• LETTERS / Why Real Estate is Booming and What That Means for Our Future

    September 14, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY PAM VINES / Dear Editor, I grew up around real estate. My parents were both realtors and in 1995 my sister and I took over the family business. And in all my years in the industry I’ve never seen a market quite like this one. In July members of the High Country Association of Realtors® sold more than 360 homes in the area – a 72 percent increase from the year before. Now we’re running out of inventory. July was also our busiest month for land transactions in over a decade (110 tracts of land worth $9.9 million). That’s in the middle of a pandemic and an economic crisis; and there’s a reason why people are buying anyway. Read more…



  • LETTERS / Celebrate Arts in Education Throughout the High Country… and Beyond

    September 11, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY KEITH MARTIN / Dear Editor, September 13 through 19 is National Arts in Education Week, a nationwide celebration recognizing the transformative power of the arts in education. Designated by Congress in 2010, this annual celebration is intended to bring attention to the cause of arts education for elected officials and educational decision makers across the country, and to support equitable access to the arts for all learners. It is also a time for local residents to pause, reflect, and applaud their cherished cultural assets. There is much to celebrate throughout our region; from the vital programs of the Ashe County Arts Council to the regional artists on display at Ruffin Street Gallery in Linville, from the aspirations of the Junior Appalachian Musicians at the Jones House in Boone to the award-winning Pioneer Playmakers at Watauga High School, from the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum to the historic Banner Elk School, both of which are “hubs” for arts programming, from the cultural offerings by Appalachian State University and Lees-McRae College to our invaluable public libraries and, most importantly, to all the dedicated and resourceful arts education teachers throughout the High Country. Read more…



  • LETTERS / The WNC Renters Help Landlord Reviews Database is Accepting Submissions

    September 7, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY BENJAMIN LOOMIS / Dear Editor, WNC Renters Help formed in 2020 to help respond to COVID-19’s impact on renters. We are an unincorporated, volunteer-driven group— not a nonprofit or a business, just a small collection of local citizens. In addition to creating a platform for renters seeking help with housing, we’ve been researching past efforts in the area to stabilize community housing and different examples from towns like ours’ who have succeeded in doing so. We’ve laid out the platform in order of most-immediate solutions to long-term economic structures that could permanently maintain affordable housing in Watauga. Read more…



  • LETTERS / NC’s Parks and Trails for Health (PATH)

    September 1, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY CHARLIE BRADY / Dear Editor, The past six months have vividly demonstrated how important access to public lands is to the physical and mental health of all North Carolinians. Blue Ridge Conservancy has been inundated with stories of individuals and families who are grateful to have greenways, State Parks and State Trails where they can spend time in the outdoors while practicing social distancing. However, reports that our State Parks turned away visitors because parks were at capacity show that additional investments in public lands are desperately needed. This week the North Carolina General Assembly reconvenes to decide how to apportion approximately $900 million in federal COVID relief funding. Read more…



  • LETTERS / All Communities Outside of Boone Are Short-Changed

    August 26, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY TIM GUPTON / Dear Editor, I am writing to follow-up on an article posted in the Watauga Democrat “Blowing Rock group advocates for ambulance station” published on August 20, 2020. The community of Blowing Rock has been advocating to improve ambulance transport response times for many years and requested the new 24/7 crew be located in the facility provided by the Blowing Rock Fire District.   The County’s response has been to add a 9/5 crew during the weekdays. Representatives of the community and I met with Chairman John Welch on August 21, 2020 to request that the County hold a public hearing to re-evaluate the County Commission’s EMS policies that drive outcomes and safety and seek input from taxpayers throughout the entire County. Read more…



  • LETTERS / Why Do I Care? Do My Essays Matter?

