Lilly Knoepp


Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina. She is a native of Franklin, NC who returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network.  She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science. 

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Photo courtesy of Ivy Gibson-Hill

Southern neighbors Georgia and Alabama both passed bills that restrict abortion access this month. Activists say these laws will negatively impact access to healthcare in North Carolina - not just access to abortions for women.  


Lilly Knoepp

  Outside of Murphy in Cherokee county at the tip of Western North Carolina. We’re heading to a small farm where innovation brought one woman a new career.


Past a wide creek and a pasture of running horses, the small RCP Farm sits outside of Murphy. California-native Christina Newhouse has lived here since 2005 when she moved across the country with her husband Robert.

Newhouse is keeping a close eye on her high tunnel right now because squirrels have been sneaking in and eating her strawberries:


Ahead of Thursday’s crossover day in the North Carolina General Assembly, the state house has approved a bill that bans hand-held use of cell phones by drivers.  The fine for the offense would be $100.  The final vote in House Tuesday morning was 92-23.  It now moves on to the Senate. 

Lilly Knoepp

The Franklin Town Council has voted to transfer the deed to the ancient Nikwasi Mound to a nonprofit.   

The hall broke out into applause after the town council voted unanimously in favor of transferring the property to the Nikwasi Initiative - a nonprofit made up of representatives from Franklin, Macon County, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and Mainspring Conservation Trust.

Hope Huskey is on the board of the Nikwasi Initiative and a member of the Eastern Band.  


Lilly Knoepp

  There are over 20 land trusts in North Carolina.  BPR sought to find out what a land trust does at an event intended to teach millennials the answer.


Lilly Knoepp

  This time of year plenty of hikers along the Appalachian Trail are making their way through Western North Carolina.  They are vital for the economies of towns that sit along the trail – like Franklin, which was the first designated Appalachian Trail Community.  

Lilly Knoepp

  Western Carolina’s 12th chancellor was introduced for the first time on campus today.


Chancellor-elect Kelli Brown was welcomed with a standing ovation today in her first address on the Western Carolina University campus. Brown highlighted her commitment to higher education and to first generation college graduates during her speech to faculty and community members.

Lilly Knoepp

 The Appalachian Regional Commission has awarded a grant to connect local students with agriculture opportunities in the region.


Lilly Knoepp

  Western Carolina University has grown leaps and bounds in the last 10 years. However, that hasn’t been the case for the Cullowhee area.  Here’s more on the growth of college town.


Courtesy of Western Carolina University

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors has announced the new chancellor of Western Carolina University. Kelli R. Brown, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Georgia College & State University, will serve as the 12th chancellor of the University.

Lilly Knoepp

  Last year over 25,000 people marched at the state capital in Raleigh to support public school teachers through the Red 4 Ed NC cause. This year they’ll do it again on May 1st.


Franklin High School teacher John deVille is the vice president of North Carolina Association of Educators. He’s also on the Red 4 Ed advisory board.  He says May 1st isn’t a protest.


Lilly Knoepp

Franklin-based Entegra Bank has announced a merger with First Citizens Bank. This is a swift change from the merger between Entegra and Smart Bank announced in January.


Lilly Knoepp

Despite this week’s summer temperatures, the weather will chill across the mountains this weekend. Here are tips from a horticulture expert on when you should start planting for summer.


Don’t be fooled by the flowers and tomato plants on sale across the region, says Christy Bredenkamp Horticulture Extension Agent for NC State. We aren’t past the “frost-free” date just yet: “So the Internet says the end of April is the last frost date and May 4th or 5th and May 10 and May 15th. I’ve seen all those dates - so which one is right?”


  A bill in the North Carolina General Assembly would allow Swain County to control more of the money it was paid by the federal government for the so-called ‘Road To Nowhere.”

Lilly Knoepp

  As the controversy over the ownership of the Nikwasi Mound in Franklin lingers on, Macon County officials are highlighting their working relationship with the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.


Cory Vailliancourt

Additional reporting by Cory Vailliancourt


Governor Roy Cooper visited Nantahala Outdoors Center as a part of his Western North Carolina tour on Friday.


