scoring in the top percentages of their national client database for the prior calendar year through the National Excellence in Healthcare Awards.

WestCare EMS received the 5-Star Award, scoring in the top 10 percent of the national database.

Swain County Hospital Emergency Department received the 4-Star Award, scoring in the top 25% of the national database.

The awards are based on the percentage of patients who rated the units “excellent” for the overall quality of care question.

WestCare EMS staffs three ambulances daily, responding to over 400 calls a month, in addition to providing support for the Jackson County First Responder program as well as educational and outreach programs for a variety of local institutions. The unit is also a North Carolina Office of EMS accredited teaching institution and an approved teaching site for many of the National Association of EMT’s courses.

The Swain County Hospital Emergency Department has provided emergency medical care to residents of Bryson City and surrounding communities for many years, offering the full spectrum of emergency care. The department is staffed with physicians with special training in emergency medicine, as well as an outstanding nursing staff with many years of clinical experience.

Sylva Streets To Reopen Wednesday

Sylva Town Manager Paige Roberson announced on Tuesday afternoon that Sylva Streets would be open again on Wednesday following an inspection by a structural engineer who certified the walls from the fire gutted Hooper Building on Main Street were structurally sound. One lane of Mill Street and one lane of Main Street will be opened with the inside lane still being coned off for the immediate future. It was also found the walls of the adjoining buildings were also safe. Tenants were permitted into their buildings on Tuesday to remove property and inventory and commence the salvage process from items which suffered water damage. The work of the structural engineer will give credence to the desire to save the historical image of downtown Sylva and commence the renovation to the Hooper property. As mentioned several times during the “live” coverage of the fire by WRGC Radio News Reporter Roy Burnette, the fire departments were constantly watering down the walls of the building in order to keep the walls cooled as much as possible. Obviously their efforts were successful in saving the building and keeping the fire from spreading to timbers which might have been secured to the rock and block structures. The fire departments deserve even another accolade for their work.

Agricultural Development and Farm Land Preservation Grants Awarded for 2014

The North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund recently awarded nearly $2.3 million to help communities across the state protect farmland and promote agricultural enterprises. These grant recipients were applicants from the trust fund’s Cycle VII request for proposals. Funding resources included statewide general appropriations, Tennessee Valley Authority settlement funds and, for the first time, military funds.

The trust fund collaborated with the military to support agriculture and agribusiness in areas of the state where military bases and training are located. TVA settlement funds were distributed to a 17-county region in Western North Carolina.

Franklin:

The Black Family Land Trust was awarded $143,475 toward the purchase of a 20-year conservation easement on 436 acres of a livestock and horticulture farm owned by Martha Mobley of Louisburg.

Haywood:

The Haywood County Soil and Water Conservation District was granted $362,500 toward the purchase of a perpetual conservation easement on 100 acres of a livestock and crop farm owned by Andrew and Jamie Francis of Canton.

The Haywood County Soil and Water Conservation District received $87,500 toward the purchase of a 30-year conservation easement on 100 acres of a livestock and forestry farm owned by Austin and Kathy Swanger of Clyde.

The Southwestern N.C. Resource Conservation and Development Council was awarded $188,500 toward the purchase of a perpetual conservation easement on 80 acres of a livestock and forestry farm owned by Charles and Janice Henson of Canton.

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy was granted $135,780 toward the purchase of a perpetual conservation easement on 175 acres of a livestock, crop and forestry farm owned by Robbie Kirkpatrick

Swain:

The Swain County Soil and Water Conservation District was granted $10,200 to stimulate profitable and sustainable farms through a series of educational workshops, market studies and marketing efforts.k of Candler.

Jackson County was granted $10,000 to assess whether a viable business model can be developed for a profitable red-meat slaughter and processing facility in Western North Carolina. This project will impact the TVA region.

The Southwestern N.C. Resource Conservation and Development Council received $25,000 to develop a Smoky Mountain Agriculture Economic Strategy focusing on the needs and opportunities for farmers in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties.

The Swain County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $16,000 for the creation of a mobile soils exhibit that will serve as an interactive education display in order for the public to better make connections between the conditions of soils and water on quality of life. This project will impact the TVA region.

The University of North Carolina at Asheville Foundation was granted $7,000 to demonstrate the innovate use of perennial food crops on marginal land to increase small farm profitability. The program will serve Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Madison, Mitchell and Yancey counties.

WNC Communities received $25,000 to establish a system to deliver brewers grain as an alternative and cost-saving feed source to family farmers with smaller livestock herds. This project will impact the TVA region.

WNC Communities was awarded $32,500 to fund enhancements and safety upgrades to the WNC Regional Livestock Center in Haywood County. The trust fund was a partner in the construction of the center. This project will impact the TVA region.