    August 14, 2020 Letters to the Editor. By Craig Dudley / Your editor asked me; Why do you care, do your essays matter? If we remain silent we’re agreeing with what’s being done in our name. I provide examples. Read more…



  • LETTERS / Statement by the High Country Association of REALTORS® Regarding Appalachian District Health Department Raising Service Fees During the COVID-19 Crisis

    July 30, 2020 Letters to the Editor. By Duncan Martin and Pam Vines / Dear Editor, Leadership representing the 877 members of the High Country Association of REALTORS® (HCAR) is calling on the Appalachian District Health Department to reverse environmental health service fee increases made effective July 1, 2020. “A global pandemic is not the time to be raising fees on local residents,” said 2020 HCAR President Pam J. Vines and HCAR CEO Duncan Martin in a joint statement. Read more…



  • LETTERS / Dear Appalachian State University Family — Please Stay Online and Stay Home!

    July 16, 2020 Letters to the Editor. By Michael Hambourger and Matthew Robinson / Dear Editor, With only five weeks before our fall semester, Appalachian State University plans to welcome nearly 20,000 students back to Boone. Extensive precautions are being implemented “to ensure the safest path forward,” according to Chancellor Sheri Everts on June 26, in remarks to the Board of Trustees. While well intentioned, we, as members of the faculty, cannot support the return of students to campus. We find the plans insufficient to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak in our community. Read more…



  • LETTERS / Blowing Rock Civic Association Responds to County Manager in Regards to Blowing Rock EMS Service Discussion

    July 15, 2020 Letters to the Editor. By Tim Gupton / Dear Chairman Welch, Commissioners Kennedy, Turnbow, Wallin and Yates, and County Manager Geouque, I received and read Mr. Geouque’s reply to my letter of July 9, 2020, requesting that the County Commissioners vote on placing the new 24/7 EMS team in Blowing Rock. A tit for tat reply will not be productive because the current rationale for staffing the EMS system throughout the entire county is the core issue. We believe that the County’s decision to base success on one Key Performance Indicator (KPI) of an average response time of 10 minutes is totally inadequate.  Accepting an outcome of an average response time of 9:01 minutes for emergency calls as success means that  50% of the calls for actual people, not statistics,  are above 9:01. Mr. Sullivan’s 2019 Annual Report documents that only 56% of emergency calls are less than 9:00 minutes. If you live in Boone, all is well, since the average emergency call response time is 6:10 minutes.  Otherwise, the average emergency response times for other districts range for 10:24 to 24:51 minutes. Read more…



  • LETTERS / Watauga County Manager Responds to Tim Gupton Letter Concerning Ambulance Service in Blowing Rock

    July 14, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY Deron Geouque / Dear Mr. Gupton: Thank you for your email and input regarding Watauga County’s ambulance service.  The County appreciates your comments but would respectfully disagree on some of the generalizations you have made.  First, the Watauga County Board of Commissioners has never promised the Town of Blowing Rock a 24 hour crew.  I have reviewed the official meeting minutes of the Board of Commissioners and was unable to verify your claim.  The Board has worked extensively with the Blowing Rock Town Council in reviewing and discussing ambulance service for the Town of Blowing Rock and the County as a whole.  Based on these discussions the Commissioners authorized a study of the system in 2017.  The purpose of the study was to determine how the County could maximize limited resources with the location of future sites and the addition of new crews.  Again, MAXIMIZING the benefit and impact to the overall system and not just one section or area of the county.  The conclusion of the study recommended the following: Read more…



  • LETTERS / Request for 24/7 EMS Coverage in Blowing Rock

    July 9, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY TIM GUPTON / Dear Chairman Welch, County Commissioners & County Manager, I am writing on behalf of the Blowing Rock Civic Association to request that the Commission  vote to approve locating the new 24/7 EMS team at the Blowing Rock station. Our observations and recommendations are based on our research,  data provided by the County Manager, and consultation with EMS experts. As you know, the leaders of Blowing Rock have asked the County for 24/7 coverage for a number of years and were told that Blowing Rock would be the next location after the new facility was built and staff in Vilas in 2017.  We are now in 2021 with an opportunity to fulfill that commitment and expectation. Read more…



