An effort to get a no wake zone instituted on Lake Glenville will move forward following a split vote of the Jackson County Commissioners Jan. 29.
A new health advisory was issued this month warning people about mercury levels in walleye fish in Lake Glenville. This is not exactly news.
“As an obligate piscivore — that is, fish that feed almost exclusively on smaller fish — this species is very prone to mercury bioaccumulation,” explained Susan Massengale, public information officer with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Jackson County may have another community planning project on the horizon. Glenville residents have approached the county about possibly embarking on such a journey.
“That’s very initial-stages,” said Jackson County Planning Director Gerald Green, explaining that the county is currently discussing the concept with a handful of Glenville residents. “Right now, there’s probably 10 or 12 exploring it.”
With September’s tropical storm season gearing up, residents living downstream of large Duke Energy dams in Western North Carolina may spend the fall on high alert, wondering when and if Duke will open the flood gates to release pent-up water from its dams on the Nantahala and Tuckasegee rivers.
Ten suspects have been charged in connection with a rash of property crimes in the Cashiers and Glenville area.
Christmas tree farming is nothing new in Western North Carolina thanks to the perfect climate, perfect soil and preponderance of mountainsides — terrain that leaves farmers with few options for cultivating crops suited to slopes. Tree farms run the gamut, from a dirt farmer plunking down a half-acre of trees on the hill behind his house to massive wholesale tree dealers with thousands of acres in production.
Tom and Myra Sawyer of the Glenville community in southern Jackson County, however, have taken the traditional WNC Christmas tree farm and turned that concept on its ear. The Sawyers transformed their chose-and-cut tree farm into a little slice of the North Pole, complete with a visiting Santa and a cadre of elves.
In doing so, the couple has tapped into the growing agri-tourism niche. Plus they’ve provided scores of their Glenville and Cashiers neighbors with sorely needed seasonal employment. Up to 50 people work on the farm this time of year — not counting those employed through their wreath-making shop, year-round tree farm operation and the four retail Christmas tree lots they operate in Florida, Tennessee and Georgia. It also doesn’t take into account the large number of family members Tom and Myra Sawyer also provide jobs for. Or the burgeoning wedding-destination sideline they’ve recently started.
Tom Sawyer, in a quiet way in a remote section of the region, is putting a whole lot of folks to work.
Tom Sawyer’s Christmas Tree Farm & Elf Village is simply not like anything else you find in the region. There are Christmas trees for the choosing, a Christmas-themed shop, rides on horse-drawn wagons, an elf village and a whole lot of “elves.” Thousands of people make the curvy, challenging drive here each season, Sawyer said, from as far away as Atlanta and Upstate South Carolina.
The story, as Tom Sawyer relates it, is that Santa Claus sometime in the 1940s crashed his sleigh in Glenville. The elves opted to stay in this location, hence the elf village that resulted. (It wasn’t clear how this many elves — scores of them, in fact — could have squeezed onto that small sleigh with Santa, but facts shouldn’t stand in the way of a good story.)
There is a small elf chapel, an elf outhouse, an elf naughty-time out-hut and much, much more. Once Sawyer, a former certified public accountant from Florida who started growing trees here in 1982, gets an idea you’d better watch out. Because what he conceptualizes he makes happen.
The youngest child of older parents, Sawyer said that in many ways he grew up more as a little adult than an actual kid.
“I guess I’m now reliving my childhood somehow that I never had,” Sawyer said, gesturing toward the elf village.
From the looks of it, the entire community is doing the same. Take Debra Adams, dressed in her elf costume greeting people as they arrive at the farm. Adams’ two nieces also work at Sawyer’s Christmas extravaganza, one doing face painting, the other storytelling.
Adams is a professional photographer who made the move here from Mississippi to be with her sister and nieces.
“I came up, and decided to move the business here,” Adams said. “In the meantime, this is really helping pay for Christmas. (The Sawyers) have really helped with jobs in this area during these slow periods.”
That makes Sawyer very happy.
“We’ve been able to put a lot of people to work,” Sawyer said. “It’s pretty amazing. Especially in this recession, it brings tears to your eyes the people who call and need jobs — there’s just no economy here this time of year.”
Until recently, Sawyer kept a herd of reindeer on the farm. For a variety of natural reasons, he said, the herd dwindled out. Sawyer wants to restart the reindeer portion of his business, but a state quarantine on importing the animal has prevented that from happening to date.
Reindeer didn’t just attract additional visitors. A few years ago, Sawyer took a cell call from his daughter, who reported a really huge animal was hanging out on the 80-acre farm. It turned out that one of the reintroduced elk from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park had made its way from Cataloochee Valley in Haywood County all the way to Glenville. Apparently missing the camaraderie of fellow hoofed beasts during its wanderings, it took up residence with Sawyer’s reindeer.
Rangers came, and with some difficulty, captured the elk and took it back home.
Visitors, particularly the youngest ones but adults, too, seem to enjoy this not-like-any-other Christmas tree farm.
“It’s very nice,” said Michael Atkins, who was at the Sawyers’ farm on Saturday picking out a Christmas tree with his wife, Suitlana. The couple live on Big Ridge in Glenville for eight months of the year, and the rest of the time they stay in sunny Florida.
Tom Sawyer’s Christmas Tree Farm and & Elf Village is open through Dec. 24, and is located at 240 Chimney Pond Road in Glenville, off N.C. 107 on the way to Cashiers from Sylva. There are ample signs in the community to help you locate the farm once you get to the area, or call 828.743.5456 or 800.662.7008.
The three new Jackson commissioners — Jack Debnam, Charles Elders and Doug Cody — owe their victory last fall in part to the Cashiers and Glenville communities, where they won by margins of nearly 3 to 1.
Though they won in several other precincts as well, no where was their showing as impressive as it was on the mountain.
The floundering Cashiers recreation center project could be partly to blame for their predecessors’ ousting — although it’s not the only reason. All three were Democrats, and no Democrat on the ballot, from Congress to sheriff, fared very well in Cashiers — though none did quite so poorly as the commissioners.
While the new board of commissioners will surely curry favor with Cashiers-Glenville voters for finally making the recreation center a reality, the stage for success was set — ironically — by the former commissioners despite their dismal approval rating there.
The blueprints, the costly site work to date — and most notably $5 million squirreled away in savings to pay for construction — were left behind on a silver platter for the taking.
Cashiers and Glenville combined have a year-round population of just 3,700, according to the latest census. But there are far more seasonal residents that flood the mountain in the summer. Of the 6,440 homes in the Cashiers-Glenville area, only 25 percent are lived in year-round, according to the census.
Jack Debnam 904
Brian McMahan 513
Doug Cody 1,179
Tom Massie 439
Charles Elders 1,175
William Shelton 453