 

Smoky Mountain Military Stand Down Reaches Out to Local Veterans

homelessveteranIf you know a Veteran who is struggling with homeless or perhaps just making ends meet, look no further. The Smoky Mountain Veteran Stand Down will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, at the Macon County Community Facility Building, located at 1288 Georgia Road, Franklin.

This event is made possible by  efforts of over 50 donors, sponsors and agencies to provide one day of care and services to veterans who are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless and low-income veterans who are unable to afford basic care.

Services for veterans will include haircuts, military surplus gear, dental work, optometry, veterans benefit administration, local education services, legal services, housing support, medical and mental health services, veterans service officers and supportive services for veteran families. A hot breakfast and lunch will be served to veterans and their families.

Free transportation is available at the following locations:

— For Haywood County: 7 a.m. at the Open Door Soup Kitchen, located at 32 Commerce St., Waynesville. Call 452-3846.

— For Jackson County: 7:30 a.m. at the Jackson County Justice Center, located at 401 Grindstaff Road, Sylva. Call 586-4055.

— For Swain County: 7:45 a.m. at the State of Franklin, located at 125 Brendle St., Bryson City. Call 488-3047.

For more information, call Mark Schuler at 456-6061 or Mike Casey at 837-7407.

Bullying: Protecting your child on the “Information Superhighway”

gr-41126-1-1Bullying is no longer a behavior that happens mostly on the playground or the school bus. Social media is providing online channels for negative interactions between children, with more than half of teens reporting they have witnessed online bullying.

Experts like Peggy Caruso, a life coach and author of the book “Revolutionize Your Child’s Life,” says the best way an adult can help their child is to be aware of the potential sources of bullying. “To understand and prevent negative influences, I think the biggest thing is understanding the types of bullying, the signs that you look for.”

She says those signs include a child who seems withdrawn, lacks the desire to interact with others, or exhibits extreme changes in behavior. North Carolina law prohibits bullying, and specifically prohibits the use of technology to inflict psychological distress.

In addition to increased technology providing other outlets for bullies, Caruso says it has also decreased typical communication between children, like talking and problem-solving face to face. “One of the issues with technology and social media and whatnot, is the loss of communication. So, I also teach them how to mastermind together, brainstorm with other children, and just try to bring back some things that are lost.”

To deter negative online interactions, she says advise your child to resist the temptation to respond to the bully, don’t retaliate, save any evidence and use online privacy tools and settings to block the bully.

Endowment Attracts Medical Students in Underserved Areas

The effort to attract medical students to pursue careers in underserved rural areas of Western North Carolina is getting a boost with a $3 million endowment to help pay for scholarships.

The donation from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust will support a collaboration established last year by the UNC School of Medicine and the Mountain Area Health Education Center.

While 45 percent of North Carolina residents live in rural counties, just 18 percent of primary care doctors have primary practices in rural communities, according to the NC Medical Journal. That disparity is expected to grow worse as the population ages.

This summer, five students in the program are being mentored by physicians in Linville, Burnsville, Cherokee, Bryson City and Robbinsville. The scholarships support the second, third and fourth years of medical school and reduce student debt by $30,000 each.

“Stamp” of Poverty Falls Hard on NC’s Rural Communities

food-stamp Oftentimes, the issue of hunger is associated with people in inner cities, where the cost of living tends to be high, but a new study shows some of the greatest need can be found where America’s food supply is grown and raised.

Jon Bailey with the Center for Rural Affairs authored the report, which examines the use of food stamps, now called ‘SNAP’ benefits, from 2008 to 2012. “And what we found is that, during that time period, more households in rural areas received SNAP benefits than did households in more urban – both metropolitan and small-city – areas.”

In that five-year period, the report says more than 14 percent of rural households received SNAP benefits, compared to slightly under 11 percent of urban households. USDA says almost one-point-seven million North Carolinians receive SNAP benefits.

Another key finding, says Bailey, is that rural areas and small cities have higher percentages of households with seniors and children receiving food support than in larger urban areas.  “SNAP is providing a way for those people and those households to meet their food needs, which is important, because those two population groups are probably most at risk of hunger and food insecurity.”

In rural areas, one in nine households has a SNAP recipient who is either under age 18, or an adult 60 years of age or older. In North Carolina, the average SNAP benefit per household is just over 250-dollars a month.

Fires in Western NC

It seems inevitable that every summer wildires are making headlines. Wildfires are sometimes called “wildland fires.” Wildfires can originate from a dropped match, cigarette embers, campfires, exhaust sparks from a train, or arson. Many wildland fires are ignited by lightning, according to the US Forest Service NC sees about 2 or so lightening fires a year in the region.

