Thursday, November 10, 2011

UNC-TV Host Interviews Clay County Reps at Local Projects

On November 8, the host of North Carolina Now paid a visit to Hayesville to interview people associated with various Clay County projects that promote local development. Jeff Smith and his videographer spent half a day filming interviews at the Cherokee Heritage Exhibit, Hayesville's Old Jail Museum, the old Clay County Courthouse, and the Jackrabbit Mountain Bike and Hiking Trails. UNC-TV broadcasts North Carolina Now. Jeff Smith says that the program is likely to be broadcast in December 2011.
At the Cherokee Heritage Exhibit, Smith interviewed John Bayne, Sandy Nicolette, and Eleanor Moyer. The North Carolina Now team filmed Sandy and Eleanor teaching several classes of Clay County Elementary School students about how Cherokee Indians lived. Later they filmed Bob Brock and Margie Weathers talking about the renovation of Clay County's historic courthouse. Finally, they interviewed  Joanna Atkisson with students from the Clay County school system's Pathways After School Program.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Cherokee Heritage Festival a Success

Clay County’s first annual Cherokee Heritage Festival took place on Saturday, October 15, at the Cherokee Heritage Exhibit near the square in Hayesville. The weather was glorious, and many people turned out to visit demonstrations of Cherokee crafts and discussions of Cherokee history and culture by experts. The Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians (EBCI) generously provided information that serve as the basis of this festival. EBCI members provided rich insights into their culture. The exhibit celebrates Clay County’s rich Cherokee heritage and culture. It offers travelers and students a gateway to Cherokee heritage sites in the region and will boost the economy of Clay County as its existence attracts visitors to the area.
Presenters included T.J. Holland who spoke about Hiwassee and Valley River towns, Diamond Brown who presented Cherokee culture through stories, and Darry Wood who demonstrated dart making and blow guns. During the festival, various artisans demonstrated their crafts. They included Davy Arch who demonstrated flint knapping and masks, Emma Garrett who demonstrated rivercane baskets, Lucille Lossiah who demonstrated double-weave rivercane baskets, Ramona Lossie and Lucy Teesateskie who also demonstrated rivercane baskets, and Lamar Marshall who answered questions about Cherokee trading trails in front of a large map of the trails.

The basket weavers demonstrated their craft on a concrete pad that Hayesville resident, Reba Beck, had painted in a beautiful basket-weave pattern. Cindy Curtis of Hayesville filmed the event and will share it with the Western Carolina University (WCU) Film Department. WCU is producing a documentary on the development of the Cherokee Heritage Exhibit. David Sellers also filmed the event for his Art in the Mountains cable show out of Young Harris.

Scott Ashcraft, who provided extensive insight on the petroglyphic rock art images used on the wall panels of the Exhibit, was present. Kathleen Marks of the Creating New Economies Fund (CNEF) came all the way from Chapel Hill for the event and photographed it. Darry Wood coordinated arrangements for the basket weavers who demonstrated their crafts. The Junaluska Museum and the Hiwassee-Valley Land Trust (LTLT) sponsored TJ Holland’s talks about the Valley-Hiwassee River Cherokee settlements.

The Cherokee Homestead Exhibit is a joint effort of Clay County Communities Revitalization Association and the Clay County Historical and Arts Council (CCHAC). A large number of additional organizations provided support for the project. They include the following in addition to the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians: the NC Rural Center, the Conservation Fund, Clay County Board of Travel and Tourism, the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, the N.C. Arts Council, HandMade in America, Walmart, and the Cherokee Preservation Foundation. Rob Bell of Blue Ridge National Heritage Area and Deborah Grant of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation attended the festival.

