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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.

WCU to Host Political Debates

Candidates vying for elected office in three races to be decided by Western North Carolina voters in November have agreed to take part in a series of debates sponsored by Western Carolina University’s Public Policy Institute and Department of Political Science and Public Affairs.

The WCU Political Debate Series will begin Thursday, Sept. 4, with opponents for the U.S. House of Representatives District 11 – incumbent Mark Meadows (R-Jackson) and challenger Tom Hill (D-Henderson). The debate will be held in the Grandroom of A.K. Hinds University Center on the WCU campus.

Next up Tuesday, Sept. 23, will be the candidates in the N.C. House of Representatives District 19 race pitting incumbent Joe Sam Queen (D-Haywood) against Mike Clampitt (R-Swain). The debate will be held in Room 204 of the Health and Human Sciences Building on WCU’s West Campus.

Wrapping up the series Thursday, Oct. 2, will be the contenders for the N.C. Senate District 50 seat, with incumbent Jim Davis (R-Macon) and opponent Jane Hipps (D-Haywood). That debate also will be held in Room 204 of the Health and Human Sciences Building.

All debates will begin at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast live online by WLOS-TV on www.wlos.com. All three debates are open to the public free of charge.

Topics discussed during each of the debates will be selected from questions submitted in advance to the PPI. Questions should be submitted by Friday, Aug. 15, to receive priority consideration. Questions must be submitted by registered voters in the district, should be emailed to ppi@wcu.edu, and must include the name of the sender and the county of residence.

Todd Collins, associate professor of political science and public affairs, and director of the Public Policy Institute, said that hosting the debates is in keeping with WCU’s mission as a regional comprehensive institution.

“As a regionally engaged university, we are excited to offer citizens in our area the opportunity to learn more about the candidates through our debate series,” Collins said. “We encourage all voters to learn about the issues and the candidates, to participate in the debates by submitting questions, to watch the debates in person or online, and to make an informed choice when they go to the polls in November.”

Mountain State Fair Tickets

The N.C. Mountain State Fair will return to the Western N.C. Agricultural Center for another run of family fun Sept. 5-14, and advance tickets are now available.

“There’s no time like fair time, and with savings of $2 on admission tickets and 50 percent on ride tickets, there is no time like right now to buy advance tickets,” said fair manager Matt Buchanan.

Advance tickets are available through Sept. 4 at the WNC Agricultural Center, WNC Farmers Market and area Ingles stores. Advance tickets are not available online this year; however, additional Ingles ticket locations have been added in the mountains and upstate South Carolina.

Advance tickets are $6 for adults 13-64, and $2 for children 6-12 and seniors ages 65 and older. Groups with 30 or more people can purchase advance tickets for $5 per person. Ride tickets are available in advance for $7.50 for a sheet of 12 tickets. Family Fun Packs are also available for $35. The cost includes five admission tickets, tickets for four rides and food coupons for a selection of fair vendors.

“With more than 100 acts performing throughout the fair, we’re one of the best entertainment values in the area,” Buchanan said. “Buying in advance or as a group makes it even more affordable.”

This year’s entertainment lineup will feature a mix of new attractions and traditional favorites. Stilt Puppets, a roaming band of acrobatic stilt walkers, will make its fair debut. Other new acts include illusionists Josh Knotts and Lea, dog stunt show K9s in Flight, and naturalist Carlton Burke. Sea Lion Splash, which debuted in 2013, will return for another year of playful antics.

In addition, there will be live music on the Heritage Stage, racing pigs at the Hogway Speedway, newborn calves in the Mooternity Ward, and other fan favorites during the fair’s 10-day run. More information is available at www.mountainfair.org or by calling 828-687-1414.

Ribbon Cutting at Graveyard Fields

Middle Falls at Graveyard Fields

Middle Falls at Graveyard Fields

Graveyard Fields is one of the most popular spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway and on Aug. 4, you can join the National Park Service, U.S Forest Service and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation to celebrate its official reopening after extensive trail improvements, construction of new restrooms and expanded parking area.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. at Graveyard Fields at Milepost 419 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The vision for this project started over five years ago with a partnership between the National Park Service, Forest Service and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. Although the conversation and planning started with these three partners, the final result was only possible because of the dedication and contribution of many of the Foundation’s Community of Stewards members.

