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Showing Support for Eustace Conway, Turtle Island: ASU Students To Rally at Planning and Health Departments Tuesday To ‘Put Pressure on County Government’

By Jesse Wood

April 22, 2013. Not since The Last American Man was published has Eustace Conway received so much press as of late, and it’s likely he’s received even more publicity for building and health code violations at Turtle Island Preserve than he ever achieved from his biography, which was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2002.

Eustace Conway of Turtle Island Preserve - Photo by Jesse Wood
Eustace Conway of Turtle Island Preserve – Photo by Jesse Wood

Conway, who in the past has viewed the media as a disruption to his daily schedule, has welcomed the recent onslaught of media attention with open arms.

A slew of articles from North Carolina publications have been written in the past six months since the preserve closed to the public, yet in the past two months Conway’s plight has spread internationally with Conway featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and on Fox News, where a former New Jersey supreme court judge analyzed Conway’s predicament. 

“Front page, right there with the pope last Thursday,” Conway said a month ago, adding that personnel from a German publication visited the preserve recently, too.

“It’s spreading around the world instead of just North Carolina and North America,” Conway said. “Usually don’t allow the press, I am busy. But this is important. While I am shut down, I might as well talk to the press.”

Tonight, Eustace Conway will speak about his fight to re-open Turtle Island Preserve to the public in room 114 of the Belk Library on the campus of ASU at 6 p.m.

The speaking event is apart of an organized event by a local student group called the Appalachian State Young Americans for Liberty that is hoping to “put pressure on the county government to leave [Conway] be,” according to ASUYAL President Andy Bratton.

On Tuesday, supporters of the event will participate in a 24-hour stand-in on ASU’s Sanford Mall, starting at 9 a.m. During the stand-in, the group will hold a demonstration rally and march to the health and planning departments in Watauga County. The march is set to start at 2:30 p.m.

On Friday, Watauga County Planning and Inspections Director Joe Furman said he was aware of the planned demonstrations.

“They have a right to do that,” Furman said, offering no further comment.

In March, the N.C. Building Code Council accepted a petition from staff to modify state building codes, recognizing camping cabins and primitive structures across the state, according to spokesman Marni Schribman with the N.C. Department of Insurance, which houses the building council.

Some of the recommended modifications included:

  • The property/land, without consideration to the buildings, is not within the scope of the code.
  • GS 143-138 (b4) (1) states that building such as barns, sheds and other structures associated with equine activities are exempted from the code.
  • Establish a bucket station or fire extinguisher in the cabins to address possible risks from fires.
  • Establish a safe distance between the camp fire and the buildings.
  • Establishing the allowable width of the road leading to the camp. Our department has a precedent  in identifying the opinion of the fire chief (using a brush truck) as an alternative to the 20-foot wide road in difficult to access areas.
  • The privies are less than 12’x12’ and can be viewed as an accessory structure in accordance with Section 101.2 residential code.

Schribman said the N.C. Building Code Council Chair Dan Tingen assigned a joint building and fire committee to review suggested modifications. Once those are reviewed, she said the issue will be up for public comment at the next meeting on June 11.

Furman has already said greater flexibility would be “helpful.”

As for the violations with Appalachian District Health Department, Andrew Blethen, the environmental health supervisor for ADHD, said that “there has really been no change in status” regarding Conway and Turtle Island Preserve.

Both Furman and Blethen contend that their departments are following state guidelines.

To see several articles about the issues facing Eustace Conway since last fall and for more background, click here: https://www.hcpress.com/tag/eustace-conway-and-the-battle-at-turtle-island

Here are links to the upcoming events by ASUYAL

Rally/Demonstration to local planning office and health department: https://www.facebook.com/events/363528927085315/