Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer
The basketball courts at the old Cowee School will soon get a makeover thanks to a $10,000 matching grant from a Cowee couple. Stacy Guffey spoke to members of the Macon County Board of Commissioners last week to request $10,000 to match a pledged donation to fix the outdoor basketball courts at the Cowee School and Heritage Center.
“We have an opportunity, thanks to a couple in Cowee, to renovate the basketball court at Cowee School,” Guffey said. “We have seen the facility used more and more, especially during COVID, and we want to take this opportunity to improve the facility for the community.”
The Cowee School Arts and Heritage Center operates as a 501c3, however, the property is owned by Macon County. The center is open to the public with current outdoor facilities including a playground, a walking track, picnic tables, and the basketball courts.
“I think as the only recreational opportunity for the folks in the Cowee Community, this is a great opportunity to do something positive for the folks that live out in that part of the county,” said Macon County Commissioner Vice-Chair Ronnie Beale.
Throughout the pandemic, Cowee School has worked to serve members of the community by establishing a food pantry and becoming one of several community wi-fi hot spots in the county. Cowee School made drive-up wi-fi internet access available to students, families, and workers who need to work or study online. The signal reaches both the upper and lower parking lots.
The purpose of Cowee School Arts & Heritage Center is to promote the teaching and preservation of the cultural and artistic heritage of the Southern Appalachians and Cherokee people to serve as a community resource and gathering place. Guffey said that improvements to the basketball court will not only improve recreational opportunities for the community, but will also add a resource for young people.
Macon County commissioners voted 4-1 to approve $10,000 from the county’s contingency fund to provide matching funds to resurface the basketball court. Commissioner Paul Higdon voted against the measure saying that even though the county owns the Cowee Arts and Heritage Center, because it is operated by a nonprofit, the nonprofit should apply for funds through the county’s nonprofit funding pool.