The Foundation secured a Scenic Byways grant of $261,000 and committed to raising over $65,000 in matching funds.  To date, The Foundation’s Community of Stewards has contributed over $25,000 to the project, leaving almost $40,000 still to raise. The project is supported by individual donors both large and small, local community groups such as the Fund for Haywood County and the Asheville BMW Riders and significant in-kind contributions from Bonesteel Films and the Steep Canyon Rangers who joined together to create a music video to raise awareness around the needs at Graveyard Fields.

 

 

Swain County Joins Anti-Fracking Movement

safe_imageSwain County has gotten on board with the anti-fracking movement by passing a no fracking resolution. In addition to Swain County, other mountain communities such as Jackson County have also passed anti-fracking resolutions. In July, first Webster and then Sylva town boards passed resolutions. In August, Forest Hills officials will consider a similar resolution.

Proponents contend that fracking is safe and will provide a source of both energy and jobs. Critics — which include a unanimous Swain commission — argue that the practice raises environmental concerns about issues such as groundwater contamination.

The resolutions are entirely symbolic. The newly passed state law stipulates that local governments have no authority to ban fracking.

Senate, House Budget Agreement Provides Largest Teacher Pay Raise in North Carolina History

House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) and Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) held a joint press conference Tuesday to announce details of the $21.25 billion budget agreement reached between Senate and House conferees this past weekend.

 

The budget will provide public school educators an average seven percent raise – averaging $3,500 per teacher. The $282 million investment will be largest teacher pay raise in state history – moving North Carolina from 46th to 32nd in national teacher pay rankings.

 

It will also preserve teacher assistant positions, protect classroom funding and continue to give superintendents broad flexibility to tailor classroom spending to their districts’ needs.

 

“Making positive and historic changes to the status quo isn’t easy – and we commend our Senate and House colleagues for their hard work, patience and perseverance in crafting a plan that provides the largest teacher pay raise in state history without raising taxes,” said Senate Leader Berger and Speaker Tillis. “Investing $282 million in pay raises will make North Carolina competitive nationally and encourage the best and brightest teachers to make a long-term commitment to their profession, our students and our state.”

In addition to the teacher pay raise and preservation of classroom funds, the budget agreement will:

  • Reform and replace an archaic 37-step teacher pay system with a six-step schedule and a transparent compensation package;
  • Preserve current Medicaid eligibility;
  • Provide most state employees a $1,000 pay raise and five bonus vacation days;
  • Increase pay for step-eligible Highway Patrol Troopers between five and six percent;
  • Maintain funding at current levels for the state’s university system; and
  • Fulfill the commitment to extend supplemental pay for teachers with Master’s degrees who have completed at least one course in a graduate program as of August 1, 2013.

The budget will also boost early-career teacher pay by 14 percent over the next two years to $35,000 – making North Carolina a leader in the Southeast and fulfilling a promise made by state leaders in February.

The full budget compromise bill will be posted to the North Carolina General Assembly website at www.ncleg.net on Wednesday.

NC Attorney General Comments on Same Sex Marriage Appeal

North Carolina’s attorney general said Monday his office will no longer defend the state’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in court after a federal appeals court ruled a similar prohibition in neighboring Virginia unconstitutional.

At a news conference about two hours after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling was announced in Richmond, Va., Attorney General Roy Cooper said the ruling made it highly likely North Carolina’s ban will be overturned. North Carolina is part of the 4th Circuit.

Cooper, a Democrat, said further opposition to the four federal lawsuits challenging his state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage would be “futile.”

Public Hearing on Fracking at WCU

The N.C. Mining and Energy Commission recently agreed to hold a public hearing on proposed fracking regulations in Western North Carolina, in addition to three previously scheduled hearings in the Piedmont.

The meeting is tentatively scheduled from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 12, at the Bardo Fine & Performing Arts Center at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee.

The N.C. Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources, on behalf of the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission, is seeking public comments from July 15 through Sept. 15 on a set of proposed rules to regulate oil and gas exploration and development.

Additional public hearings are scheduled for Aug. 20 in Raleigh, Aug. 22 in Sanford and Aug. 25 in Reidsville.

An organization called Clean Water for North Carolina was among those that lobbied for a hearing to be held in the western part of the state.

Tickets for WCU’s Mainstage season go on sale Aug. 6

The students and faculty of Western Carolina University’s School of Stage and Screen soon will raise the curtain for their Mainstage season for the 2014-15 academic year.

The playbill includes two plays and two musicals. Season subscriptions and individual tickets for the productions will go on sale Wednesday, Aug. 6, at the box office in WCU’s John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center.

