Speculation Cooper Will Announce Run For NC Governor

Rumors are swirling that Attorney General Roy Cooper is planning to make his formal declaration that he’s running for governor next year.
Cooper’s campaign committee said Friday the Democrat is poised to give a “special announcement” Monday evening in Nash County.

Cooper has been saying for more than a year he was preparing for a bid for governor. Cooper served in the General Assembly from 1987 through 2000, when he was first elected attorney general.

Testing continues at SCC firing range

After recently expanded testing continued to show elevated lead levels at Southwestern Community College’s firing range, college officials are going forward with the latest recommendations from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC-DENR) to determine the precise project scope.

ECS Carolinas, LLP, an Asheville-based engineering firm contracted by SCC, is obtaining soil and sediment samples this week from an area near the Tuckaseigee River and downhill from the range to determine how far the lead has spread over the years. The college and ECS, acting in concert with NC-DENR’s counsel, will have the new samples tested while mapping out strategies for permanently remediating runoff and excavating the lead currently in the ground.

SCC has operated the range since the early 1980s on North River Road in Jackson County.

“We have relied on the recommendations of NC-DENR from the start to ensure that we handle this the right way,” said Dr. Don Tomas, president of SCC. “We met with NC-DENR officials last week (Oct. 2) to get their guidance on what we need to do next, and our response is to do exactly what they advise. Our goal is to resolve this situation as thoroughly and responsibly as possible.”

Representatives from ECS and Jackson County also attended the Oct. 2 meeting.

Over the next month ECS will follow NC-DENR’s recommendations regarding the locations and scope of the necessary samples, which will be tested. Results will be presented to SCC officials and NC-DENR, which will guide the college’s next steps.

Through Forest Service and Cherokee Country Partnership Hanging Dog Campground Reopening

In 2016, Hanging Dog Campground will reopen as an overnight camping facility in the Tusquitee Ranger District of Nantahala National Forest. The campground, which was first opened in 1963, was closed to camping in 2014. However, the day use facilities remained open. Forest Service officials closed the campground due to declining use and rising operating costs. A collaborative effort between the Cherokee County Commissioners and local Forest Service officials is bringing life back to the campground.

“The Board of Commissioners is greatly appreciative of the efforts by local Forest Service officials to renew discussions on opportunities for outdoor recreation within Forest Service lands. The Board is looking forward to working with the Forest Service to develop a plan that will initially see the Hanging Dog Campground reopened to overnight camping,” said C.B. McKinnon, Chairman of the Cherokee County Commission Board.

“Any decision to close a campground or recreational facility is never easy, and we know it can be tough on the local community,” said Angela Gee, U.S. Forest Service District Ranger, Cheoah and Tusquitee Ranger Districts. “With a significant decrease in the yearly operating budget to maintain recreational facilities across the National Forests in North Carolina, we could not reopen this campground without some type of support.”

Currently Cherokee County officials and the U.S. Forest Service are working on the details of an agreement. The agreement will likely include some support for maintenance of the campground along with assistance in getting the campground ready for reopening.

Gary Westmoreland, Cherokee County Commissioner said, “We are pleased with the positive progress that has been made in moving forward with the project for our citizens and visitors.” Commissioners McKinnon and Westmoreland expressed that the Board of Commissioners is very interested in additional opportunities to work with the U.S. Forest Service toward future expansion of recreational opportunities on Forest Service lands beyond overnight camping.

The Board of Commissioners of Cherokee County expressed their appreciation to U.S. Senator Richard Burr, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, U.S. Congressman Mark Meadows N.C. Representative Roger West and N.C. Senator Jim Davis, for their support and assistance in moving this effort forward.

Forest Service and local officials have agreed to reopen the campground on a trial basis and will be monitoring the use. “We are hoping that people who loved camping at Hanging Dog campground will come back, and the reopening will attract new campers,” said Gee. “We are optimistic that the numbers and partnership support will show a need to continue operating this location for overnight camping.”

Environmental advocates respond to Duke Energy’s review of its ‘Western Carolina’s Modernization Project’

Duke Energy today announced delay its plans and reconsider its options to its originally proposed Western Carolinas Modernization Project, which includes a new natural gas-powered station at Lake Julian, “foothill” transmission lines and a new substation in Campobello, S.C.

