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Donated Funds Allow for New Trees Planted Around Wildcat Lake in Banner Elk

The October Glory maples are supposed to grow up to three feet a year and will provide some brilliant fall color each year.

By Nathan Ham

Wildcat Lake in Banner Elk will have an even more picturesque surrounding now after the addition of 10 new October Glory maple trees planted at the lake.

“We were fortunate enough to apply and get $5,000 from the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk and $5,000 from the High Country Charitable Foundation to plant the trees we have here,” said Kiwanis Club member and Avery County resident Jim Swinkola, “Unfortunately right now the lake is closed, but the lake is going to be here for a long time, for many many centuries, and I’m sure these trees will be here for a long time.”

Jonas (left) and Jose of Riverside Nursey in Newland are pictured hard at work on July 17.

The October Glory maples are supposed to grow up to three feet a year and will provide some brilliant fall color each year. In addition to the beauty around the lake, the new trees will add some cool shade to enjoy during warm summer days.

Swinkola says the goal is to eventually come up with another $10,000 to plant additional trees to match the new ones that were planted this month.

Mae Weed, the President of the Kiwanis Club of Banner Elk, shared her thoughts on the importance of keeping the lake an inviting place for area residents and visitors. 

“The Banner Elk Kiwanis Club and the Kiwanis Foundation have been long time partners with Grandfather Home for Children working to maintain and upgrade Wildcat Lake facilities to better serve our community.  The planting of new trees is just the most recent of these important projects. We want to help to make the lake a welcoming and fun place for family activities that serve members of our community at no cost to its users. Kiwanis is proud to be a part of this important mission,” said Weed. 

Other folks in the Avery County community have taken notice of the new trees around the lake.

“Wildcat Lake, a Banner Elk tourist attraction, usually buzzing with tourist activities, has received added sun protection to its beachfront. The planting of several maple trees, which replaced the ailing hemlocks, is a welcome and much needed renovation,” said Jo-Ann McMurray, President of the Banner Elk Chamber of Commerce. “A favorite spot of many to view the fall colors will now be even more popular with this addition to the lakefront property.”

Former residents Dick and Barbara Wilson, who spent many summer living at Hound Ears and started the Grandparents’ Club that helps support the children at Grandfather Home, recently heard about the new trees and is excited to see them, hopefully soon.

“In a recent e-mail, Jim Swinkola told us about the wonderful landscaping project being done at Wildcat Lake. Replacing the dead pine trees and planting the October Glory Maples will make a big improvement,” said Dick. “The maples will improve the aesthetics, safety and provide shade for the beach goers. We are hoping to visit the area again and see first hand the improvements.”

Banner Elk native Susan Carter was happy to see the new trees as she drove by Wildcat Lake and reflected back on the change from the older trees to the new ones in the ground.

“Growing up in Banner Elk I recall the tall evergreen trees that, with age, had to be removed, leaving a stark hot opening from the highway. Now these Maples will provide cool shade and safety for families as they participate in the water activities offered by swimming, playing on the beach, volleyball, children’s playground, and picnic area,” said Carter. “As a lifetime resident of Banner Elk, I am thankful for residents and visitors who continue to enrich the quality of life and diverse beauty of our Blue Ridge Mountain area. These October Glory Maples are now a rich green color, but soon the trees will be ablaze with fall color!”

Riverside Nursery in Newland was in charge of planting the new maples at Wildcat Lake.

Wildcat Lake