The Mainstage season will kick off in October with “Elemeno Pea,” a comedy written by Molly Smith Metzler and directed by D.V. Caitlyn, a professor in the School of Stage and Screen. The play, exploring the themes of status, ambition, regret, mistakes and life-defining choices, contains adult language and content.

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, through Saturday, Oct. 4, plus a 3 p.m. matinee on Oct. 4, at Hoey Auditorium.

The next production on the playbill is the musical “42nd Street,” book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, and lyrics and music by Al Dubin and Harry Warren. The production will be directed by Terrence Mann, WCU’s Phillips Distinguished Professor of Musical Theatre, with assistance from music director Katya Stanislavskaya and choreographer Karyn Tomczak. Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes, the musical follows an aspiring chorus girl on her journey through Broadway. Music will include “You’re Getting to Be a Habit with Me,” “We’re in the Money” and “Lullaby of Broadway.”

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13, through Saturday, Nov. 15, plus a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Nov. 16, at the Bardo Arts Center.

The season also includes the musical comedy/horror production “The Rocky Horror Show” in February. Written by Richard O’Brien, the musical will be directed by Mann with help from music director Stanislavskaya. The sci-fi gothic musical about a transvestite and his motley crew includes audience participation and cascading toilet paper. The New York Times said the musical “that deals with mutating identity and time warps becomes one of the most mutated, time-warped phenomena in show business.”

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, through Saturday, Feb. 21, plus a special showing at 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 21, at Hoey Auditorium.

Director Brenda Lilly of WCU’s School of Stage and Screen will present J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan: The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up” in April. The fantasy play follows the adventures of Peter, Wendy, Michael and John in Neverland. This new adaptation of the classic play that will be performed at WCU is based on the work of John Caird and Trevor Nunn, who researched and restored Barrie’s original intentions. The London Times considers the play “a national masterpiece.”

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 16, through Saturday, April 18, plus a 3 p.m. matinee on Sunday, April 19, at the Bardo Arts Center.

Subscriptions for the musicals and plays are available Wednesday, Aug. 6, through Sunday, Sept. 28, and are priced at $50 for adults, $40 for seniors and WCU faculty and staff, and $20 for students.

Individual tickets for the two musicals, “42nd Street” and “The Rocky Horror Show,” are $21 for adults, $16 for seniors and WCU faculty and staff, and $7 (in advance) and $10 (day of show) for students.

Individual tickets for the two plays, “Elemeno Pea” and “Peter Pan,” are $16 for adults, $11 for seniors and WCU faculty and staff, and $7 (in advance) and $10 (day of show) for students.

Preceding the regular Mainstage season is the special event “Through the Looking Glass: Celebrating 125 Years of Arts at WCU.” Chancellor David O. Belcher and wife Susan Belcher will host this celebration of the arts throughout the university’s 125-year history. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 2, at the Bardo Arts Center. WCU Friends of the Arts can reserve seats through Friday, Aug. 22, when remaining seats will be released to the general public. Reservations are required for this event.

Following the regular Mainstage season is the seventh annual Controlled Chaos Film Festival. The event, which will feature the best films written, directed and produced by students in WCU’s Film and Television Production Program, is set for 7 p.m. Friday, May 1, at the Bardo Arts Center. All seats are $10, with cash only accepted at the door.

For more information about the Mainstage season and the two special events, contact WCU’s School of Stage and Screen at 828-227-7491. To order season subscriptions and individual tickets, call the Bardo Arts Center box office at 828-227-2479 or go online to bardoartscenter.wcu.edu.

WCU Grant To Increase Nursing Care in WNC

A federal workforce diversity grant of more than $1 million will enable the School of Nursing at Western Carolina University to partner with Mission Health in an effort to increase the quality of nursing care provided to patients in rural Western North Carolina.

The funding marks the second $1 million grant awarded to WCU in the past year that is intended to improve the diversity and quality of nursing professionals in the region.

The latest grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will provide approximately $350,000 annually over a three-year period to create a program designed to increase the number of nurses with four-year degrees working in mountain hospitals and health care settings.

The project will support development of nurses qualified as “advanced rural generalists” competent in meeting a variety of health care needs across diverse specialties and in different health care settings. The program will include courses addressing the unique health care needs found in the rural environment.

