Sylva

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

The town of Sylva has seen its share of vigils and marches following the death of George Floyd.  The most recent over the weekend focused on the Confederate monument that overlooks downtown. 

Traffic backed up along the detour route Saturday as two separate demonstrations set up – one seeking the removal of the statue of a Confederate soldier on the old Jackson County Courthouse steps, and the other wanting it to stay. Demonstrators who want the statue, known as "Sylva Sam," to keep its perch met in a parking lot behind the Old Courthouse.

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

The Town of Sylva Board of Commissioners passed a resolution on Thursday to prohibit Confederate imagery on town vehicles and property. Currently, the old Jackson County Courthouse including the Confederate soldier statue which stands in front of the building, is featured on town vehicles and Sylva Police badges. 

 

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Sixteen people spoke during the Jackson County Commissioners public comment period on Tuesday night about the Confederate soldier statue which stands in the middle of the old Courthouse steps. 

 

The county commissioners are set to discuss creating a task force to decide the monument's fate at their July 14 work session. Many who spoke say they would consider a taskforce a step in the wrong direction. 

 

NC DOT

NCDOT has announced a big change in construction plans to build a new bridge in the town of Dillsboro. 

Officials plan to close down Haywood Road (U.S. 23 Business) for nine months instead of building a temporary bridge. This will shave about 2 years and $3 million dollars off of the project, according to Div 14 Construction Engineer Ted Adams. 

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Jackson County commissioners will discuss the future of the statue of a Confederate soldier on the old courthouse steps in Sylva next month.  

Commissioners held a meeting on Tuesday which included a conversation about “diversity and inclusion” which centered around the statue which stands on the old courthouse steps. About ten people spoke during public comment in support of the statue's removal at the afternoon meeting. 

One resident was Christina Sutton, who identified herself as an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. 

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Protests in the rural towns of Western North Carolina for racial justice are growing into a movement.

 Molly Haithcock, 24 and Erykah Lasha, 22, didn’t know each other until a few weeks ago even though both went to Franklin High School. Haithcock, who identifies as a black woman, says she was sickened by the killing of George Floyd and wanted to do something - anything: 

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

Two demonstrations this week in Sylva remained peaceful. But rumors continue to swirl that weapons were present at each. BPR spoke with Sylva’s Police Chief: 

 

Police chief Chris Hatton says rumors are rampant right now. 

 

“I have been on rumor patrol for three days,” says Hatton. 

 

Lilly Knoepp / Blue Ridge Public Radio

 A group of mostly students from Western Carolina University led a peaceful protest Tuesday afternoon in downtown Sylva.

Over a hundred people gathered at the old Jackson County courthouse steps calling for justice for George Floyd and protesting against racism. Organizers say that there were about 300 people. 

You can hear the crowd chanting, “Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter…” 

Local business owner Natalie Newman spoke to the group over a megaphone. 

Lilly Knoepp

Protests ignited in cities large and small across North Carolina this weekend over the death of George Floyd.  BPR was at a vigil in Sylva.

A large crowd gathered at the bottom of the Jackson County Courthouse steps for a candlelight vigil around the fountain on Sunday evening. The event was organized by the local NAACP chapter and Indivisible. 

The group stood in silence for 45 minutes.  Then Pastor Jo Schonewolf from Whittier United Methodist Church gave a benediction focusing on the children at the vigil. 

Lilly Knoepp

Governor Roy Cooper announced that restaurants, salons and pools can reopen on Friday with limited capacity as part of Phase 2 for lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Meanwhile, bars, gyms and other businesses will remain closed. The order however, was unclear if craft breweries are able to open. The operations straddle the line between bar and restaurant. 

Lilly Knoepp

FIND THE LATEST COVID-19 CASE COUNT IN NORTH CAROLINA HERE.  FOR ANSWERS TO FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CORONAVIRUS CLICK HERE.

Jackson County Department of Public Health announced today that there are now 24 total COVID-19 cases in the county. This is a jump up from last week when there were just five positive cases.  

Lilly Knoepp

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has officially banned outdoor patio dining in the state due to COVID-19. Some restaurants across the state were still offering takeout patio dining. 

On Thursday, Jeanette Evans, owner of the Mad Batter Kitchen in downtown Sylva, was setting up for takeout dining. Evans says that the Jackson County Health Department had come by to explain the ban for the kitchen and the Lazy Hiker Taproom, as well as provide some protocol for customers to safely eat takeout.