  • LETTERS / I Begin This Essay With A List of Quote

    June 24, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY CRAIG DUDLEY / Dear Editor, I intersperse quotes in this essay by H. L. Mencken that I believe to be quite applicable to our current situation. H.L. Mencken for most of you who won’t recognize his name was a famous editor for a newspaper in Baltimore from about 1900 to about 1940. Among many notable accomplishments he coined the term ‘bible belt’ while covering the Scopes monkey trial in Tennessee in the twenties. He also wrote the definitive history of the English language, still in print last I heard. “The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the greatest liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.” Read more…



  • LETTERS / Thank You to the High Country Caregiver Organization

    June 17, 2020 Letters to the Editor. By Brenda Reece / I would like to express my heartfelt love and appreciation to all of the caring, community- minded and generous High Country Caregiver board members that I had the honor and privilege of working with over the past 15 years. I know that for each of you, it was an “add on” to the many other things that you did, including your job, your family, other volunteer opportunities and your social life.  I appreciate that you were willing to serve without compensation and I will always value and appreciate your time, talents, personal donations and your input. Read more…



  • LETTERS / COVID-19 is Straining Our Ailing Rural Health Systems

    May 19, 2020 Letters to the Editor. By ALAN MORGAN / The front lines of the war on COVID-19 have expanded and are now reaching into rural America. As infection rates begin to plateau nationally, and states begin to reopen, we, too, must expand our focus and our action to rural communities—areas with limited healthcare infrastructure and populations most at risk for contracting the virus. At this time, more than 90 percent of the nation’s rural counties have documented cases of COVID-19, with more than 70,000 confirmed cases and 3,000 deaths Read more…



  • LETTERS / Now is the Time for the Town of Boone to be Working With the County and Other Governmental Entities

    May 13, 2020 Letters to the Editor. By Pam J. Vines / On behalf of the 755 REALTORS comprising the High County Association of REALTORS®, we would encourage you to vote against the proposed indefinite extension of a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all visitors coming to the area. Your recent action to break away from the High Country’s unified response to the COVID-19 crisis is detrimental to both businesses and its citizens. While we fully understand the desire to address the current pandemic, the action should be based on science and facts. In that regard, the Watauga County Health Department, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services have prepared a reasonable and cautious response, which is based on the available resources and consideration of the needs of our community. The Boone Town Council’s decision to unilaterally impose an indefinite 14-day quarantine and restrict residential occupancy is beyond the recommendations of the Governor, the County Commissioners, and the Health Director. Read more…



  • LETTERS / Consider Each Masked Face You See as One Who is Working to Save Your Life

    May 11, 2020 Letters to the Editor. By Genevieve Austin / You are on my mind. Watching accurate updates about the Pandemic, you know, we are each vulnerable. It’s hard to stay cognizant of this fact. But it IS a fact. I find myself startled, saddened, stunned, angry and bewildered. Many of us are not acting like we possess the knowledge that we are each in danger. I see two options: I. Either “I” (or “You”) may be so unfortunate to die from COVID-19, and/or Option II. I(and/or You) will have a broken heart over losing one I/we love to COVID19. ALL of our hearts are vulnerable to breaking over the fact that someone we, I, YOU love, is going to be that unfortunate, vulnerable soul who dies from it. This is a pandemic and science isn’t negotiating. Read more…



  • LETTERS / Statement from Boone Area Chamber of Commerce Regarding Action Taken By Boone Town Council Thursday Night

    May 8, 2020 Letters to the Editor. By David Jackson / The Boone Area Chamber of Commerce strongly disagrees with the proposal to adopt additional emergency actions that impact the business owners and residents of the Town of Boone, as approved by a vote of the Boone Town Council Thursday night. The language outlining a proposed indefinite lengthening of a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all visitors coming to the area, as well residents traveling from and back to the area, represents an unrealistic enforcement issue and poses negative impacts on our tourism economy, small business community, incoming college students, and a large percentage of our workforce, who may work in Boone, but live in counties other than Watauga.  Read more…