Duke Energy cited community concerns expressed through more than 9,000 public comments that the utility received from customers and the affected community as the reason to extend the review and to consider alternatives to all components of this plan.

Statement from Julie Mayfield, co-director of MountainTrue:

“We are pleased that Duke Energy is responding to the needs and desires of the people of Western North Carolina and upstate South Carolina. This decision shows what is possible when a community unites to protect the land that we all love, and when a company listens. More than 9,000 concerned residents made their voices heard, and local elected leaders should be thanked for standing strong. As Duke considers its options, we hope they will propose a new plan that respects our communities’ values, needs, and love of the land; includes more renewables and greater use of energy efficiency programs; and lessens our reliance on fossil fuels.

As Duke undertakes its analysis, we will remain united through our partnership with the Carolina Land Coalition. Join the coalition next Sunday, Oct. 18, at the Historic Henderson County Courthouse in Hendersonville for a picnic and rally as we continue to build momentum and move forward a better energy future for all of us.”

Statement from Kelly Martin, senior campaign representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in North Carolina:

“It’s great to see Duke Energy is reconsidering its plans and responding to public outcry about the scale and impact of that building an oversized natural gas plant and massive transmission lines will have on our community.

“Duke should now do what it should have from the start: develop a truly modern plan for Western North Carolina that maximizes investments in solar energy, energy efficiency, and battery storage rather than locking our region into reliance on fossil fuel electricity for generations to come. Clean energy investments are the best bet not only for public health and the environment, but also for the Duke’s customers who will foot the bill for the modernization project.

Energy efficiency measures and solar power are among the most affordable, lowest cost options for electricity, and we expect Duke Energy to take this into account in planning for Western North Carolina’s energy future.

Statement from Cathy Jackson, vice-president Saluda Business Association and member of the Carolina Land Coalition:

“It’s great that Duke Energy is finally taking the concerns of our communities seriously. We expect this process to lead to a more responsible proposal that address our energy needs without adversely affecting public health, the beauty of our land or the economy of the region. We will stay alert and united through the Carolina Land Coalition, and I invite all concerned residents to join us on October 18, at the Historic Henderson County Courthouse in Hendersonville for the Protect Our Land Community Picnic. Let’s keep the pressure up!”

NCNG deploys Engineer Task Force in Operation Palmetto Support

North Carolina is sending over 500 soldiers and airmen to help their southern sister state as it continues to respond to and recover from record flooding.

“This mobilization is unique to the National Guard because of our dual-mission purpose and authority,” said Maj. Gen. Greg Lusk, adjutant general of North Carolina. “South Carolina is experiencing a magnitude of disaster similar to what North Carolina experienced in the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd. During that disaster other states responded to our calls for assistance. It is now our honor and obligation to reciprocate to our neighbors, fellow Americans in South Carolina.”

NC Emergency Management personnel and resources along with the NC Guard will support South Carolina’s flood response and recovery in the areas of: logistics liaison and public information and staff support, provide hundreds of road barriers, civil air patrol aerial assessments and provide critical necessities like water.

NCNG’s primary missions will be damage assessments of roads, bridges and building, debris removal, road repair, vertical and horizontal construction and communication support.

“Our emergency personnel and first responders will be working extremely long hours and, in many cases, potentially hazardous situations,” said Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry. “Yet they are reaching out with compassion, strength and commitment to helping our southern neighbors.”

On Sunday, three North Carolina Helicopter and Aquatic Rescue Teams (NC HART) were sent to South Carolina to rescue those trapped in the flood waters. The teams are comprised of NC rescue technicians, NCNG Blackhawk helicopters and NCEM specialists. HART’s unique capability enables the teams to search wide areas through rapidly changing conditions such as dam failures and road collapses that put lives in peril. The crews have been conducting wide area searches all week looking for people trapped in vehicles or homes.

The rescue teams, personnel and equipment are being provided through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), which provides a coordinated relief effort for disaster-stricken states to help get the right type of resources at the right time. The requesting state (South Carolina in this case) fully reimburses for the total costs incurred. All resources are coordinated between state Emergency Management agencies.

The EMAC system was developed by state governors following Hurricane Andrew in Florida when critical resources were needed by the state of Florida. North Carolina has sent teams to help with numerous disaster response efforts including Louisiana and Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina and Alaska following flooding in 2007.

“This truly is neighbor helping neighbor at its best and most critical time,” said Governor McCrory.