Several community groups organized the festival. They included and the Clay County Historical and Arts Council (CCHAC). Clay County’s rich Cherokee heritage has the potential to attract large numbers of visitors to the area during the prime fall leaf season. A Blue Ridge National Heritage Area grant helped fund the event. The Blankenship Seed Company provided hay bales for it. C&H Services provided port-o-lets. Chip Harper with Cub Scout Pack 407 helped by removing the trash and items for recycling on Saturday after the festival.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Photos from May 27 Junction Band Concert in Hayesville

Clicking on the above link will take you to the photos of the concert that was held on May 27.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Spikebuck Archeological Dig a Success

Western Carolina University is beginning an archeological training course at Spikebuck Town in Clay County led by Professor Jane Eastman, Director of Cherokee Studies at WCU and sponsored by the Fred Moss Foundation. Students in the WCU summer archeological field school are: (front/left) Kira Nothnagel, Alex Bialek, Ashley Hussey, Stephanie Hribar, Melanie Boeyer, Heather Sweeny and Steven Yates. (Back/left) Beau Carroll, Daniel Heilig, Dr. Jane Eastman and Paul Martin.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ride the Rabbit: The Opening of the Jackrabbit Mountain Bike and Hiking Trails

On a glorious spring day, the Jackrabbit Mountain Bike and Hiking Trails opened officially on April 30. Coincidently, 2011 is also the year of the rabbit on the Chinese zodiac, and the trails’ logo is a rabbit. The trails are the result of a partnership of the Tusquitee Ranger District of the US Forest Service, the Southern Appalachian Bicycle Association (SABA), and the Clay County Communities Revitalization Association.
Speakers at the event included Marisue Hilliard, supervisor of national forests in NC; Steve Lohr, outgoing district ranger for the Tusquitee Ranger District; Joanna Atkisson, president of SABA; and Ron Guggisberg. Lohr reported that the trails attracted 15,000 visitors last year. He expects 40,000 more this year.
The speeches were followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the existing 14.5-mile system and for the new 500-foot bike practice trail. Afterward, SABA led group mountain bike rides; members of the Young Harris College cross country team led group trail runs; and the Mountain High Hikers led group hikes.
The Jackrabbit Mountain Bike and Hiking Trails were created on thickly forested land over the past eight years. They did not exist previously. This article tells the story of how they came into existence. It is the story of the activities of two groups of people: local lovers of mountain biking who wanted a convenient place to ride, and local lovers of this area who saw nature-based tourism as a route for economic development compatible with the area’s great natural beauty. The first group, led by Joanna Atkisson, enlisted the Forest Service’s cooperation, found experts in trail building, boosted local interest in mountain biking, and did much of the work in trail construction. The second group, led by Ron Guggisberg, secured the financing that made the project possible. Both Joanna and Ron were volunteers, as were most of the people who helped them. The following account comes from Joanna’s and Ron’s speeches at the Jackrabbit grand opening.
In the summer of 2001, the Clay County School System added mountain biking to its Pathways After School and Summer Program. Members from the local bicycle club volunteered to teach the students about bicycle safety, skills and etiquette in an effort to promote this sport as a lifelong activity while simultaneously fostering health and fitness. Joanna Atkisson, the nurse at Hayesville High School, led the way. She discovered that most nearby trails were too steep, too technical, or too long for beginner riders. She and her students had to drive two hours out of state to find entry-level trails. Because the students had to take their bicycles, this situation limited the number who could participate.
Joanna began wondering why there were no local biking trails, given the fact that Hayesville sits in the middle of National Forest lands. She began talking with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which operates the Lake Chatuge dam, and with the Tusquitee Ranger District of the US Forest Service. She learned about the Jackrabbit peninsula off Lake Chatuge. The district ranger at the time was Charles Miller, who told her about the steps involved in establishing a project on National Forest lands.
Joanna’s bicycle club, the Southern Appalachian Bicycle Association (SABA) was just getting off the ground. To apply for grants, it needed a well-established partner that had experience in applying for grants and administering them. Joanna approached Rob Tiger with the Clay County Communities Revitalization Association, which had such experience. In 2003, SABA, Clay County Communities Revitalization Association and the Tusquitee Ranger District began collaborating.
The group began holding monthly meetings to determine goals and conduct the required environmental impact studies, a 2-year process. Because the group had the opportunity to create trails from scratch, it wanted did not want to rush through the planning process. It had other wishes as well:
§ To make trails accessible to novice mountain bikers as well as advanced ones and to hikers and runners, as well as mountain bikers. The trail would be multi-use and highlight Jackrabbit’s forested, lakeside terrain.
§ To have trailhead amenities found elsewhere.
§ To maximize mileage without having trains running over each other.
§ To attract visitors to the area and have a positive economic effect while providing green tourism.
Dwayne Stutzeman of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources evaluated the proposed site and approved its use for a trail stem.
