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The Town of Waynesville will soon build a very special playground, thanks to a successful Connect N.C. bond application made last fall.

A proposed river park development in Dillsboro drew a crowd of roughly 75 people to a public hearing March 20, with 20 people delivering comment on the issue and prompting the Jackson County Commissioners to postpone a final decision until they could fully research all the questions that were asked.

Jackson County is hoping that grants will offset the $847,000 cost of extending water and sewer connections to a piece of land being eyed for a new outdoor adventure park in Dillsboro, and last week commissioners gave the county the go-ahead to apply for just such a grant — $50,000 from the N.C. Department of Commerce.

Kelly Custer has been a lifelong lover of the outdoors, from playing sports as a kid to mountaineering adventures in far-flung regions of Bolivia and Peru as an adult. Now, the Jackson County businessman is hoping to get others exploring Western North Carolina’s outdoor opportunities — specifically, those afforded by the stretch of the Tuckasegee River flowing through Dillsboro. 

Last year, Custer formed the company Western North Carolina Outdoor Development with an eye to bid on a piece of property that’s been publicly owned since 2013, when Duke Energy turned it over to Dillsboro following removal of the Dillsboro Dam. Dillsboro sold it to Jackson County for $350,000 in 2014, and ever since the county’s been looking for a way to turn the undeveloped tract into a win for economic development.

The active, outdoorsy lifestyle favored by residents of Western North Carolina has long been fostered by the Town of Waynesville, but if all goes according to recently released plans, it’s about to get much, much better.

Town of Canton officials faced a “sink or swim” moment Jan. 3 when, in a special public hearing, they had to decide whether or not to move forward with plans to seek commercial financing for the town’s beleaguered pool project.

January is universally recognized as the time to make a fresh start, throw away last year’s used-up calendar and dream up a new set of aspirations for the 12 months ahead. And when it comes to New Year’s resolutions aimed at becoming more active in 2017, Western North Carolina offers a dazzling array of options.

After three months of internal darkness and coping with grief, this past weekend offered some soothing reprieve. Over the years, I’ve realized I’m a person who desires to see the world but adores her small town. For me, a place like Waynesville is a perfect home base, a haven to recharge.

Canton officials may be starting to wonder if plans to replace the town’s aging public pool aren’t cursed.

Western North Carolina is rife with trails and maps to facilitate exploration of the mountain landscape, but an effort is underway to add a new kind of trail to the mix — a blue trail.  

“A hiking trail is a great way to help people explore and discover and connect to the land. A blue trail is a way to allow people to discover and explore and connect to rivers,” explained Mandi Carringer, river conservation associate for American Rivers. 

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