Halloween Safety Tips from Local Sheriff

HalloweenSoon 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 Greg Christopher of Haywood County.

The Sheriff reminds all Haywood County residents to follow these safety tips:
• 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.
• 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.ncsbi.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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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 Haywood County,” Sheriff Christopher 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. “

N.C. Forest Service offers advice to landowners interested in treating ash trees for emerald ash borers

In two years, the emerald ash borer has become a notorious pest in North Carolina. From its first appearance in the state in 2013, it has already left a trail of dead ash trees in its wake, and it continues to spread, prompting a statewide quarantine in September.

But, there are options for homeowners and landowners or land managers interested in protecting individual trees. “Treatment options are available, but because of the cost and accessibility of trees in a forest, it is simply not feasible to treat large forested areas,” said Rob Trickel, head of the N.C. Forest Service’s Forest Health Branch. “However, treatment of a few individual trees may be worth considering for some homeowners or landowners.”

Options for the urban or landscape/ornamental ash tree include removing the ash tree, replacing the ash tree, or keeping the tree by treating it with pesticides.

For those interested in keeping their ash trees around, NCFS has developed an Emerald Ash Borer Insecticide Guide. The guide was developed to assist even the newest of pesticide users with selecting and treating their ash trees, covering common questions concerning tree identification, what pesticides can be used and how to make a pesticide application. The guide can be found online at www.ncforestservice.gov/forest_health/pdf/EAB_NCPesticidePub.pdf

The guide lists 17 pesticides for EAB treatment that have been registered through the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Pesticide Section and also have been tested in field trials through universities or government agencies.

Homeowners may also want to contact a certified arborist if they are uncertain about applying pesticides themselves or if their tree is large. “Generally, it is worth hiring an arborist if you want to protect ash trees larger than 20” in diameter, but arborists can serve any size tree,” Trickel said.

To calculate your tree’s diameter, measure the width in inches around the tree at 4.5 feet above the ground. Divide that number by 3.14, and that will give you your diameter at breast height.

Another consideration is the cost of treatment. That is often a complicated issue, depending on many factors. There is an online calculator available through Purdue University that may assist landowners in making the decision. You can find it at http://extension.entm.purdue.edu/treecomputer/.

Using the calculator will give you a side-by-side comparison of the cost to remove, remove/replace and treat with different pesticides. The calculator is free, but users must register a user name and password. “Generally speaking, the developers of the calculator assert that in most cases, it is more economical to protect ash trees with pesticides than it is to replace them,” Trickel said.

For more information related to the research and science behind selecting an appropriate insecticide, the North Central Integrated Pest Management Center developed a publication, Insecticide Options for Protecting Ash Trees from Emerald Ash Borer. It is as extensive guide that answers many common questions. To learn more about insecticides for emerald ash borer, go to www.emeraldashborer.info/files/multistate_eab_insecticide_fact_sheet.pdf for this online publication.

For additional resources regarding ash trees in the urban environment, visit the N.C. Forest Service’s Managing Emerald Ash Borer in Urban Areas page at www.ncforestservice.gov/forest_health/forest_health_eab.htm. The Pesticide Guide is posted there, along with other tools to help in the identification and decision making process.

The N.C. Forest Service and the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division continue to monitor the emerald ash borer. If you suspect you have the insect, please contact your county ranger, call the NCDA&CS Plant Industry Division hotline at 1-800-206-9333, or email information to at newpest@ncagr.gov.

An Apple a Day: Heirloom Apples Protected by Land Conservancies

The saying – “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” – dates back to 1860, but the roots of some heirloom apples in North Carolina date back even farther.

Gary McCurry and his son own Fox Gap Farm in Burke County and are harvesting their first crop of organic, heirloom apples this year. “The taste kind of jumps out at you on some of these heirloom varieties. They’re really flavorful, they have strong taste. To eat a tree-ripened fruit of any variety, heirloom or not, you’re going to have a much better experience than you are to eat one that’s green in the middle, that never really did tree-ripen. ”

McCurry is donating his crop to Fonta Flora Brewery to brew a craft beer that will help raise money for the Foothills Land Conservancy. While Fox Gap Farm specifically planted heirloom apples, the fruit is also scattered on many abandoned homesteads, often protected by land conservancies. Heirloom apples grow specifically well in the mountain climate.