Benji Reece with the US Forest Service says so far there have been 24 fires in our region destroying over 100 acres of property.

Wind, temperature, and humidity all influence wildfires. Strong winds push flames toward new fuel sources. Wind can pick up and transfer burning embers and sparks, starting “spot fires.”

During the day, sunlight heats the ground and warm air rises, allowing hot air currents to travel up sloped landscapes. At night, the ground cools and air currents travel down the slopes.

Large fires can create their own winds and weather, increasing their flow of oxygen.

A really large fire can generate hurricane-force winds, up to 120 mph. The high temperatures preheat fuels in the fire’s path, preparing them to burn more readily.

Fires can be expensive. Reece estimates the suppression cost on the 24 fires in our region are about $11,000 or $463 per acre. This cost is actually down from previous years.

Several firefighters from WNC including Reece will be mobilized to assist with wildfires in the Pacific Northwest this week.

Asheville Named Most Beautiful Place To Live by Good Morning America

No need for mascara or lipstick, Asheville, North Carolina’s acres of mountain terrain won the ultimate beauty contest in 2011. ABC’s Good Morning America, announced its list of “Ten Most Beautiful Places to Live” and this little city nicknamed Land in the Sky near the Blue Ridge Parkway topped the charts at #1. But beauty is not only what’s Asheville’s know for. In 2013, Conde Nast Traveler named Asheville on the list of Friendliest Cities in the World. More recently, Purina ONE selected Asheville in May 2014 as a “perfect dog-friendly city” after touring the country to find the best place to kick off its 28-Day Challenge. In June 2014, Livability.com placed Asheville at #4 on its “Top 10 Foodie Cities 2014″ round-up. Asheville, North Carolina beat Aspen, Colorado with flying colors for the top beauty title.

Haywood Regional Hospital Now Owned By Duke Lifepoint

It was announced Friday Morning that MedWest Haywood and Duke Lifepoint Healthcare have finalized Duke LifPoint’s acquisition of the 169 bed medical center and its affiliated assets. Duke Lifepoint will invest a minimum of $36 million in capital improvements at Haywood facilities over the next eight years and provide resources that will help it enhance and expand its services. Medwest Haywood will n ow be known as Haywood Regional Medical Center.
“As part of Duke LifePoint, Haywood Regional will be better able to meet the changing needs of our community,” said Frank Powers, Chairman of the Haywood Regional Board of Trustees. “We are delighted to finalize this acquisition and begin our collaboration with Duke Lifepoint to improve the health and well being of people throughout this region, create new opportunities for our staff and physicians, and strengthen our medical center for the future ahead.”

Created in 1927, Haywood was the first county hospital in North Carolina. It offers a comprehensive array of services including orthopedics, spine services, cardiology, general surgery, women’s care, emergency medicine, and behavioral health. In addition to its medical center its campus is home to a health and fitness center, the Haywood Outpatient Care Center, and the Homestead, an inpatient hospice facility. Haywood Regional also operates two urgent care centers located in Hazelwood and Canton.
Duke LifePoint is honored to welcome Haywood Regional to our system,” said Lifepoint Chairman and Chief Executive officer William Carpenter III. The physicians and staff at Haywood Regional have shown inspiring dedication and commitment to their patients and community. We look forward to working with them to build on a great tradition of care that exists here and transform health care delivery in Clyde and beyond.”
As part of Duke Lifepoint, Haywood Regional will support its local community by becoming a local taxpayer. A local board of trustees will be established to ensure a strong community voice in Haywood’s long-term strategic direction. “Haywood regional has played a central role in the health care infrastructure of Haywood County for nearly 90 years,” said William J. Fulkerson, Jr., MD, executive vice president of Duke University Health System.” “The Duke LifePoint team is pleased to partner with the medical staff and employees to further strengthen Haywood Regional’s ability to advance Health care throughout the region.”

Duke LifePoint’s acquisition of Haywood Regional was approved by the Haywood County board of Commissioners and the local Hospital Authority Board.

John Luke Carter To Enter American Idol Competition

Webster’s John Luke Carter is expected to compete in the qualification rounds of this season’s American Idol Competition. Carter is planning to enter the competition in New York and if he makes it past the qualifications then he will have the opportunity to appear before the celebrity judges and a chance at a national tv appearance in September in Brooklyn. Carter graduated from Smoky Mountain High School in 2009 and is a member of the Praise and Worship Team at Webster Baptist Church where his father is the pastor. North Carolina has been quite successful in American Idol competition with the last winner being an Asheville resident.