The planning group began getting to know the land and the terrain and to flag some proposed routes without disturbing the ground until the environmental impact studies had been completed. It then obtained the help of Mike Riter, the owner of Trail Design Specialists. He examined the proposed routes and pointed out limitations and possible improvements. The planning group realized it needed more education. Joanna and Fred Lewis attended a trail school conducted by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) at the Jaw Ridge Trails near Oak Ridge, Tennessee. There, they learned about “sustainable” trails. They then asked IMBA to conduct a trail school at the Jackrabbit site, which it did in November 2005. That date marked the actual beginning of ground construction of the Jackrabbit Trails. Mike Riter returned to help the group with trail construction.
Various people spent hundreds of hours laying out sustainable trails in heat and cold and during rain. Joanna cannot remember how many snakes she has stepped over and how many trees she crawled over or under while flagging the trail. To hold costs down, volunteers cleared paths and did all finish work. They pulled off countless ticks and suffered untold chigger bites, heat rashes, and briar thickets. The work was not easy or pleasant.
Once the group had constructed a few miles of trails, the community’s support for the project increased. Students at both Hayesville and Murphy high schools conducted senior exit projects on trail building and mountain biking. Bill and Johanne Kittle of Mountain High Hikers and Master Gardeners helped identify plants of interest and place signs next to them for the benefit of hikers.
Recently, the Clay County Schools and Clay County Health Department bought more bicycles for the after school and summer programs and built the bike practice trail designed to improve the students’ bike handling skills.
For the past few years, the schools have been able to bring all students from the summer program to Jackrabbit several times each summer. Most students do mountain biking, but some elect to hike instead. Many kids have enjoyed their experience so much that they have purchased bicycles and have gotten their families involved in biking or hiking.
The trails have received favorable reviews on bicycle forums. Last year, Jackrabbit was selected as a site for an endurance race series called Chain Buster Productions. In the first year, it brought more than 250 cyclists to Jackrabbit.
The success of this project depended on grants from a wide variety of sources. Ron Guggisberg, the trails and greenways chairman for Clay County Communities Revitalization Association led the effort to secure funding and to enlist local businesses in providing in-kind support.
Ron’s group obtained its first grant in 2004, a $15,000 grant from Advantage West NC to fund the necessary studies to allow this type of project on public lands. Eric Brinke of BRMEMC Economic Development helped Guggisberg learn the ins and outs of grant writing and became an advocate for the project.
In 2005, the project received a $50,000 matching grant from the NC Dept. of Environment & Natural Resources, Parks & Recreation. This grant allowed large-scale trail construction to begin. DeWayne Stutzeman played an important role in choosing land suitable for trail building and in advocating for the project.
In 2007, the project received an economic development grant of $120,000 from the Golden LEAF Foundation. The organization’s vice president, Patricia (Pat) Cabe, whose roots are in Clay County, convinced its board to fund this project because it promotes recreational tourism, which can boost Clay County’s economy.
Much of the success of the effort to obtain grantor funding was due to the fact that the project could demonstrate such strong local community support. Handmade in America is and has been a longstanding partner to Clay County Communities Revitalization Association. It helped Clay County Communities Revitalization Association with funds to begin the process of soliciting matching funds. David Quinn, Judy Jetson, and others were strong supporters of the program. From there, others committed to the project in order to provide the critical local support necessary to obtain the larger grants. Among these organizations were the Clay County Travel &Tourism Board, the Towns County Tourism Association, the SW NC Rural Development, and Walmart. SABA itself conducted many fundraisers and raffles, auctioned donated items, and worked at any event at which it could raise funds.
Over the past seven years, a long list of individuals and businesses donated funds to the project they saw as benefiting the community. They were critical to keeping the project going. A local developer, Scotty Fain, and his construction company built the parking lot at the trailhead. They provided the labor, machines, and expertise as an in-kind donation. Others helped the project stretch its limited funds by providing goods and services at a reduced cost. These businesses include Signs Fast for providing the many necessary signs; Ron Salzer for building a bridge on the trail; Jackson Home Repair for covering that bridge; and Steve Hindsman for providing and servicing the very necessary portable restroom at the site for years at no cost.
Here is a summary of key funding the project received:
Grants $265,000
Fund raising $29,000
Private donations $16,000;
Organization and business donations $5,700
Total cash: $316,000.
There were outright in kind donations documented at $42,000, not counting any of the reduced cost goods and services.
What cannot be measured, but is the greatest of all, is the volunteering of thousands of hours by SABA and Clay County Communities Revitalization Association members, and the thousands of miles driven by them in support of this project. This project demonstrates what good things can happen when people work together. It is one of the reasons this area is a special place to live. It offers a valuable example to others who want to build major local projects from the ground up.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Photos from Jackrabbit Mountain Bike and Hiking Trails Opening

