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WCU vice chancellor honors parents, supports band students with new scholarship

Standing from left, Robert Edwards, Chancellor David O. Belcher and Wayne Edwards join (seated from left) Roy and Hazel Edwards in honor of the establishment of the Roy and Hazel Edwards Endowed Scholarship Fund.

Standing from left, Robert Edwards, Chancellor David O. Belcher and Wayne Edwards join (seated from left) Roy and Hazel Edwards in honor of the establishment of the Roy and Hazel Edwards Endowed Scholarship Fund.

Robert Edwards, who is stepping down in December as Western Carolina University’s vice chancellor for administration and finance after 37 years of service to the university, has turned around the age-old notion of “retirement gift.” Instead of merely accepting a gold watch or a rocking chair, Edwards has made a gift of his own to establish a scholarship fund honoring his parents and his high school band director.

Through contributions totaling more than $10,000, Edwards has created the Roy and Hazel Edwards Endowed Scholarship Fund, which will provide annual support to members of WCU’s Pride of the Mountains Marching Band who are from one of the 17 westernmost counties of North Carolina.

Edwards, a 1977 graduate of WCU, said he named the scholarship in honor of his parents, Roy and Hazel Edwards of Sylva, because he wanted to publicly thank them for enabling him and his brother, Wayne Edwards of Waynesville, to attend and graduate from the university. Wayne Edwards, a 1979 graduate of WCU, is a Haywood County insurance executive.

“I know that my mother and father sacrificed quite a bit financially and in other ways so that Wayne and I were able to go to Western Carolina University,” he said. “Without their sacrifices and support, neither of us would have been able to have obtained a college education, and I felt it was important to recognize that fact by naming this scholarship fund in their honor.”

Edwards said there are two main reasons why he stipulated that the scholarships supported by the endowed fund should benefit students who are part of WCU’s marching band program.

“First, I truly believe that the marching band is one of the best things we have going at Western Carolina,” he said. “With its growth in size and quality, it has become a significant part of recruiting students to come to Cullowhee, and I wanted to do what I could to help with that.”

In directing his gifts to support the marching band program, Edwards also wanted to pay homage to his former band director at Sylva-Webster (now Smoky Mountain) High School, Bob Buckner, who would go on to assume the reins of WCU’s marching band program and help it grow from fewer than 90 members to more than 400 when he retired. The band, now directed by David Starnes, has more than 500 members this year.

“Bob is truly the mastermind of what we have going on today in our marching band program. The program is thriving because of the strong foundation that Bob left when he retired. Besides my mom and dad, Bob Bucker is the individual who has had the most influence in my life,” Edwards said.

“He taught me that perfection is only obtained through hard dedicated work. I learned how to be a winner with humility and modesty and I learned how to accept losing with dignity and grace,” he said. “Bob always had a special talent of getting more out of us than 100 percent. He taught all of us to do more than what we thought we were capable of doing. Throughout my life, there have been numerous times when I found myself digging deep within myself, remembering these life lessons from Bob.”

Buckner, a 1967 graduate of Western Carolina, became director of WCU’s marching band in 1991. During his tenure, the band received the 2009 John Philip Sousa Foundation’s prestigious Sudler Trophy, the nation’s highest and most-coveted award for college and university marching bands. Capping his career was a 2011 New Year’s Day appearance in the Tournament of Roses Parade by the Pride of the Mountains, which was named “best band” in the parade in an online poll conducted by KTLA-TV of Los Angeles. Buckner retired in the summer of 2011 after 20 years as director.

This year, the band will be participating in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Edwards became vice chancellor for administration and finance on July 1, 2011, after serving in the role in an interim capacity. He had previously worked as the university’s internal auditor for 27 years. Born and raised in Jackson County, he graduated from Sylva-Webster High School in 1973.

The Roy and Hazel Edwards Endowed Scholarship is expected to be awarded for the first time next year, with preference given to a graduate of Smoky Mountain High School who is a member of the WCU marching band. Recipients must demonstrate financial need, and may be either new or continuing WCU students who are in good academic standing.

The gift from Edwards is the latest in a series of new endowed scholarships created at WCU since the installation of Chancellor David O. Belcher in March 2012. During his installation address, Belcher identified raising funds for endowed scholarships as the top philanthropic priority for WCU.

Early Voting Starts Today: High Turnout Expected at Polls

Jackson County Board of Elections is open for voters today. Photo by Heather L Hyatt

Jackson County Board of Elections is open for voters today. Photo by Heather L Hyatt

It’s a sprint and not a marathon for North Carolina voters this election season. Early voting starts today and runs until November 1st – seven days shorter than in previous years. Boards of Elections are ready for the high turnout expected – as voters try to make sure their vote counts in this midterm election, where several high-profile offices are at stake.

