What’s new on the plateau

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Patrick Taylor – Highlands Mayor

Monday was a day of meetings for me.  That evening was the kick off presentation of the BlueZones regional initiative. Folks from Cashiers, Highlands, Franklin, Sylva, Macon and Jackson counties pretty much filled the PAC Center.  

A video broadcast of the event went to Franklin where there was also a good turnout.  In my opening remarks I stated that the goal was to create a BlueZones for our beautiful Blue Ridge communities.  Tony Buettner, a BlueZones executive, was the keynote speaker. He described a number of communities across the globe where folks live active lives well into their 90s and even past the century mark.  BlueZones researchers have identified nine common habits or factors in these communities that contribute to the increased longevity and vitality of the residents.  The national BlueZones organization has developed a program and strategies to help communities implement these practices with the overall goal of  promoting healthy living in all aspects of the community.

Interest surveys were taken at the end of the presentation. The next step will be for the BlueZones Organizing Committee to analyze the survey information to determine if there is support in our communities to move forward toward a BlueZone Region.  If so, experts from BlueZones would conduct an in-depth study of these communities to assess needs and develop implementation strategies.  It will be a grassroots process, where people and organizations will need to step forward to implement and fund the initiative.

If you have questions or feedback, please contact Sallie Taylor at (828) 506-7025. Sallie has served as the chair of the BlueZones organizing committee.  I want to thank the committee for all the work they have done.  If you missed this initial event, BlueZones has a great website that explains the program in detail.

On Monday morning I hosted a meeting of leaders from Highlands, Cashiers and the surrounding region to explore creating a greenway trail from Cashiers to Highlands.  Cashiers is in the process of developing trails and sidewalks that will enable folks to walk throughout Cashiers. Highlands has existing sidewalks and a greenway so why not create a trail that connects the two communities?

At the meeting was Hillrie Quinn of the Highlands Greenway.  He has been consulting with folks in Cashiers about their trail and walkway initiative.  Dogwood Health Foundation board member Sam Lupas from Cashiers,  District Ranger Mike Wilkins of the US Forest Service, Dr. Gary Wien of the Highlands Cashiers Land Trust and Jim Aschmeyer, a Highlands resident interested in trails and bikes, were also present.   Carlton Wheatley of the town’s GIS and mapping department served as a resource person for the meeting. Our new assistant planner, Michael Mathis also sat in on the session.

The group looked at  topographical maps of the Highlands/Cashiers area. The challenge was to identify potential trails that can connect the two towns.  It will be a daunting challenge. The group will continue to explore routes and develop plans for a trail.  I will keep you posted.  

A fun filled Monday meeting was the Highlands Historical Society dedication of the new folklore marker commemorating the Moccasin Moonshine War of 1885. Ran Shaffner recounted the story of the battle at the corner of Main and Fourth Street.  Be sure to checkout the new marker located in the planter at the intersection. 

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