  • LETTERS / Opening of Blowing Rock Memorial Park Restrooms

    May 8, 2020 Letters to the Editor. By Deborah McDowell / To Watauga County and Blowing Rock Town Commissioners: We need the restrooms open.  We also need open minds and hearts.   This is an unprecedented time of struggle.  Many are afraid of getting sick and or seeing their businesses die. You have no idea how many people we have turned away and had to explain to them that our commissioners, town and county are not allowing visitors to stay overnight. They do not understand why we are not on the same schedule as a lot of counties  and our  state.   As to second home owners, I believe I would be upset if I could not go to a home that I own and pay taxes on.  If not for their  generosity and love for our community  a number of our outreach programs would be lacking.  These are not dumb people, they do not want to get sick either.  Read more…



  • LETTERS / Boone Has Become Inhospitable Despite its Good Qualities

    May 1, 2020 Letters to the Editor. By Benjamin Loomis, WNC Renters Help / If anything good can be said about COVID-19, it is how our community has awoken to the hunger crisis at its core. On April 21st, 2020 the Boone Town Council adopted a motion to call on the North Carolina and federal government to impose a moratorium on rent and mortgage payments. Here are some comments from community members who pushed for this resolution to pass: Read more…



  • LETTERS / COVID 1984

    April 30, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY CRAIG DUDLEY / Dear Editor, “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” Hermann Goering. Americans don’t need dictators to control us. We volunteered to become a nation of TV zombies. Liberty enabled ‘consumers’ to choose submission to illusion. Many ‘consumers’ believe all authority is good and everyone should be required to bend to it. The first casualty of this plandemic is critical thinking. Why wasn’t there a more thorough investigation into the virus before ‘consumers’ accepted it all? Read more…



  • LETTERS / Glad You Asked! Who Does the Blowing Rock Civic Association Represent?

    April 29, 2020 Letters to the Editor. By Tim Gupton / The Civic Association strives to be a unifying voice for all homeowners in Blowing Rock. We consider all homeowners as residents whether full-time or part-time as all are taxpayers. Our membership reflects the demographics of our unique resort village. The makeup of our homeowners is actually hard to define because there are so many variations, but basically 20% are full-time and 80% are seasonal. Read more…



  • LETTERS / Who Does the Blowing Rock Civic Association Represent?

    April 27, 2020 Letters to the Editor. By Joe Amoroso / So the Blowing Rock Civic Association has asked the Watauga County Commission to cancel the quarantine order for seasonal homeowners who want to return to Blowing Rock without having to endure the 14-day quarantine. Who does the BRCA represent, the seasonal homeowners or the residents of Blowing Rock? As far as I know, the “residents” have been doing an excellent job of staying home, putting on masks when shopping, keeping a safe distance, and generally doing whatever possible to avoid catching or passing on this disease to others. Furthermore, none of our friends who are seasonal residents have expressed concern about having to quarantine once they get back. Read more…



  • LETTERS / To Members of Watauga County Commission; Cancel the Quarantine Order for Homeowners Concurrent with Commencement of Phase 1 of the Governor’s Restrictions

    April 25, 2020 Letters to the Editor. By Tim Gupton / I am writing on behalf of the board of directors of the Blowing Rock Civic Association to recommend that you cancel the Quarantine Order for homeowners concurrent with commencement of Phase 1 of the Governor’s data-driven decision to begin lifting restrictions. We understood the initial need for a 14 days quarantine to reduce the risk of importing the virus and to assure the adequacy of regional healthcare resources to treat virus patients. We now believe the time has come for lifting the restrictions on all homeowners and begin welcoming back our seasonal residents. Read more…



  • LETTERS / The Deadline for Closing on the Property for the Proposed Valle Crucis School is Later This Month

    April 13, 2020 Letters to the Editor. By Lyle Schoenfeldtr / Just over one year ago, March 2019, it was announced that the Watauga Board of Education had approved the purchase of the Hodges property in Historic Valle Crucis for a new Valle Crucis School. This action was taken in closed session and is was not disclosed in the agenda or minutes of the meeting. There was no public discussion and thus the plan for new Valle Crucis School was a surprise to all. While the idea of a new Valle Crucis School was initially welcomed, we have learned a great deal in the intervening year. Read more…