Trena Parker, director of elections in Buncombe County says her staff is ready, “It will just be more condensed. The State Board of Elections has been preparing all of the counties accordingly. We feel like we’re ready. We trained the workers.”

Every county offers Saturday early voting, and some offer Sunday voting. More information on voting and the candidates is available at ncvoterguide.org. Unlike Election Day on November 4th, you can vote at any precinct location in your county for early voting. You are not required to have a photo ID for this election.

Brent Laurenz with the North Carolina Center for Voter Education encourages people to vote early because you can’t always predict what might happen with your schedule on Election Day. He adds the hotly contested US Senate race may increase crowds at the polls, “The U.S. Senate race between Kay Hagan and Thom Tillis is drawing a lot of attention. I think that’s going to attract a lot of voters, probably more so than maybe last midterm election in 2010.”

Parker says polling locations will have extra staff to accommodate crowds, but it’s also important for voters to come prepared – with some knowledge of the races, “Voters should try to treat voting just as they would a doctor’s appointment. You need to prepare for ‘OK, where it is I go? What do I need to know before I go?’ A little bit more preparation this time might be to their benefit.”

Unlike prior years, there is no straight-party voting on the ballot, so voters must select each candidate choice for each race, even if they are voting party line. If you wait until Election Day, it’s important to verify your precinct location, since because of the new state voting Law, no provisional ballots will be accepted

WCU Homecoming Parade & Activities

Western Carolina University will hold its homecoming parade Friday, Oct. 24, in downtown Sylva.The parade begins at 6:15 p.m., and university alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends are invited to cheer as community and student floats, Catamount cheerleaders, the Homecoming Court and the Pride of the Mountains Marching Band march and roll down Main Street.
The parade will start at Mark Watson Park and march toward downtown Sylva along Main Street. As parade participants reach the east Main and Mill street intersection, a Sylva police officer will determine which floats continue straight or turn onto Mill Street, depending on their size. Floats that cannot make the turn will continue to Jackson Paper to turn around.

Starting at 6:10 p.m., Main Street traffic will be diverted at the old Rescue Squad building onto Dillsboro Road. Westbound traffic into town will be stopped at Speedy’s and rerouted onto Municipal Drive.

WCU will celebrate with events that include a professional step show performance, golf tournament and football game against The Citadel.
This year’s theme is “Cheers to 125 Years of Catamount Pride!,” a tip of the hat to 2014 being the 125th anniversary of WCU’s founding.
Activities set for Thursday include the “Last Lecture” delivered by Lisa Briggs, WCU associate professor of criminology and criminal justice, at 4 p.m. in the theater of the University Center. The annual event honors a WCU faculty member who has been recognized by students for teaching with great passion and enthusiasm. Briggs, who holds two degrees from WCU, will address the topic “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Please Help Guide Us Through it All.”

Later today, Catamount fans will gather for the Spirit Night pep rally at Central Plaza. The 6 p.m. event will feature a free cookout and appearances by the cheerleaders, dance team, Homecoming court, athletic teams and pep band.

Activities on Saturday, Oct. 25, will begin with the Chancellor’s Brunch and Alumni Awards Ceremony from 9:30 to 11 a.m. in the Grandroom of the University Center. Honorees include Robert Edwards, WCU vice chancellor for administration and finance, Distinguished Service Award; and Jarrett Frazier, ingest coordinator in video controls for NBC Sports in Stamford, Conn., Young Alumnus Award. Football tailgating will begin at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 25, and Catamount fans will gather at E.J. Whitmire Stadium at 2 p.m. Halftime activities will include recognition of the Homecoming award winners and court, plus an announcement of this year’s Homecoming king and queen. Tickets to the game are available from the WCU athletics ticket office at 800-344-6928.

For more information about Homecoming events, visit homecoming.wcu.edu or contact WCU’s Alumni Affairs office.

NCDMV, NCSBOE Partner to Validate Voter Registration Applications in Advance of Election

The N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles is supporting the N.C. State Board of Elections in its efforts to confirm the validity of voter registration applications. NCDMV is using the U.S. Department of Homeland Security database to assist in this proactive process.

“This is an example of the continued partnership between NCDMV and the State Board of Elections,” said NCDMV Commissioner Kelly Thomas. “Through this team approach, we will do all we can to help the Board of Elections ensure the security and accuracy of voter registration applications.”