Doug Hundley with the NC Extension Service often works with the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy to hunt for heirloom apples on conservancy land, with much success, “These apples are everywhere in western North Carolina where these land trusts are so active and these are farms that are homesteads that were pioneered between 1800 to 1900.”

Hundley says heirloom apples often outlive the people who plant them, “They are the apples our ancestors grew in America starting in the 1600’s and the country survived on them until the supermarkets took over our food supply. ”

In addition to being better tasting, heirloom apples can be more nutritious than newer varieties because of their amount of vitamins and lack of potentially harmful chemicals or fertilizers often used in large-scale production.

National Forests in NC update on closures and travel warnings

All campgrounds, day use areas and some roads on the Croatan National Forest remain closed.

The following recreational areas have reopened to the public after being closed due to severe weather.

Pisgah National Forest:
Brown Mountain Off-highway vehicle trail
Black Mountain Campground
Carolina Hemlocks Campground
Mortimer Campground
Briar Bottom Campground
Curtis Creek Campground
Curtis Creek Road (FS RD 482)
Steeles Creek Road (FS RD 282)
There is still a barricade on FSR 288 at the low water crossing at the Pigeon River.

All visitors are encouraged to be aware of possible non-announced closures in the event of rock slides, or fallen trees. High-water levels and rapid flows on all rivers and streams are occurring within the National Forests in North Carolina. Swimming, wading, and boating in rivers, streams with high-water are highly discouraged. While beautiful to see during high-water events, waterfalls can be very dangerous. Please stay on trails and abide by all posted signage. Please be aware of your surroundings and travel with caution.

International Bluegrass Music Association Honors Local Asheville Venue

At an awards luncheon in Raleigh, NC, Lilliana and Scott Woody, owners of the Isis Restaurant and Music Hall, were awarded the Momentum Award for Best Festival, Event, or Venue by the International Bluegrass Music Association.

“We’re very humbled by this,” Lilliana Woody said. “When they called out our name, we were shocked. It makes us very proud of what we have accomplished as a family and with our staff.”

From its start, the venue has been a home for bluegrass, says Woody. The music hall has seen performances by many local musicians as well as internationally renowned acts like Del McCoury, Sam Bush, David Grisman and the Lonesome River Band. The Isis also hosts a regular bluegrass session and jam every Tuesday evening.

The Isis opened at 743 Haywood Road in October 2012 and quickly gained acclaim from both audiences and performers for exceptional sounding performances. The music hall is host to intimate seated shows of 170 people or standing shows for a crowd of 480.

Haywood County Rape Arrest

Anthony Avante Thompson - PicasaA 23-year-old Asheville man was arrested early Wednesday morning and charged with raping a 20-year-old female acquaintance in her Clyde home Sunday.

Anthony Avante Thompson was arrested at 1620 Brown Avenue in Waynesville and charged with Felony Rape. He is being held on a $60,000 secured bond.

WCU Homecoming Kicks Off October 21st

Homecoming 2014 cheerleaders“Purple on the Prowl!” will be the theme as the Western Carolina University community comes together to celebrate Homecoming 2015, with major public events planned over a five-day period – Wednesday, Oct. 21, through Sunday, Oct. 25.

Events include comedy and country music shows featuring nationally known performers, a golf tournament, the traditional parade down Main Street in Sylva, a performance by WCU’s Inspirational Choir, and a football game pitting the Catamounts against the Samford Bulldogs.

Scheduled for Oct. 21 is a Homecoming Comedy Show featuring Colin Jost, one of the stars of NBC’s iconic “Saturday Night Live.” Jost, who is currently SNL’s “Weekend Update” host, will be joined by comedians Jose Barrientos, Chloe Hilliard and Kevin Yee. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. in the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center. Student tickets, free with a valid Cat Card, are available at the information desk of A.K. Hinds University Center. General admission tickets are $10 and can be purchased at bardoartscenter.wcu.edu or 828-227-2479.

Activities set for Thursday, Oct. 22, include the “Last Lecture” delivered by Vicki Szabo, WCU associate professor of history, 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. Szabo will address the topic “Scholars, Warriors, Cowards and Fools: Fear and Learning from Rome to Raleigh.”