  • LETTERS / Announcing the “Rock United Relief Fund” to Help Small Businesses

    April 3, 2020 Letters to the Editor. By Charlie Sellers – Mayor, Blowing Rock / As difficult and frightening as the COVID-19 virus is to all of us as individuals, it is even more so to the restaurants, hotels, retailers and other small businesses at the heart and core of Blowing Rock. The future and vibrancy of our wonderful Village is dependent upon the continued success and ongoing operation of these small businesses, especially those in the travel and leisure business. Hopefully we as individuals will survive this crisis, but the survival of our small businesses is increasingly at risk as the COVID-19 economic shutdown continues. As a community, there is a growing realization that we must do something to help our small businesses through this unprecedented and difficult time. To this end, I am pleased to announce the creation by the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce of the “Rock United Relief Fund”, dedicated solely to helping our small businesses survive. Read more…



  • LETTERS / Avery County Manager’s Request to Part-Time Residents

    March 31, 2020 Letters to the Editor. By Phillip Barrier, Jr. – Avery County Manager / To our valuable Avery County Resort Communities: Avery County Government takes great pride in providing the best governmental services to all its citizens. However, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a threat to the Health and Safety of our citizens. This week we watched North Carolina’s infected numbers go from 123 to 636 and all bordering counties now report cases. At this time, Avery County Government, Emergency Management, the Avery County Health Department, and Cannon Hospital suggest that it may be in the best interest of our part-time residents to stay at their current permanent residence so that the resources in the County are not strained. It is not required, but we hope that the part-time residents who need to come to their homes self-quarantine for a period of fourteen (14) days. Read more…



  • LETTERS / That is Not Funny at ANY Age

    March 31, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY JOSEPHINE BEALL / Dear Editor, I was at Food Lion in Blowing Rock on Sunday March 29 and parked beside a car, where  three young people, in their twenties, were talking.  As I got out of my car I heard them laughing and mocking people that are so scared of a cough or a sneeze. They were having a good time mimicking them and were very dramatic about it, with much hilarity. I said to them “when you get to be my age, that is not funny anymore.” I should have said, that is not funny at ANY age. They gave quick apologies and we all proceeded to go into the store.  Read more…



  • LETTERS / The Need to Support Small Biz During Coronavirus

    March 27, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY GREGG THOMPSON / Dear Readers, Social distancing is taking its toll on North Carolina’s small businesses. We don’t have state-specific numbers, but a new survey by the National Federation of Independent Business says 76% of the nation’s small business owners say they’ve been affected in some way by the COVID-19 outbreak. Over half say sales are down, while 23% say the coronavirus has affected their supply chain. One in five owners surveyed by NFIB said the outbreak hasn’t affected them, but most think it will eventually. As NFIB’s state director, this troubles me, because small business is the heart and soul of North Carolina’s economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses account for 99.6% of all employers in the state, and they employ about 44% of the state’s workforce.  Read more…



  • LETTERS / Compassion is the Key

    March 23, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY DAVID JACKSON / Dear Readers, I’m not sure if there are enough words in our language to accurately describe what we have experienced as a community over these past days. A month ago, we were locked into a familiar pattern that saw Thursday’s snow lead to Saturday’s skiers. Our hotels and restaurants were filled with visitors and we were optimistic that a strong fall and winter was going to keep early 2020 moving in a positive economic direction. Fast forward to today and the surroundings and circumstances we knew as the bedrocks of our community became covered in uncertainty. Every day has birthed a new challenge to overcome. As the days pass, these challenges manifest into conversations we never thought we’d have with our families, friends, and co-workers. While some communities have the economic diversity to absorb a major blow to certain sectors, our area depends on so many of the things that have been ripped from us under these circumstances. The displacement of our students, visitors, and unfortunately, too many faces of a workforce that serve as they backbone to our unique, thriving businesses, has left a void.  Read more…