Through the research to date, NCDMV has found that 11 people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) issuances were also registered to vote through NCDMV.

Three of those people were registered in error and SBOE is working to remove them from voter registration rolls. The remaining eight people were registered to vote through NCDMV prior to March 2013 when DACA went into effect and were already registered voters when they received their DACA issuance. As of Oct.18, NCDMV had 15,250 total DACA records in its database. The State BOE has the responsibility to remove any ineligible individuals from voter rolls.

NCDMV will continue to cross-check and verify the database to reinforce this data process moving forward. NCDMV information is provided to SBOE in an effort to ensure that only valid voters are allowed to cast ballots. SBOE currently receives an update of the NCDMV database weekly.

“We appreciate the continued partnership with NCDMV and we will continue to working through this process as quickly as possible to ensure the integrity of the election for all North Carolina voters,” said Kim Strach, SBOE executive director.

Search for Stolen Artifacts from Cataloochee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are offering a reward for information regarding the recent theft of artifacts from the Palmer House in Cataloochee. The missing artifacts, including a trowel, mill pick, and a coffee mill, were taken from locked display cases in the Palmer House where historical information and exhibits are provided for park visitors.

Park officials are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individuals responsible for the theft. The unique, wall-mounted coffee mill was donated to the park in 1935 by a Cataloochee resident. The trowel and mill pick, which was used to cut and sharpen millstone grooves, were also part of the park’s permanent archival collection.

It is unlawful to disturb or deface historic resources within the park. Perpetrators may be sentenced up to 6 months in jail and or fined up to $5,000. Anyone with information as to the possible identity of the individuals responsible for the theft is encouraged to call the tip hotline (865) 436-1580.

The Airwaves: For Public TV or Internet Interests?

gr-42407-1-1As the song goes, “Video Killed the Radio Star.” Will wireless kill some free public TV? That’s the latest media question. The FCC is holding an auction in which wireless companies such as Verizon and A-T-and-T will bid on parts of the nation’s airwaves currently being used by television stations. It’s called a spectrum auction.

Todd O’Boyle of Common Cause says there are billions at stake, “On the one hand, the broadcasters are looking at a big payday, potentially. And on the other hand, the cellular folks are looking at making lots of money building next-generation networks.”

But some observers are concerned that, given the incentive to sell spectrum, the owners of some public television stations that serve diverse communities in many cities will give in. Minority voices would be muffled and the T-V industry, virtually bereft of any minority ownership to begin with, would be further “mainstreamed.”

Public broadcasting advocate John Schwartz, director and founder of the Voqal companies, says the government doesn’t seem sympathetic to pleas on behalf of public TV, “The FCC is strongly influenced not only by the lobbying power of the big carriers – because obviously that’s massive – but also out of the concern that the most important and most valuable use of spectrum now is for wireless broadband and not for broadcast.”

According to one estimate, the auction could generate 45 billion dollars, and another forecast says nearly 35-hundred low-power television stations could be affected by the spectrum changes. The government also intends to use some of the money raised to build a next-generation public safety communications system. The auction is set to start on the 13th of next month.

One Stop Early Voting in Jackson County

JACKSON COUNTY BOARD OF ELECTIONS OFFICE
876 SKYLAND DR # 1
SYLVA, NC 28779
Thursday, October 23 – Friday, October 24 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 25 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Monday, October 27 – Friday, October 31 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 1 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

CASHIERS RECREATION CENTER
355 FRANK ALLEN RD
CASHIERS, NC 28717
Thursday, October 23 – Friday, October 24 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 25 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Monday, October 27 – Friday, October 31 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 1 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

CULLOWHEE RECREATION CENTER
88 CULLOWHEE MOUNTAIN RD
CULLOWHEE, NC 28723
Thursday, October 23 – Friday, October 24 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 25 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Monday, October 27 – Friday, October 31 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 1 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

WOLFTOWN COMMUNITY GYM
28 LONG BRANCH
CHEROKEE, NC 28719
Thursday, October 23 – Friday, October 24 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 25 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Monday, October 27 – Friday, October 31 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 1 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Local Man Charged in Shooting Death of His Father

Travis Heffner has been charged in the shooting death of his father Kenneth Heffner

Travis Heffner has been charged in the shooting death of his father Kenneth Heffner

