Celebrations in Bryson City

There has been so much excitement about the financial settlement of the North Shore Road issue. My email inbox has been almost about nothing else. Everyone from the Great Smoky Mountains Association board to various environmental groups have been sending out congratulations.

On Saturday, Feb. 6, Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, is going to be in Bryson City to formally announce this settlement. Imagine! This has been going on since 1943. Now thanks to our Congressman Heath Shuler and Superintendent Dale Ditmanson, it will be settled.

So come to the celebration!

What: Signing of Settlement Agreement on proposed North Shore Road in Swain County, NC.

When: Saturday, February 6th, 11:30am – 12:30pm

Where: Bryson City Town Square
            Intersection of Main Street and Rector Street
            Bryson City, NC

            (Rain location) Fine Arts Center Swain County High School 1415 Fontana Road Bryson City, NC

This decision is so important that I’ve repeated the Superintendent’s media advisory in full. Here goes:

After nearly 70 years of debate and a nine-year decision making process, it appears virtually certain that the proposal to construct the North Shore Road will come to an end this Saturday.  Swain County Commissioners are
scheduled to vote on Friday on whether to accept a new agreement, which has been proposed by the Department of Interior, to replace the 1943 Agreement.

There is every reason to expect that the Commission will vote to accept the new agreement, which explicitly nullifies the earlier agreement, and supports a payment to Swain County of $52 million over a ten year period.

If the Commission accepts the new agreement, there will be an event on the lawn of the old Swain County Courthouse on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at which Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the Chairman of the Swain County County
Commission will sign the new agreement.  NC Governor Bev Perdue and a representative of TVA have also been invited.  Representative Heath Shuler, who has played a critical role in gaining federal acceptance of the new agreement, will also participate.

This is the outcome supported in the NPS Record of Decision issued in December 2007 as the alternative that best protects the resources of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a goal that I know we all share.  Although we are glad that we have finally reached this landmark decision, we also
need to be sensitive to those that made the sacrifice when they were moved off the land.  While the outcome of the Swain County vote on Friday is expected to be 4-1 in support of the settlement, that one vote has been the
voice of those that supported the road.  Those are among the families whose heritage we praised during the 75th Anniversary celebrations throughout 2009.  As was stated in the EIS, the Park is committed to continue to provide the same access to the North Shore cemeteries as we have in the past.

Finally, I want to thank all of you who worked for many years towards reaching a resolution to this issue.  I know that many of you spent many hours working on the EIS alternatives, attending and organizing public meetings, and communicating with the public about the North Shore Road
issues and decision-process.  Few initiatives that the Park has undertaken contribute more significantly towards the Park’s mission of preserving our natural and cultural resources and providing for the enjoyment of these
resources unimpaired in the future.

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