Photo courtesy of Harris Regional Hospital

Harris Regional Hospital, Swain Community Hospital and Haywood Regional Medical Center announced a new agreement with UnitedHealthcare which reinstates employed physician care on May 1.


Lilly Knoepp

Governor Roy Cooper wraps up a six-county tour of Western North Carolina on Friday. BPR caught up with him at Erlanger Western Carolina Hospital in Murphy where he was talking Medicaid Expansion.


At a roundtable with hospital officials and Murphy community leaders, the governor heard a lot about the need to expand Medicaid - especially for the Western end of the state.  


Lilly Knoepp

  Artists at Western Carolina University and a historic 20th century house might be an odd combination. But they share a common goal. Here’s how this unlikely duo is hoping to build a community.


Holding onto memories of Appalachian traditions can take many forms. Artists, preservations and oral historians are all working to protect those memories - each in different ways.


Lilly Knoepp

Nantahala Health Foundation has officially announced its board of directors.

Lilly Knoepp

The Franklin Town Council delayed its decision until next month on transferring the deed of the Nikwasi Mound to nonprofit The Nikwasi Initiative.

It was standing room only for the public session on the transfer of the Nikwasi Mound, as 19 different people spoke before town council for and against the deal. 

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

  At its March meeting, the Franklin Town Council moved forward with a motion to transfer ownership of the Nikwasi Mound to a nonprofit.


The origin of the ancient mound has been called into question. BPR spoke with historians and archeologists about the mound and what makes it a sacred space.


Lilly Knoepp

  At its March meeting, the Franklin Town Council moved forward with transferring ownership of the Nikwasi Mound.


Now certain residents and Franklin Mayor Bob Scott are asking for more information on the Nikwasi Initiative, the non-profit that will receive ownership of the mound.  BPR spoke to members of the group about their history and funding.

Lilly Knoepp

Last week, the Franklin Press reported that five plaintiffs had filed an injunction against the Franklin Town Council to block them from voting to transfer ownership of the Nikwasi Mound to local non-profit The Nikwasi Initiative.

Lilly Knoepp

The I-26 expansion in Asheville isn’t the region’s only major road project. The town of Sylva is in the middle of a plan to widen Highway 107  -  one of the busiest roads through that corner of Western North Carolina.

Sylva Town manager Paige Dowling says that discussions about improving Highway 107 have been going on since 2003. Growth in Jackson County and at Western Carolina University have both contributed to the heavy traffic on the road.

“The intersection gets 30,000 cars a day. It’s the busiest in the seven westernmost counties,” says Dowling.

Lilly Knoepp

The Dogwood Health Trust Foundation has officially opened up the search for a CEO.

The organization, which was created by the sale of Mission Health to for-profit HCA Health, has posted a leadership profile on their website with details about applying for the position.

Lilly Knoepp

Record numbers of public comments, the government shutdown and innovations have all been factors in the slow pace of the release of the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest Management Plan. 

Here’s an update from the U.S.D.A. Forest Service. 

The new plan will provide strategies for managing both forests over the next 15 years.

The forest plan doesn’t just impact conservationists. Fisherman, horsemen, rock climbers and business people are all interested in how the management of over 1 million acres of forest will change.

Lilly Knoepp

It’s Sunshine Week - which media outlets use to underscore the importance of government transparency and access to public records.  The Sylva Herald recently had to take legal action against Western Carolina University over a public document regarding the Cullowhee Dam. Herald reporter Dave Russell joined BPR’s Lilly Knoepp to talk about why the Jackson County paper felt the document was important enough to fight for.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Photo courtesy of Western Carolina University

The Western Carolina University Board of Trustees chose 3 candidates for chancellor to send along for consideration to the UNC System Board at their most recent meeting.

Interim UNC System President Dr. William Roper, who has served since Margaret Spelling stepped down, will consider the candidates.

WCU has been in search of a chancellor since 2017 when the late chancellor David Belcher stepped down after being diagnosed with brain cancer.