On October 20, 2014, at approximately 6:38 p.m., the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call at 77 Paniolo Drive, Sylva, NC regarding a shooting. The caller stated to the 911 operator that he had shot his father. 911 dispatchers kept the caller on the phone, instructed him how to check for breath, and eventually how to conduct CPR. Deputies arrived on scene a short time later and assisted with CPR. West Care EMS arrived shortly thereafter and continued CPR with assistance from the Balsam-Willets Volunteer Fire Department’s first responders. Deputies secured the shooting scene, then obtained and served a search warrant. Deputies were assisted by agents with the NCSBI during the search. As a result of the investigation and after conferring with the District Attorney’s Office, the caller, identified as Travis Lindsey Heffner, was arrested and charged. The deceased is Kenneth Rodney Heffner, father of the suspect. The investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

Time to Escape a Home Fire? 2 Minutes, Says Red Cross

 In addition to checking the batteries in your smoke detectors, the American Red Cross recommends going over your home escape plan in the event of a fire. Photo credit: S. Carson.

In addition to checking the batteries in your smoke detectors, the American Red Cross recommends going over your home escape plan in the event of a fire. Photo credit: S. Carson.

More than 2,300 people die nationwide and another nearly 13,000 are injured in home fires. This month, the American Red Cross is kicking off a national campaign to reduce deaths and injuries from house fires by as much as 25% over the next five years.

While installing smoke detectors and changing their batteries is an important part of fire safety, the group’s Anne Marie Borrego says your family’s escape plan is just as important, “I would say if there’s one thing that you can do today it’s to go home and really practice that escape plan. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to sit down and talk with your family and actually see how long it’s going to take you to get out of your home.”

A recent Red Cross survey found that people believe they have more time than they do to escape a burning home. Fire experts estimate people have as little as two minutes to escape, while 62% of respondents believe they have at least five minutes.

According to the survey, nearly seven in 10 parents believed their children knew what to do if their house caught on fire, but less than one in five families with children have practiced home fire drills and less than half of them have talked with their children about fire safety.

Borrego says fire safety is a conversation worth having with your kids, “My advice would be to do it in a very matter-of-fact manner. It’s important to talk with them about the need to prepare just in case and to reassure them that mom and dad are doing this just so everyone stays safe.”

The National Fire Protection Association recommends smoke alarms installed inside of every bedroom and on every level of your home.

Moral March to take place on Thursday

A Moral March to the polls is being held in Sylva on Thursday October 23rd–just in time for early voting. Activists and participants will gather at 10:00 am in front of the old Jackson County Courthouse on Main Street and make the 2 mile walk to the Board of Elections office on Skyland Drive.
The Reverend Charles Lee will be leading the procession to the Elections office.

New Book Chronicles History of GSMNP

As one of the largest and wildest national parks in the East and as America’s most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains has a long history that is both dramatic and highly influential.

“Unlike most western parks, which were carved from vacant, public domain or national forest lands, this national park had to be purchased entirely from private landowners,” said Steve Kemp, interpretive products and services director at Great Smoky Mountains Association, publisher of “Mountains for the Masses: A History of Management Issues in Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” a new administrative history of this national park.

The park’s acquired area covers more than half a million acres. While logging companies owned 85 percent of this land, it also encompassed more than 1,000 family farms.

“Making a park and a wilderness from settled, logged-off lands had both political and environmental consequences,” said Kemp. “Throughout this history, the issues of preserving mountain culture, designating wilderness, protecting wildlife and biodiversity – all while managing roads, trails, campgrounds, and other facilities for millions of annual visitors – had to be reckoned with and resolved.”

Chapter topics within “Mountains for the Masses” cover important issues such as: wildlife management, the campaign to establish a park, the CCC era, preserving the mountain culture, Cades Cove, wilderness designation, entrance fees, Mission 66, fisheries management, and the legacy of dispossession.

A comprehensive index makes “Mountains for the Masses” an invaluable reference tool for libraries, agencies and citizens with an interest in how their public land is managed and protected.

“Park superintendents understandably eschew labeling parks as ‘crown jewel’ or ‘flagships,’ insisting that each unit in the National Park System deserves to be valued on its own merits,” author Theodore Catton said. “Still, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is by any measure one of the superlative national parks in the United States.

“Arno B. Cammerer, a key player in the campaign to establish the park in the 1920s, glimpsed its future greatness and popularity when he predicted that Great Smoky Mountains would become a haven for all ‘those from the congested centers of population, the workers of the machines in the lofts and mills, the clerks at the desks, and the average fellow of the small towns,’ who, with only a few days’ vacation at their disposal, would “get the recreation and inspiration that [their] more fortunate brothers now get out of a visit to the Yellowstone or Yosemite,” Catton continued.

Catton is also the author of “Inhabited Wilderness: Indians, Eskimos and National Parks in Alaska” and “National Park, City Playground: Mount Rainier in the Twentieth Century.” Proceeds from sales of the hardback edition at $40, including dozens of photographs of key park staff sites, support the preservation of this national park.

Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has given more than $32 million to support the ongoing educational, scientific and preservation efforts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Support for the non-profit association is derived primarily from online and visitor center sales of educational products and membership dues. Those who wish to strengthen their Smokies experience are encouraged to join GSMA.

Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has given more than $32 million to support the ongoing educational, scientific and preservation efforts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Support for the non-profit association is derived primarily from online and visitor center sales of educational products and membership dues. Those who wish to strengthen their Smokies experience are encouraged to join GSMA.

For more information about GSMA or how to order this new volume, visit www.SmokiesInformation.org; or call toll-free 888-898-9102.

Haywood County Student Jailed After Bringing Handgun to School

A 16-year-old Haywood County student is in jail after being charged with bringing a handgun to school.

According to the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office, deputies arrested Dakota Levi Rose at Central Haywood High School and charged him with felony possession of a gun on educational property after he was found to have a .22-caliber revolver on him while on school campus. The weapon was not loaded and no ammunition was found on Rose.

The incident occurred around 2 p.m. after another student reported to a teacher that Rose had a gun. Rose was arrested without incident.

Rose has a pending charge for an arrest October 7 for misdemeanor assault and battery involving another student.

Rose was jailed in lieu of $5,000 secured bond. His first court appearance is scheduled for November 5.

Jackson County Sheriff Offers Halloween Safety Tips

Soon our streets will be scattered with little ghosts, goblins and witches trick-or-treating this Halloween. “Halloween should be filled with surprise and enjoyment, and following some common sense practices can keep events safer and more fun,” said Sheriff Jimmy Ashe.

The Sheriff reminds all Jackson County residents to follow these safety tips:
Motorists:
· Watch for children darting out from between parked cars.
· Watch for children walking on roadways, medians and curbs.

· Enter and exit driveways and alleys carefully.

· At twilight and later in the evening, watch for children in dark clothing.

Parents:
· Make sure that an adult or an older responsible youth will be supervising the outing for children under age 12.
· Check the sex offender registry at sexoffender.ncdoj.gov/ when planning your child’s trick-or-treat route. You can view maps that pinpoint registered offenders’ addresses in your neighborhood, and sign up to get email alerts when an offender moves nearby.
· Plan and discuss the route trick-or-treaters intend to follow. Know the names of older children’s companions.
· Make sure older kids trick-or-treat in a group.

· Instruct your children to travel only in familiar areas and along an established route.

· Teach your children to stop only at houses or apartment buildings that are well-lit and never to enter a stranger’s home.

· Establish a return time.

· Tell your youngsters not to eat any treats until they return home.

· Review all appropriate trick-or-treat safety precautions, including pedestrian/traffic safety rules.

· All children need to know their home telephone number and how to call 9-1-1 in case of emergency.

· Pin a slip of paper with the child’s name, address and telephone number inside a pocket in case the youngster gets separated from the group.

Costume Design:
Only fire-retardant materials should be used for costumes.
Costumes should be loose so warm clothes can be worn underneath.
Costumes should not be so long that they are a tripping hazard.
Make sure that shoes fit well to prevent trips and falls.
If children are allowed out after dark, outfits should be made with light colored materials. Strips of retro-reflective tape should be used to make children visible.

Face Design:
Do not use masks as they can obstruct a child’s vision. Use facial make-up instead.
When buying special Halloween makeup, check for packages containing ingredients that are labeled “Made with U.S. Approved Color Additives,” “Laboratory Tested,” “Meets Federal Standards for Cosmetics,” or “Non-Toxic.” Follow manufacturer’s instruction for application.
If masks are worn, they should have nose and mouth openings and large eye holes.

Accessories:
Knives, swords and other accessories should be made from cardboard or flexible materials. Do not allow children to carry sharp objects.
Bags or sacks carried by youngsters should be light-colored or trimmed with retro-reflective tape if children are allowed out after dark.
Carrying flashlights with fresh batteries will help children see better and be seen more clearly.
While Trick-or-Treating:
Do not enter homes or apartments without adult supervision.
Walk; do not run, from house to house. Do not cross yards and lawns where unseen objects or the uneven terrain can present tripping hazards.
Walk on sidewalks, not in the street.
Walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic if there are no sidewalks.

Treats:
Give children an early meal before going out.
Insist that treats be brought home for inspection before anything is eaten.
Wash fruit and slice it into small pieces.
Throw away any candy that is unwrapped or partially wrapped, or has a strange odor, color or texture.