These photos were taken on April 30, 2011 at the celebration festivities for the official opening of the Jackrabbit biking and hiking trails.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hayesville's Historic Courthouse Renovation and Re-use Plan

At the Clay County Communities Revitalization Association General Membership Meeting on 31 March, there was a lot of interest in the status of the courthouse renovation. Many local Clay County residents have fond childhood memories around the beautiful old building. Newcomers admire the skill and imagination of the builders who used materials at hand to construct a useful and lovely structure. All of us long to have a new life for the courthouse, and we want to in this report to answer some questions that we didn’t have time for at our meeting.
In May 2010 the community came together to form a Friends of the Historic Courthouse steering committee under the auspices of the CCCRA, to approach the challenge of renovating the building and fitting it for use as a retail and meetings space. An independent consultant employed by the Clay County Commissioners outlined a plan that the committee is using as a blueprint.
The steering committee met Thursday, 14 April; the agenda items will give you an idea of where we are:
1. Lease agreement with the county. We asked the commissioners to lease the building to us for a minimal sum so that we can with authority pursue grant opportunities for the $500,000 to $700,000 needed for renovation.
2. Grounds preparation work. Even if funds were available, work could not proceed until issues of grading and drainage are addressed. We have a cost estimate for this work, and ask the commissioners to allocate funds and get this part of the job done.
3. First floor configuration. Fortunate to have some astute business people in our group, we explored ways to maximize revenue from the space. An added benefit would be public restrooms, of which there are now none in the downtown.
4. Refined business plan. Again, our experienced and successful business people analyzed the various scenarios and came up with dollars and cents estimates of operation income and expense.
In our 19 May meeting (9:30 in the Moss Memorial Library) we look at grant sources. The committee has been working diligently and effectively, we believe, to move forward, but the grant seeking remains a challenge in these economic conditions. If the money were available, we think that the building could be ready in a year’s time. We could then move forward, seeking tenants, scheduling many kinds of gatherings upstairs for the enjoyment of the community, and save taxpayer dollars as the courthouse begins to pay its way.
Everyone who wants to help is welcome to join the steering committee. And if you have ideas for fundraising, we’d like to hear them.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Photos from April 16 Cherokee Homestead Exhibit Workshop

The following photos are from the April 16, 2011 Cherokee Homestead Exhibit Work Day in Hayesville, NC. We hope you enjoy them.