North Carolina Groups Remind Lawmakers of Water’s “Trickle Down” Economics

gr-40716-1-1Thousands of North Carolinians are joining forces to remind the feds about the basic principles of gravity. More specifically, they want the EPA to reinstate Clean Water Act rules that protect headwater streams and isolated wetlands in the state. There had been regulations in place, but they were overturned by the Supreme Court in 2001 and 2006.

Jim Mabrey with Trout Unlimited says streams located at the top of mountains and in the center of prime real-estate development have been impacted by the change.  “But if they don’t do something to protect it, you start building houses up there and you start filling these little streams and ditches in with sediment, it’s no longer a stream then, it’s just a mud hole. ”

Mabrey points out that frogs, bugs and other small animals call those areas home. A decline in their population would mean a decline in the food supply for larger animals and impact the ecosystem. The EPA has extended the comment period for the Clean Water Act regulations until October.

Opponents of a reinstatement of the rules say it would impact agriculture, but Fred Harris with the North Carolina Wildlife Federation says that’s simply not true, and while the new rules would protect key water sources, there are exemptions to protect the interests of farmers. “And I think an important thing is what is not, and things like farm ponds and ditches that farmers dig, those are clearly not included under there. ”

There are more than 242-thousand miles of rivers and streams in North Carolina which supply drinking water for the state and a home for the region’s fish and wildlife. Mabrey says extending the protection to areas that were initially protected is key to securing the “circle of life.” “The frogs, invertebrates, some small fish that use these streams when they are flowing with rainwater, that’s when they breed, that’s where they raise their young.”

Wildlife recreation-related activities lead to more than three-billion dollars spent per year in North Carolina alone, and that money supports more than 95,000 jobs in the state.

Repairs Taking Place At Newfound Gap

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Historic Preservation Crew announced an updated timeline for repairs to the Hiram Caldwell House in Cataloochee in addition to upcoming closures for the Noah Bud Ogle Cabin along Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and partial closures along the flagstone walkways at Newfound Gap.

The Hiram Caldwell House in Cataloochee, NC will be closed for an extra week to complete repairs and repaint the exterior. The house has been closed since Monday, June 9 and is expected to be open by Saturday, July 26.

Repairs to the Noah Bud Ogle Cabin on Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail will begin on Monday, July 21. The cabin will be closed to the public until Friday, August 15 to replace the wood shake roof. The cabin will be accessible to the public on Saturdays and Sundays, but temporary fencing will be in place during the week to ensure visitor and staff safety. The parking area which serves the cabin will be open continually, but three spaces will be reserved Monday through Thursday for use by the Historic Preservation Crew.

Repair work at the Rockefeller monument at Newfound Gap will occur from Monday, August 4 until Tuesday, September 30 allowing the preservation crew to reset and re-grout the flagstone walks. Park staff will place signs and barricades around the affected areas as the work progresses, removing them once the walkways are safe for visitor traffic. Work will be conducted Monday through Thursday during normal business hours. Access to the monument and comfort stations will remain open.
For more information about historic structures in the park, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/historicbuildings.htm.

Parts of Jackrabbit Recreation Area Closed

The U.S. Forest Service has closed certain areas of the Jackrabbit Recreation Area near Chatuge Lake in Clay County. The closures are an effort to promote public safety after an escaped felon from Georgia was allegedly seen near the recreation area. Law enforcement officials are searching for the felon at this time.

 The day-use area, swimming beach and trailheads are closed; however, the campground remains open. Campers have been notified about the escapee. Forest Service law enforcement officials are providing security at the campgrounds. The Jackrabbit Recreation Area is located on the Tusquitee Ranger District, Nantahala National Forest.

Keith Dean Installed As AMVETS Commander For North Carolina

Keith Dean of Sylva was installed at the Commander of the AMVETS Department of North Carolina on June 8th in Greensboro. Dean has been a member of the AMVETS for fourteen years and has held positions as the local Post 441 Chaplain and Post Commander for eleven years. At the State level Dean served as the Chaplain, then progressed through the leadership ranks from Third Vice Commander to the position of the First Vice Commander which he held last year. Dean will officially take office on July first and will oversee the operations of the 32 hundred member organization in North Carolina. To be a member of the AMVETS a person must have served in the military and received either an honorable discharge or a general discharge under honorable conditions. The AMVETS National Service Officers are trained to assist local veterans with preparing their documentation for enrollment into the Department of Veterans Affairs and to file a claim. AMVETS also has an hold an essay contest for high school students and a recognition program for JROTC students. They also volunteer at VA Hospitals and long term care facilities. For information about AMVETS call Keith Dean at 586-6170 or by cell 506-9957.