Homeowners/Decorations:
Keep candles and Jack O’ Lanterns away from landings and doorsteps where costumes could brush against the flame.
Remove obstacles from lawns, steps and porches when expecting trick-or-treaters.
Keep candles and Jack O’ Lanterns away from curtains, decorations and other combustibles that could catch fire.
Do not leave your house unattended.
“Halloween is a fun time in Jackson County,” Sheriff Ashe concluded, “But let’s make it a safe time as well. The major dangers are not from witches or spirits but rather from falls and pedestrian/car crashes. “

Park Plans Prescribed Burn in Cataloochee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park fire management officials are planning prescribed burns in the Canadian Top Knob, Mathews Branch, and Noland Mountain areas adjacent to Cataloochee Valley in North Carolina. Weather permitting, burn operations could begin as early as Monday, October 20, and may continue intermittently through mid-November.

The burn units this year are part of the larger Canadian Top multi-year prescribed fire project in which fire managers have been conducting a series of low-intensity, controlled burns to restore the composition and open structure of the oak woodlands that occur on upper slopes and ridges. These fire and drought-tolerant natural communities are in decline throughout the Southern Appalachian region.

“The prescribed burns in Cataloochee are critical for the health of oak and pine woodlands. The restoration of this habitat will help to sustain populations of elk and numerous other plants and animals native to Cataloochee Valley,” said National Park Service Fire Ecologist Rob Klein.

This series of burns will reduce the number of fire-sensitive trees and shrubs, increase the regeneration of fire-tolerant oak and yellow pines, and increase the cover and diversity of native grasses and wildflowers. Over time, this increase in herbaceous vegetation on the forest floor will improve forage for elk which graze the nearby meadows. The burn operations will be conducted by park staff and are partially funded by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

“It is exciting when two resource management organizations’ missions are able to be joined in partnership for mutually beneficial results,” said Wildland Fire Unit Leader Shane Paxton.

Roads and trails will remain open to the public throughout the burn operations, although Little Cataloochee Trail may be temporarily closed if fire activity warrants. Visitors should expect to see smoke in the area.

Local Gospel Singer Passes Away

norman-wilson-passes-awayNorman Wilson of The Primitive Quartet passed away Wednesday after suffering an apparent massive heart attack while hunting with friends in Graham County. Wilson played mandolin and sang tenor for the band since 1973.

The Primitive Quartet began when two sets of brothers, Reagan and Larry Riddle and Furman and Norman Wilson, carried a guitar and mandolin with them on a fishing trip to Fontana Lake. After the fishing trip, with the encouragement of their parents and pastor, they began to sing together at area churches, calling themselves the Riddle-Wilson Quartet.

The Riddle and Wilson brothers went on the road as full-time musicians in 1978. Now called the Primitive Quartet, in honor of the old-time gospel singing that inspired them.

They have recorded several albums and have toured throughout the United States and abroad. The group was the subject of a BBC documentary in 1984, and Singing News has listed them among the top five nominees for its readers’ Band of the Year award for several years consecutively. All but one of “the Primitives” live in Candler.

Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital prepared for Ebola

Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital are working closely with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure our hospitals are prepared with the appropriate plans to detect, protect and respond should anyone in our community contract or be exposed to the Ebola virus. While we have not treated any patients with Ebola at our hospitals, and there have been no confirmed cases in North Carolina, Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital have taken the following measures to prepare:

· Triage and admission assessments have been revised to include questions regarding travel to high risk areas, as well as recent contact with people from those areas.
· Notices have been placed at entrances asking anyone who has a fever and has traveled outside the country, or who has had exposure to an international traveler to notify staff.
· Dedicated isolation rooms have been designated for patients who may have been exposed to Ebola and protective gear has been provided for our employees.

Staff members at Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital are taking additional preparedness steps by participating in a drill exercise focused on the hospitals’ response in the event Ebola becomes present in our community. Staff members are also joining regional training sessions on specific precautionary safety measures related to treatment.

“Ongoing readiness is part of our culture of safety at Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital regardless of the issue or potential threat. We are monitoring the Ebola outbreak on a daily basis and are aligned with national, state and local resources in our preparedness planning,” said Steve Heatherly, president and CEO of Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital.

“Our staff is trained and prepared to manage outbreaks of viruses and infectious diseases, including Ebola. We want to assure the community that we are taking the appropriate precautionary measures to keep our employees, visitors, and community safe and prevent the spread of this virus,” said Anetra Jones, chief nurse executive for the hospitals.