The project will focus on registered nurses with two-year degrees who are ethnic minorities and/or from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds who work at the Mission Hospital campus in Asheville or at its rural affiliate hospitals – Angel Medical Center in Franklin, Blue Ridge Regional Hospital in Spruce Pine, Highlands-Cashiers Hospital in Highlands, McDowell Hospital in Marion and Transylvania Regional Hospital in Brevard. It will provide scholarships, stipends and mentorship opportunities to allow them to receive the additional education and training offered by obtaining their bachelor’s degrees.

Participants in the project are expected to include people of African-American, Native American, Hispanic and Appalachian descent – segments of the population that typically seek advanced education at lower numbers than the rest of the population.

WCU has been at the forefront of efforts to increase the number of nurses with bachelor’s degrees in North Carolina. The Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses Program – or RIBN – started as a partnership between WCU, Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and the Foundation for Nursing Excellence six years ago. The program allows students to be dually accepted and enrolled in both the university and a community college. Since its inception, the program has expanded across the state, with seven universities and 30 community colleges now involved.

Waynesville Teen Dies

Randy Tyler Jenson, 18, of Waynesville

Randy Tyler Jenson, 18, of Waynesville

A Waynesville teen died after falling out of the bed of a moving pickup truck around 330 am on  Wednesday morning in the Fines Creek area of Clyde.

Emergency workers and law enforcement responded to the call on Shelton Laurel where Randy Tyler Jensen, 18, had been riding in the back of a pickup truck when he fell out.

Jensen was pronounced dead at the scene. No others were injured. The incident remains under investigation.

ConMet Returning to Jackson County

Jackson County officials have announced an expansion agreement with Consolidated Metco (ConMet) that will utilize 60,000 sq. ft. of the former Tuckasegee Mills facility located on Skyland Drive in Sylva. The company’s investment will approach $500,000 in facility upgrades, equipment, and lease payments to the county over a three year period, with the potential of creating 25 new jobs during the first 12 months of operation. ConMet will primarily utilize the Jackson facility for warehouse operations and some product assembly as well.

The announcement marks the return of ConMet to Jackson County, as the company formerly operated Cashiers Plastics as a custom injection mold facility. With the growth of the plastic injection molding market in the mid-90’s, ConMet relocated to a 292,000 sq. ft. facility in Bryson City in 1996, and then followed with the addition of a 380,990 sq. ft. plant in Canton in 2006. Those combined facilities employ over 1,100 associates. ConMet back to Jackson County after many years

Local Students and Teachers Learn Value in Park Service

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced the completion of two unique summer programs involving select high school students, college students, and teachers. Participants learned about park resources through on-site training that enabled them to perform ranger duties during their six-week, paid work experience and also to return to the classroom this fall with a wealth of knowledge and experience gained by working in a national park.
“These programs are mutually beneficial,” said Park Education Specialist Karen Ballentine. “The students and teachers get an in-depth study of resource education techniques, scientific methods, and field research to enhance their skills and talents, and, in turn, the park creates advocates through better understanding of and appreciation for the Smokies. Teachers will bring the knowledge into their classrooms and the interns will share their education and experience with the local community through their friends and family.”
Participants worked alongside park rangers in the field assisting with education programs and resource management activities gaining hands-on experience and exploring career opportunities in wildlife biology, fisheries science, botany, forest and stream ecology, geology, Cherokee history and culture, Appalachian history, and park management. When not in the field, teachers worked with park staff to develop elementary, middle, and high school park-based curriculum for the Parks as Classrooms program.
These successful programs were made possible through public and private funding sources. Grants were received from Alcoa, Friends of the Smokies license plate funds, and the federally-funded Youth Partnership Program (YPP). These funds supported five teachers, 25 high school students, and five college students. Additionally, the YPP grant supported four teacher-naturalist positions based out of Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont who assisted with summer camp and research projects.
Student interns will make presentations about their summer experience in North Carolina on Thursday, July 24 at 12:00 p.m. and in Tennessee on Friday, July 25 at 5:00 p.m. The events are open to the media. Please contact the park public affairs office for more information.
The following high school students were selected for the program:
In North Carolina: Aidan Galloway, Jackson County Early College; Alec Wells, Buncombe County Early College; Alex Treadway, Swain County High School; Annie McDarris, Cary Academy; Chace Morgan, Smoky Mountain High School; Holli Whittle, Robbinsville High School; Joshua Jimison, Pisgah High School; Kayla Humphrey, Buncombe County Early College; Orion Holmberg, Cherokee High School; Sydney Schulhofer, Tuscola High School; Todd Allred, Haywood Christian Academy, Ben Ogletree, Smoky Mountain High School; and Allie Dinwiddie, Tuscola High School.
In Tennessee:  Isaac Adams, Cosby High School;; Caleb Downey; Gatlinburg-Pittman High School; Daniel Hatcher, Pigeon Forge High School; Natasha Henderson, Cocke Co High School; Sarah Ottinger, Maryville High School; Zachary Parker, Seymour High School; Jared Rumple, Heritage High School; Sarah Stewart, Homeschool; Austin Valenzuela, Sevier County High School; Caden Watson, Walker Valley High School; Summer Wegwerth, Gatlinburg-Pittman High School; and Madeline Wimmer, Maryville High School.
The following teachers were selected for the program:
In North Carolina: Rich Harvey, Swain West Elementary and Cindy Bryon, School of Inquiry and Life Sciences at Asheville High School.
In Tennessee: Charles Slawson, Fulton High School; Amanda Hendricks, South Doyle Middle School; and Mark Andrews, Heritage High School.
The following college students were selected for the program:
Jarred Burcham, Western Carolina University; Lauren Bartl, State University of New York; Zach Copeland, University of Tennessee; Grant Fisher, Carson Newman; and Victoria Becerra, Oconlauftee Job Corps.
Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont Teacher-Naturalists:
Simon Carbone, Gretchen O’Henley, Wyatt Moore, and Amy Wilson.