A Homecoming concert featuring rising country star Hunter Hayes will begin at 8 p.m. Oct. 22 at Ramsey Regional Activity Center. Hayes is a four-time Grammy nominee and was named New Artist of the Year in 2012 by the Country Music Association. Advance tickets are $20 for WCU students and $25 for all others, and all tickets are $25 on the day of the show. Tickets are available at ramsey.wcu.edu or by calling 828-227-7722.
Events on Friday, Oct. 23, begin with the annual Alumni Scholarship Homecoming Golf Tournament at 11 a.m. at Maggie Valley Golf Club. The cost of $100 per person includes golf, one mulligan and two raffle tickets. RSVPs are required by Friday, Oct. 16, to WCU’s Office of Alumni Affairs at 877-440-9990 or 828-227-7335, or by emailing bbusby@wcu.edu.

Also on Oct. 23, WCU’s Homecoming Parade will begin at 6:15 p.m. in downtown Sylva. 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.

Activities on Saturday, Oct. 24, will begin with the Chancellor’s Brunch and Alumni Awards Ceremony at 10 a.m. in the Grandroom of A.K. Hinds University Center. Honorees are Teresa Williams, former chair of the WCU Board of Trustees, Distinguished Service Award; Keith Ramsey, professor of medicine at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine, Academic Achievement Award; Michell Hicks, former principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Professional Achievement Award; and Brandon Robinson, an attorney in Durham, Young Alumnus Award. The cost is $15 per person and business attire is requested. RSVP by Oct. 16 by calling the Office of Alumni Affairs or by emailing magill@wcu.edu.

Football tailgating will begin at noon Oct. 24, and Catamount fans will gather at E.J. Whitmire Stadium at 3:30 p.m. for the Homecoming game versus Samford. 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.

Postgame activities will include the African-American Alumni Reception at 6:30 p.m. in the Peele, Westmoreland Suhre, Hartshorn Hospitality Room at the Ramsey Center. RSVP by Oct. 16 by calling the Office of Alumni Affairs or emailing magill@wcu.edu.

Homecoming 2015 activities will conclude Oct. 25 with the WCU women’s soccer team’s match versus Samford at 2 p.m. at the Catamount Athletic Complex and a concert by WCU’s Inspirational Choir in the University Center Grandroom at 3 p.m.

After the Storm, Watch Your Wallet

Scammers are known to follow in the wake of natural disasters. They may claim to be able to fix damage done by the storm, or seek contributions to fake charities to help storm victims.
After a disaster, guard against home repair scams:

Don’t pay for work up front. Inspect the work and make sure you’re satisfied before you pay. A small down payment may be required for some projects, but don’t pay anything without getting a written contract. Avoid paying with cash.
Beware of any contractor who tries to rush you or comes to your home to solicit work. If an offer is only good now or never, find someone else to do the work. Seek recommendations from friends, neighbors, co-workers and others who have had work done on their homes.
Get three written estimates, if possible, and compare bids. Check credentials and contact our office and the Better Business Bureau to learn about any complaints against the contractor. Get a written contract detailing all work to be performed, costs and a projected completion date, and get their certificate of insurance directly from their insurance company.

To help storm victims, make sure your donations will do the most good by avoiding charity scams:
Don’t respond to unsolicited emails and text messages asking you to give, and be wary of social networking pleas for donations. Fraudulent messages may look legitimate and use the name of real charities.
Watch out for pushy telemarketers, and say no to high-pressure appeals. If a caller refuses to answer your questions about the charity, offers to pick up a donation in person, or calls you and asks for a credit card, bank account or Social Security number, donate elsewhere.
Before you make a donation, do your homework first. To report a charity scam, call the Attorney General’s Office. To check up on a charity, call the Secretary of State’s office toll‑free at (888) 830‑4989.

For more tips and information, visit ncdoj.gov. If you spot a storm scam, call Attorney General Roy Cooper’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM toll-free within North Carolina or file a complaint online.

Friends of the Smokies & Appalachian Trail Conservancy Partnership Benefits Trails

During the fall, visitors enjoy hiking and camping along the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). On the trail wildlife can pose a threat to hikers but visitors can continue to keep themselves and wildlife safe by keeping their packs out of reach of black bears, thanks to a grant that Friends of the Smokies received from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC).

For the fifth year, the ATC has made wildlife health and backpacker safety a priority in GSMNP. ATC provided $5,000 from its specialty license plate funds to support bear management at campsites and shelters along the trail. The A.T. is a national park unit spanning from Georgia to Maine with more than 70 miles of trail in GSMNP.