Photo courtesy of Nilofer Couture/Indivisible-Commonground WNC

Police in Jackson County are investigating a video that shows a counter protester slowly driving his truck into a crowd of people marching to support the impeachment of President Donald Trump earlier this week.

 

Lilly Knoepp

Plans to expand Highway 107 through Sylva have been in the works for more than 10 years.  As the decade comes to a close, some business owners still hope the expansion won’t happen.

 Carl Queen has lived in Sylva since the 1970s. 

“Traffic was so light in the 60s and early 70s that kids would actually play ball in the street,” says Queen, who attended this week’s public meeting on the road. 

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:

Dan Kowal/Jackson County NAACP

 The Jackson County NAACP believes that a local law is a violation of  their constitutional rights so they met with Sylva town leaders to make their case.

Activists protested at the bottom of the courthouse steps in Sylva almost every Wednesday last year. Their most recent protest was against President Trump’s executive order for a state of emergency to deal with the crisis at the border - and to appropriate his requested $5 billion from Congress to build a wall.  

Southwestern Community College

If you visit a National Park, there’s a good chance you’ll cross the path of a ranger who was trained right here in Western North Carolina.  Southwestern Community College in Sylva is one of only seven colleges in the nation that offers the National Park Service Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Academy. 
 The program is one of the oldest in the country and just graduated its 100th class.  BPR’s Helen Chickering visited the academy while school was still in session.

Matt Peiken | BPR News

Everywhere you turn inside Sassy Frass Consignment, your eye catches bejeweled, gleaming crosses and other Christian symbols sprinkled among t-shirts, furnishings, glass baubles and other nicknacks.

Then there are very different signs about one special chapter in the store’s history -- the charred doors left behind by a firey Molotov cocktail and the giant block letters that temporarily hung on the building’s facade, spelling out Ebbing Police Department.

Cory Vaillancourt/Smoky Mountain News/BPR

Winning an election is just the beginning for a public official – governing is challenging, ever-changing and can become extremely technical in a legal sense.  So newly elected officials go back to school to learn what they can and can’t do, and what might land them in jail.

Mountain Towns Split On How They Will 'Do Brunch'

Oct 26, 2017
NPR.org

North Carolina’s so-called ‘Brunch Bill’ gives local governments the option of allowing alcohol sales as early as 10 a.m. on Sundays, instead of the usual time of noon.  Hendersonville and Asheville quickly adopted the law. But to the west, there’s still plenty of debate about the bill in some communities. BPR’s Davin Eldridge reports on the contentious new bill and it's status within the region--examining which side of the issue each town is now on--and how a period of only two hours each week can differ so much between them as a result.

Davin Eldridge

In the age of the internet the future of the American department store has grown increasingly uncertain.

Earlier this year, Toys "R" Us—a company with nearly 900 stores across the country— filed for bankruptcy. Kmart and Sears underwent another round of store closings—from nearly 1,600 last year, to just over 1,200 this year.

Whenever these so-called “big box” stores close, it can often stifle development in the communities they once served, and hurt the bottom line of nearby small businesses. BPR’s Davin Eldridge takes a look at the little-known phenomenon of “ghost box stores”, and how these stores impact Western North Carolina in their own small way.

The great American Eclipse is over.  For most, it was an amazing experience. But for a Macon county man, the astronomical event was a mile marker on a life changing journey.  BPR’s Helen Chickering stumbled upon his story while on an eclipse assignment at Southwestern Community College in Sylva.

Corey Vaillancourt Smoky Mountain News

North Carolina is home to around 100 monuments to the Confederacy.  Governor Roy Cooper says all should come down in the wake of the death of a woman who was counter protesting a white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia.  But a 2-year-old state law prohibits local governments from removing the monuments without state approval, keeping many of them in place for t

Clean Slate Coalition

For many female inmates, having stability, or even just a place to call home upon their release, is not a sure thing. But one Western North Carolina group is working to change that—one woman at a time.  

Davin Eldridge

Calling all cat lovers: Western North Carolina is home to the newly-opened American Museum of the House Cat. 

WNC's Burgeoning Tourism Industry

May 31, 2016
Davin Eldridge

 

On the tailgate of an old rusted red pickup truck, a bumper sticker reads, “Why is it called tourist season if we can’t shoot em’?”.  

 

The vehicle is parked alongside dozens of others in the fields of Darnell Farms, just outside of Bryson City, for its seventeenth annual Strawberry Jam farm-raising event. In the air an aroma of boiled peanuts and kettle-cooked corn mixes with the sounds of bluegrass and children playing, along the banks of the nearby Tuckasegee River.