 

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.

Gluten-free Doesn’t Automatically Mean a Healthy Choice

As more food choices labeled as “gluten-free” show up on store shelves across the state, a warning that just because it’s free of gluten doesn’t automatically mean it’s a healthy choice.

The founder of Mary’s Gone Crackers, Mary Waldner, welcomes more options for those, like herself, who have celiac disease. But she says the label can blur the line for consumers when it comes to nutrition, as many gluten-free foods are high in sugar to improve the taste. “I think so many gluten-free companies, they don’t care what’s in the food. I see it as an opportunity to really look at our food and see what’s in it, and not replace it with gluten-free junk. ”

The gluten-free industry is now pegged at more than 23-billion dollars annually – with sales up more than 16 percent over the past year (Nielsen).

 

Gluten-free often is characterized as a diet trend.

Waldner thinks it’s here to stay, whether or not the food choices are made because of a doctor’s note. She adds that because of the new awareness of gluten, the public is learning that decades of eating processed foods come at a cost. “Our guts are in bad shape. We’re eating such highly refined foods. We have been doing damage to our digestive system, and I think wheat is a very hard thing to digest.”

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, celiac disease is one of the world’s most common genetic autoimmune disorders, affecting about one-percent of the population.

Tarheel State Could See Impact of Marriage Amendment

When it comes to North Carolina’s “Marriage Amendment” all eyes are on a Richmond, Virginia courtroom this week. The U-S Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit is expected to rule any day on a case challenging Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage. Because the Tarheel state is part of the same circuit, that ruling could impact the legality of Amendment One.

Attorney Chris Brook is with the ACLU of North Carolina, “It would not immediately invalidate Amendment One. I think that a favorable ruling out of the Fourth Circuit would make Amendment One legally indefensible.”

In North Carolina, the ACLU has filed two federal lawsuits challenging the state’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The most recent, filed in April of this year, involves three married, same-sex couples seeking recognition of their marriage, in part because one member of each couple has a serious medical condition.

Lennie Gerber and her partner of 48 years are one of those couples. She says time is everything to them as Pearl faces failing health. “I’m fully aware of how we have had to fight for every step along the way of everybody’s civil rights. So, it’s just one more stone that has to be turned, and I have every confidence that it’s going to be so. They only question is, whether it will be done in time for us.”

Brook says while the trend of overturning same-sex marriage bans seems to be on the fast track nationally, couples like Lennie and Pearl have been waiting a lifetime. “It is imperative to remember that you know we are representing clients that cannot wait months, years, for this to be resolved in the court system. They need their marriages recognized so they can fully take care of their spouses and children.”

The ACLU notes the impact North Carolina’s “Marriage Amendment” is having on same-sex couples, involving their children, medical decision-making, Social Security Insurance survivor benefits and more.