The best thing for park visitors to do is to keep food and garbage away from bears to preserve their wild behavior. “Food storage is crucial to helping us best protect bears in the backcountry,” said GSMNP wildlife biologist Bill Stiver. “By repairing damaged cables quickly, we can ensure that backpackers have the opportunity to properly store food which helps us keep backcountry campsites safe and available for use.”

Each backcountry campsite and shelter in the park has a cable and pulley system which allows backpackers to lift their food and packs out of the reach of black bears, providing a safe environment for hikers and animals. Using the grant funds from the ATC, the GSMNP staff promptly identifies bear management needs, including repairing cable systems, which become damaged by the elements and normal use over time.

Friends of the Smokies and ATC have continued to work together over the years because of their shared interest in providing hikers and backpackers a safe place to experience the outdoors. The partnership and support extends beyond bear cables to the renovation of many backcountry shelters along the A.T. in the GSMNP as well as addressing trail maintenance and hiker safety.

“Our partnership aims to improve the visitor experience and protect the natural resources of two great national park units,” said Holly Demuth, North Carolina director of Friends of the Smokies. “We can and have achieved great things when we work together.”

Website Ranks Maggie Valley as 2016 Best Value Small Town

Every year trivago.com analyzes cities across the US to reveal the year’s 50 Best Value cities and this year they also included America’s Best Value Small Towns.

This year, Maggie Valley was ranked No. 9 in the U.S.

Durham and Greensboro were also recognized as two of America’s Top 10 Best Value Cities, ranking 11th and 13th respectively.

A domestic travel trend is emerging. American travelers are craving small town comfort and charm, according to trivago.com data.

Travel interest to towns with fewer than 50 hotels has been on the rise throughout 2014 and 2015, as Americans continue to seek out less crowded and more budget- friendly destinations.

Luckily, whether traveling “small” or merely economically, losing out on quality doesn’t have to be an issue in the US. As trivago’s Best Value Index (tBVI) shows — calculated using the annual average price of a standard double room and the city’s average hotel rating* — America’s small towns and mid-sized cities offer the best value for the buck.

Former High School Coach Injured in Fatal Accident

Former Smoky Mountain football coach Lionel Brooks and his wife are recuperating after a fatal automobile accident which occurred over the weekend on Cowee Mountain.

A car driven by Kevin Kent Spurely, 57, of Conley, Ga hydro-planed and hit them head-on. Spurely was pronounced dead at the scene.

Law enforcement said some factors to the wreck include Spurely exceeding a safe speed limit for the conditions. At the time of the accident there was heavy rain and standing water on the road. Investigators said Spurely had unsafe tires on the rear of his vehicle.

Lionel, 74, and Linda, 66, are the parents of Franklin football coach Josh Brooks and Panthers athletic director Jay Brooks.

Lionel and Linda Brooks are both currently receiving treatment at Mission Hospital in Asheville.

Lionel Brooks was Smoky Mountain’s coach from 1990 and 1996. He was a defensive coordinator under former coach Boyce Deitz.

Man Arrested for Weekend Murder in Cherokee County

OriginalAccording to Cherokee County Communications shortly after 8:30 P.M. Sunday night they received a call for assistance at a Peachtree Community address.

The caller stated there had been a domestic dispute and a man had been shot.

Officers said upon arrival EMS provided services to the man shot, but the attempts made to provide lifesaving measures were not successful for the victim, Michael C. Davis, 30.

During the investigation a search warrant of the residence was completed and several items were seized as evidence.

Cherokee County arrested Kelvin Wayne Blaylock, 59, for murder. He was taken to the Cherokee County Detention Center and is being held without bond.

N.C. Teams Provide Flood Aid to S.C through EM Assistance Compact

North Carolina is sending help to its southern neighbor in response to an aid request from South Carolina emergency management officials as rain continues to pummel the Palmetto state.

“With the traumatic flooding occurring in South Carolina, I’ve directed North Carolina’s Emergency Management officials to provide as much logistical support as they need from us,” Gov. Pat McCrory said. “Our state has sufficient personnel and supplies to keep North Carolinians safe if conditions warrant.”