For more information visit www.cdc.gov or www.ncdhhs.gov or call the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Ebola hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

Harris Regional Hospital and Swain County Hospital have served Jackson, Swain, Macon and Graham counties with primary and subspecialty care, outpatient facilities and urgent care together since 1997. The hospitals became part of Duke LifePoint Healthcare in 2014.

Farmland Preservation workshops to be held across the state

The N.C. Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund will hold six workshops across the state for those interested in protecting local agricultural lands. The ADFP Trust Fund will be collaborating with the state USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service staff to host these workshops.

The Farmland Preservation workshops target non-profit conservation organizations and county agencies. Farmers, landowners and others interested in the preservation of working lands are also encouraged to attend. The workshops are highly recommended for all past, present or potential recipients of federal and/or state grants associated with farmland preservation. The workshops are free and open to the public.
Workshops will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the following dates:

Oct. 28 – Haywood County Center, 589 Raccoon Road, Waynesville;
Oct. 29 – Catawba County Center, 1175 S. Brady Ave., Newton;
Nov. 5 – Guilford County Center, 3309 Burlington Road, Greensboro;
Nov. 6 – Richmond County Center, 123 Caroline St., Rockingham;
Nov. 12 – Sen. Bob Martin Eastern Agricultural Center, 2900 N.C. Highway 125 South, Williamston;
Nov. 13 – Lois G. Britt Agribusiness Center, University of Mount Olive, 652 R.B. Butler Drive, Mount Olive;
For more information and to register, go to www.ncadfp.org/FarmlandPreservationWorkshops.htm.

WCU faculty to discuss Ebola crisis risk and response at Nov. 4 event

A panel of Western Carolina University faculty members, including an environmental health professor who has studied the spread and control of infectious agents such as Ebola for more than two decades, will take part in a discussion about the virus on Tuesday, Nov. 4.

Part of WCU’s Global Spotlight Series, the event will be held in the auditorium of the Forsyth Building from 4 to 5:30 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

Faculty members Burton Ogle, Jen Schiff, Rebecca Dobbs and Saheed Aderinto will offer environmental health, political, geographic and historical perspectives of Ebola based on their expertise and participate in a question-and-answer session.

Ogle, director of WCU’s environmental health program, will discuss the risk of exposure and transmission of Ebola and prevention strategies. Ogle was consulted 25 years ago when a strain of Ebola was detected in monkeys in Reston, Virginia, and has researched the virus and the connection to infectious disease transmission protection and bioterrorism preparedness.

The primary transmission of Ebola is through direct contact with bodily fluids such as urine and blood and waste material such as feces, and the country’s health care facilities follow protocols that assume people are carriers of infectious disease and thus take action such as wearing protective clothing, masks, eye protection, gloves and other gear to reduce the risk of transmission, Ogle said.

“In the U.S., we have very little chance of contracting the disease,” he said.

Ogle anticipates there will be more isolated “travelers cases” similar to the recent situation in which a man who was exposed to Ebola in Liberia and traveled to Texas was diagnosed in the United States with Ebola. He died Oct. 8. Despite dozens of people having contact with the man and continuing to be monitored for symptoms by health authorities, as of Wednesday, Oct. 15, only two people – nurses who treated him directly – have been diagnosed with Ebola. An investigation is under way to discover how they were exposed and how safety could be further enhanced at all health care facilities to prevent such exposure.

Schiff, an assistant professor of political science and public affairs, will discuss which countries and organizations are supporting humanitarian efforts to help stop the spread of Ebola. In addition, she will speak about “why shutting down the borders won’t necessarily solve the problem,” and could do more long-term damage to countries battling the spread of Ebola and efforts to halt the spread of the virus, she said.

Dobbs, an instructor of geography, will talk about spatial patterns of the current Ebola outbreak and past outbreaks, the role of environmental changes such as deforestation and climate change in the current outbreak, and geographic considerations associated with human travel and interaction.

“Both local and global conditions matter in understanding the origin of the outbreak and its potential for broader diffusion,” said Dobbs.

Aderinto, an assistant professor of history with expertise in African history who is a native of Nigeria, will discuss the spread of Ebola in the context of African’s underdevelopment – a process he traces to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

“The entrenchment of epidemic diseases, whether Ebola or HIV/AIDS, are obvious manifestations of poor medical facilities, illiteracy, politicization of knowledge, poverty across ethnicity, social class, gender and generation – all of which should be traced to colonialism, neo-colonialism and the corruption of African leaders,” said Aderinto. “Ebola – like HIV/AIDS – hit the poorest countries in Africa really hard because disease and disease control cannot be understood in isolation from the broader crisis of underdevelopment.”