  • LETTERS / Ensemble Stage Looks to Their 2020 Season With a Message of Hope

    March 20, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY GARY SMITH / Dear Editor, First let’s talk about that great big elephant in the room. Actually, I’ll start by not referring to it as an elephant. Elephants are awesome and one of the world’s most intelligent and majestic creatures. Therefore, I won’t disparage them by creating any association between them and what we all are now facing. However, something I want everyone to keep in mind, there is nothing stronger than the human spirit, there is nothing stronger than our will to persevere, and there is nothing stronger than the insanely creative power of our imagination. Even Einstein realized that when he said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”. Read more…



  • LETTERS / Biggest Smoking Gun of 911

    March 10, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY CRAIG DUDLEY / Dear Editor, I once was part of the flock. I believed what the TV and schools told me and regarded those who opposed those ‘official truths’ as madmen, performing my assigned function as a ‘consumer’. Then I stumbled across minor bits of evidence that grew into larger pieces indicating that many of those official truths were false. A curious thing about people is how they get an idea fixed in their mind and seem willing to fight to defend what ‘information’ they were given by another, as if they’re defending a castle. It’s the red pill vs the blue. Read more…



  • LETTERS / Making Sure Rural Gets Counted: Census 2020

    February 20, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY COLIN WILLIAMS / At the Rural Center, we’ve had the privilege to work in communities all across rural North Carolina, and we’ve seen firsthand that it’s not the size or location of a town that makes it a great place to live and raise a family, it’s the people who make it a community. However, people are only one essential ingredient for thriving rural communities. The other part? Well, that’s a more complicated question, but it boils down to a combination of resources and representation. The 2020 Census will be a defining moment for our state, but especially for the people who call the 80 rural counties in North Carolina home. Why? Read more…



  • LETTERS / A Valentine to Afterschool

    February 14, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY BECKY WEATHERS / This Valentine’s Day, I am writing this letter to tell you how Community Kids Afterschool has been a blessing to me. My granddaughter came to live with me nine months ago. I had to start over, so I needed all the help I could get!  The Afterschool staff at Riverside Elementary helped her with her homework, as well as offer many other activities and projects. She loves it and all the teachers are great. I don’t have to worry! I know where she is and that she is safe. When I pick her up from afterschool, I know her homework is always done. All I have to do is fix her supper and make sure she is bathed, ready for the next day.  I can’t put it all down in words what Afterschool means to me. It is a great program for working parents and grandparents! This Valentine’s Day, I can honestly say that I love my granddaughter’s afterschool program. It’s great! Read more…



  • LETTERS / Earth Fare Closing Down

    February 4, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY CHERYL WHEELER / To whom it may concern, I spent two hours just walking around Earth Fare yesterday in the mountains of Boone, N.C., and just listening to all of the many voices, from the customers to the employees, talk about the closing of their beloved Health Food Store. They had just gotten word at 8 a.m. that morning that the doors would be closing, and not just to their store alone, but all Earth Fare stores everywhere. There was a sense of shock, loss, and deep sadness in the atmosphere. It reminded me of a movie in a way. You may have seen it, “You’ve Got Mail,” when the city of New York experienced the closing of a very tiny but lovely little family-owned bookstore called “The Shop Around the Corner.” It was special. It meant something to a whole lot of people, as does our Earth Fare that we have all come to love and appreciate. This isn’t just a grocery store. It is a family of people feeling connected to each other, learning to eat well, and feed their families well, and feel alive. It meant something and “It is personal!” Read more…



  • LETTERS / The Question is Whose Conspiracy?

    January 3, 2020 Letters to the Editor. BY CRAIG DUDLEY / Dear Editor, The vast majority of polls I’ve seen indicate ‘consumers’ have no trust in the media or the government. Some statistics put that level of trust somewhere around ten percent. It’s easy to know why that is: experience. Those entities have repeatedly proven themselves to be liars or fools. The thing that amazes me is why, when they have no trust in those bodies, they still act and speak as though what ‘official sources’ tell them is true: they show no evidence of questioning the things the TV and schools present. 9/11 was a result of a conspiracy, whether you believe the ‘official story’ or have joined the large number of American’s who see more holes in that official explanation than would be found in a cheese grater. The question is whose conspiracy? Read more…



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