Four North Carolina Helo Aquatic Rescue Teams (NC HART) will deploy Sunday evening to help rescue stranded residents and motorists who are trapped in the rising flood waters. Stationed in Salisbury, North Carolina, each team is comprised of three to five rescue technicians and National Guard pilots and crew who train monthly to maintain their certification.

“Given North Carolina’s experience with severe flooding, we’re keenly aware of the critical need for experienced search and rescue teams,” said Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry. “We will do all we can to help our southern neighbors as they face unprecedented flooding.”

The NC HART combines the expertise of local rescue technicians with the training, maintenance and capabilities of the N.C. National Guard and N.C. Highway Patrol Aviation Units. Nearly 60 highly trained technicians are positioned throughout the state working routinely as first responders or emergency medical technicians with local fire or EMS teams. When called upon, the technicians are paired with a helicopter crew from the National Guard or State Highway Patrol and together, they form one of the specialized NC HART teams.

The highly-specialized teams were used extensively following hurricanes Frances and Ivan in 2004 to rescue an estimated 350 residents from fast moving water and areas isolated when landslides cut off roads and escape routes. Since then, the teams also have rescued numerous stranded or injured hikers from remote mountainous regions. The NCHART program became one of the first of its kind in the nation to implement a regimented training and response program that combines the best civilian rescuers with military aviation assets.

“NC HART has been in operation for 10 years. It’s a great example of the partnership among the N.C. National Guard, Emergency Management, law enforcement and Emergency Medical Services. NC HART has rescued more than 70 people in its 10 years,” said Col. Brian Pierce, NCNG state aviation officer. “We’re going to get down to South Carolina as quickly as possible to help our neighbors during this disaster.”

Earlier today, South Carolina asked for the advanced search and rescue teams, as well as an experienced public information officer to help in their Joint Information Center.

“The Emergency Management Assistance Compact provides a coordinated relief effort for disaster stricken states ensuring that they get the right type of resources as the right time,” said state Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. “This helps to ensure the impacted state gets exactly what they need and not unnecessary resources that could complicate their response. This kind of coordination is a tremendous help to the emergency managers in the stricken states.”

The EMAC system was developed by state governors following Hurricane Andrew in Florida when critical resources were needed by the state of Florida, Sprayberry said. North Carolina has sent teams to help with numerous disaster response efforts including Louisiana and Mississippi following Hurricane Katrina and Alaska following flooding in 2007.

Haywood County Man Arrested on Drug Charges

On September 30th, 2015 Raymond Joseph Seay was arrested on outstanding warrants for the Sell and Delivery of a Controlled Substance, Oxycodone.

The U.N.I.T. initiated an investigation into Raymond Seay’s activity after he filed a report with the Haywood County Sheriff’s Office on June 10th, 2015.

In this report he alleged that someone had broken into his home and taken several items inside, including his prescription pain medication.

Upon following up on this report it was determined that the report was filed based up fictitious information that was provided by Seay and that his prescription pain medications were not stolen.

It was also found that Seay, approximately 30 minutes after obtaining his new prescription took the pills, Oxycodone and immediately starting selling them.

During this investigation an Undercover Operation was also conducted and a controlled purchase of Oxycodone was made from Seay.

Upon his arrest on September 30th, 2015 Raymond Seay was found with a Trafficking amount of Oxycodone in his possession.

The U.N.I.T. along with all Law Enforcement Agencies in Haywood County are committed to identifying and addressing those who choose to misuse, sell, and deliver prescription drugs to members of our community.

Raymond Seay was placed in the Haywood County Detention Center under a $32,000 secured bond.

His court date was set for October 8th, 2015.

SMHS Science Teacher Selected For Presidential Award For Excellence

Amanda ClappAmanda Clapp, science teacher at Smoky Mountain High School, has been selected as a 2015 North Carolina State Finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). She is one of only four secondary school science teachers to receive this honor, and is now eligible to receive the national PAEMST award, the nation’s highest honor for kindergarten through twelfth grade math and science teachers.
As a state finalist, she will be recognized by the North Carolina Science Teachers Association at their annual conference in November, by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction at an awards ceremony in December, and by the North Carolina State Board of Education at their December meeting.
Up to two teachers from each state will receive the national award which will include participation in a series of recognition events and professional development opportunities, a $10,000 award, and a Presidential certificate.
“We are very proud of Mrs. Clapp,” said SMHS principal, Jake Buchanan. “She is an exceptional teacher and this is a very deserving honor.”