Re: Riverwalk needs your help

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Posted by Mohican Press on June 27, 2000 at 16:15:27:

In Reply to: Riverwalk needs your help posted by Woody+JoJo Keen on June 27, 2000 at 00:20:28:

: With your help we can turn Riverwalk into public land(state forest) gaining access for all to this very powerfull scene from the movie. Please go to to find out how you can help Friends of the Falls efforts. Thank you.

From The Hendersonville County Times (6/15/2000):

Patty O'Kelley Bunch knows what
it's like to have her family's land condemned for a public
forest - and she supports it for the former Sterling
property in Transylvania County.

Bunch's grandfather was a forester with the Biltmore
Forest School who was forced to sell his homestead near
the current Pisgah Ranger Station to make way for Pisgah
National Forest.

"They moved us out, and I'm so thankful it's there," she
said, referring to the national forest. "The people that live
here do appreciate this country. It's more than land to us -
it's our heart, our soul."

The Rosman resident was among a crowd of more than
120 people Wednesday night who support North Carolina
effort to buy land surrounded by DuPont State Forest -
land now slated for a private gated development.

Silver-haired retirees crowded in with young mountain
bikers in beards, baseball caps and T-shirts at the Cedar
Mountain Community Center for the first public meeting of
the Friends of the Falls.

The group, made up of Transylvania and Henderson
county residents, has been working for two months to
lobby in favor of the state using powers of eminent domain
to force a South Carolina developer to sell 2,223 acres
surrounded by the state forest. A leader in the effort said
he expects some kind of deal may be announced soon.

The land, formerly part of DuPont's vast holdings in
southern Transylvania County, was sold by a group of
Texas investors when the Sterling Corp. liquidated its
assets last year. Sterling sold its film plant near the site to
German film maker Agfa, while the investors sold the
2,223 acres and three large waterfalls- High, Triple and
Bridal Veil falls - to Jim Anthony, developer of the Cliffs

North Carolina tried for several months last year to buy the
land for an addition to the state forest, but Anthony outbid
the state's negotiators. He paid $6.35 million, about
$850,000 more than the state's last bid of $5.5 million.

Bill Thomas, a DuPont retiree and leader in the N.C.
Sierra Club, said he has no proof to verify rumors that the
deal favored Anthony over the state. But he questioned
why the investors selling the land didn't allow the state to
match the developer's offer.

"You would think on the face of it that the Sterling
negotiators would have wanted to maximize the income for
their investors and stockholders," he told the crowd. "We
believe the state would have raised its offer and possibly
Anthony would have raised his offer, but clearly Sterling
would have realized greater profit. So it's not at all clear to
us the deal was really fair and square as many folks have

Both Sterling officials and Anthony have denied any
collusion in the deal.

The Transylvania County Board of Commissioners has
come out against the state forcing Anthony to sell out of
concern it would remove land from the tax base. Property
rights advocates have also supported Anthony, hosting a
luncheon for him and running newspaper ads to counter
the Friends of the Falls' campaign.

Anthony plans to build as many as 100 vacation cabins on
the property, and has recently advertised lots available at
the site for up to $250,000, Thomas said. But the
developer has agreed to a two-month moratorium on
construction while he negotiates with the state.

The self-imposed moratorium expires June 23. Thomas
said he expects one of three outcomes may be
announced soon.

The state may buy or force Anthony to sell all 2,223 acres,
which would require at least $8.5 million up front, a difficult
but not impossible proposition, he said. In a second
scenario, proposed by Hendersonville attorney and
congressional candidate Sam Neill, the state might buy or
force the sale of only about 400 acres containing the three
waterfalls, allowing Anthony to keep the rest for
development. Finally, the state could agree to some kind of
easement that leaves all the property in Anthony's hands
but gaurantees public access to the waterfalls.

"Friends of the Falls believes that the best possibility is to
take all of it, because that solves the problem of getting rid
of a major development right in the middle of a state park,"
he said.

The third option would leave the door open to conflicts
between the development and the forest. The reality of
such conflicts was illustrated by Joanna Walker, who was
injured April 20 while riding a horse in the state forest.

Walker, 75, of Horse Shoe,said she and a friend were
riding along the popular Tarkiln Trail when a huge
explosion nearby caused her horse to fall to the ground.
An experienced rider, she managed to hold onto the reins,
but she suffered injuries that have left her unable to ride
for the remainder of the summer. The horse, a
10-year-old mare, is lame but expected to eventually

According to Walker, the blast occurred on the Cliffs
property where a crew was mining decorative white rock
from the top of Joanna Mountain. The blast site was about
a half mile from where she was riding, but no signs were
posted warning of explosions, and state forest officials
have said they were not notified, she said.

Walker has met with insurance adjusters, but so far the
development has denied responsibility.

"His people told me he was not responsible because I was
not on his property," she said. "I told them if I had been,
he would have gotten me for trespassing."

Walker said she is awaiting an independent insurance
adjuster's decision before decising how to proceed.

Jeff Jennings, a leader in establishing the state forest who
works at Agfa, presented a slide show detailing natural
wonders of the forest and the waterfall land. In addition to
several species of endangered flowers, the slides showed
the hidden grotto behind Bridal Veil Falls depicted in the
film The Last of the Mohicans.

Thomas and Woody Keen of the group urged citizens to
write letters to Gov. Jim Hunt, Attorney General Mike
Easley and to local newspapers supporting the state
buying the land. Thomas said public comments to the
governor have been running 3-to-1 in favor of that action.
The group continues to post updates on its website,

Bunch, the Rosman resident whose family was forced to
move from Pisgah National Forest, recalled visiting
Connestee Falls and Lake Toxaway, two areas that are
now private gated communities. She said she doesn't want
to see the same fate for High Falls, Triple Falls and Bridal
Veil Falls.

"There are more important things in life than money, and
when we've lost the land, it can't be reclaimed," she said.

Contact Metzger at

PLEASE, send an E-mail now ... AND use our Friends of the Falls link on this Board and send some more. Do it now! With luck, the next Great Mohican Gathering can once again include that most beautiful of areas!

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