Mosquito Virus Warnings In NC

State health officials are urging North Carolinians to remain diligent in personal efforts to protect themselves from mosquito bites.  The reminder comes on the heels of Thursday’s announcement by Florida health officials that they have confirmed the state’s first two locally acquired cases of the mosquito-borne virus known as chikungunya (chik-en-gun-ye). Sometimes referred to as CHIKV, the virus has been spreading throughout the Caribbean and Central and South America, and has now reached the continental United States.
“Until now, people in this country who have become sick with the virus were travelers who acquired the infection abroad,” Acting State Health Director Robin Gary Cummings said.  “The cases confirmed in Florida shows that the virus could eventually be transmitted in North Carolina as well.”

So far this year, the nine cases that have been confirmed in North Carolina were people who recently traveled to the Caribbean.  Chikungunya virus is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, and the Asian tiger mosquito that is commonly found in North Carolina could effectively transmit this virus.  At this time, there have not been any cases of the disease known to have been acquired in North Carolina.

Dr. Cummings strongly encourages residents to take precautions against mosquito bites at home as well as when traveling to places that already have chikungunya and other mosquito-borne viruses.

“Perhaps the easiest and most effective thing to do around the home is to empty any containers that can hold water where mosquitoes breed,” Dr. Cummings said.  “When traveling to areas known to have mosquito-borne viruses, we recommend that people take personal precautions to prevent mosquito bites and to immediately consult a medical provider if they develop a fever in the two weeks after their return home.”

Symptoms of chikungunya usually begin three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.  Symptoms typically include the sudden onset of fever and severe, often disabling, joint pains in the hands and feet.  Many patients feel better within a week; however, the joint pain may persist for months in some people.  Newborns exposed during delivery, adults over 65 years and people with chronic medical conditions have a greater risk for a severe form of the disease.

To protect yourself and your family against mosquito bites in North Carolina and abroad:

  • Wear light-colored long pants and long-sleeved shirts.
  • Reduce time spent outdoors, particularly during early morning and early evening hours when mosquitoes are most active. However, you should exercise precautions against mosquito bites at all times.
  • Apply EPA-approved mosquito repellents such as DEET, picardin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535 to exposed skin areas. Always follow guidelines when using mosquito repellent.
  • Since mosquitoes may bite through thin clothing, spraying clothes with repellent containing permethrin or another EPA-registered repellent will give extra protection.

DHHS’ Division of Public Health strongly recommends that all North Carolina residents take measures to decrease environmental conditions favorable to breeding for the species that could transmit this infection, the Asian tiger mosquito. This mosquito is an aggressive daytime biter, breeds in small water containers and does not travel long distances.

To reduce mosquito breeding areas around your home:

  • Remove any containers that can hold water;
  • Change the water in bird baths and pet bowls frequently and repair leaky outdoor faucets;
  • Cover rain barrels with tight-fitting screens or lids;
  • Keep gutters clean and in good repair; and
  • Use screened windows and doors and make sure screens are not torn and fit tightly.

Parks Economic Impact Far Reaching in Our Area

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that over  9 million visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2013 spent $734 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 10,734 jobs in the local area.

The 2013 economic benefit figures are slightly lower than the 2012 results which reported that visitors spent $741 million in local communities. The 16-day government shutdown in October 2013 accounted for most of the decline in park visitation and spending. The authors also cited inflation adjustments for differences between visitation and visitor spending, jobs supported, and overall effect on the U.S. economy.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz for the National Park Service.  The report shows $14.6 billion of direct spending by 273.6 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park.

This spending supported more than 237,000 jobs nationally, with more than 197,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion.

According to the 2013 economic analysis, nationally most visitor spending was for lodging (30.3 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.3 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.3 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent). The largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).

The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in the nation.

 

 

Amputee Adventure Camp Offers Possibilities to Kids

9-2The Adventure Amputee Camp is located in the mountains of western North Carolina in the Nantahala Outdoor Center which is near Bryson City.  The Adventure Amputee Camp, Inc., provides children who have suffered amputations the opportunity to stretch their reality and imagination of what is possible to achieve.

Camp activities include river rafting, high ropes and waterskiing. All activities are modified as necessary to meet the ability and interest level of each camper. Other activities (which can include bowling, crafts, games, swimming, and horseback riding) may be less physically stressful, yet provide many campers an experience that was previously untried, unobtainable, or unimaginable.

The physical challenges and peer support frees children from self or societal imposed restraints. Volunteers with amputations are role-models of adults who are living productive and fulfilled lives.

The camp is in it’s 19th year at Nantahala Outdoor Center.

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.