David Dorondo, an associate professor of history with expertise in European military and political history and one of the panel organizers, said Ebola also is important in the discussion of national security, which is increasingly defined in terms broader than traditional military terms.

“Issues such as climate change, epidemic – or even pandemic – disease, water shortages, uncontrolled migration and others are appearing ever more frequently in the calculations of governments and the leadership of their armed forces,” he said.

Today’s armed forces are involved in supporting civilian aid agencies and humanitarian efforts including the fight to stop Ebola, and the reduction of military budgets in recent years could “hamstring some of the most effective ways to get massive aid to faraway places in rapid fashion,” he said.

The Global Spotlight Series is organized by Dorondo, Schiff and Niall Michelsen, associate professor of political science and public affairs.

Info: Michelsen (828) 227-3336.

You’ve ‘Goat’ to be Kidding: Eradicating NC Kudzu

These goats (and a canine friend) are taking a break on a big job. Wells Farm rents them out to help eradicate invasive kudzu on protected lands. Photo courtesy of Pacolet Area Conservancy.

These goats (and a canine friend) are taking a break on a big job. Wells Farm rents them out to help eradicate invasive kudzu on protected lands. Photo courtesy of Pacolet Area Conservancy.

Goats are known for their insatiable appetite and love of climbing, which makes them the perfect candidates for the job of cleaning up kudzu in North Carolina. Land trusts are using goats to clean up land that’s been overtaken by the invasive plant on several conservation properties.

The Pacolet Area Conservancy in Tryon is wrapping up a project using goats, explains stewardship director Pam Torlina, “I have been really amazed. What’s great about the goats going in, they can get into some really steep areas, where if you were to take machinery or something like that in, it could really start depleting the soil.”

Torlina says the goats visit twice a year, and it normally takes three years for them to make the land kudzu-free. Kudzu was brought to the US from Japan in the late 1800s, but prevents vegetation from growing and spreads quickly. Other kudzu eradication projects using goats are taking place in Roan Mountain and Hickory Nut Gorge.

Ron Searcy and his wife own Wells Farm in Transylvania County, and for the last eight years they’ve rented out their goats to places like the Pacolet Area Conservancy. He says it’s turned into a booming business, and they rent about 300 goats every year to locations in five states, “It’s just perfect browse-land for them. Goats like things that are up high anyway, so kudzu being vines and up in trees, and off the ground a good ways, it’s just desirable for goats.”

Torlina says goats have benefits for the land and community that machinery can’t provide.”They’re really low-impact, they add fertilizer as well, and they’re quiet. And in public places, people just love coming to see them and see the impact that they have on the land in a positive way, as far as getting rid of kudzu.”

By eliminating the kudzu, Torlina says land trusts encourage survival of native plants and animals that are otherwise being pushed out by the invasive plant. She adds it’s part of the long-term commitment to take care of land-trust acreage.

October 16th Earthquake Preparedness Day

Governor Pat McCrory has proclaimed October 16 as Earthquake Preparedness Day and is encouraging North Carolina families, business and schools to practice how to protect themselves in an earthquake by using three simple steps: drop, cover and hold.
An estimated 100 million people felt the earthquake in Mineral, Virginia on August 23, 2011 that damaged homes and buildings in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

If you feel shaking, emergency management and earthquake officials recommended that you:

• Drop to the ground

• Take cover under a sturdy desk or table

• Hold on to the desk until the shaking stops.

• If there is no table or desk nearby, crouch in an inside corner of a building and cover your head and neck with your hands and arms.

• Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, bookshelves, lamps, TVs, cabinets and other objects as much as possible. Such items may fall and cause injuries.

Do not get in a doorway. It is not safe and does not protect you from falling or flying objects.

Do not run outside. Running in an earthquake is dangerous. The ground is moving making it easy to fall or be injured by falling structures, trees, debris or glass. If you are outside during an earthquake, move to a clear area that is away from trees, signs, buildings or downed electrical lines.

McCrory encouraged North Carolinians to join the other Southeastern states and Washington, D.C., in the third Great SouthEast ShakeOut earthquake exercise, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 16 at 10:16 a.m.

Families, businesses and schools can register their participation at www.shakeout.org/southeast. Participants will be notified of events in their area and receive regular information on how to plan their drill and become better prepared for earthquakes and other disasters.

More earthquake preparedness tips can be found online at www.ReadyNC.org. North Carolinians can also download the free ReadyNC mobile app – available for both iPhone and Droid devices – that provides real-time weather and traffic alerts plus readiness tips for a variety of emergencies.