Before we move forward, one last look at 2016
Fresh in our minds, 2016 was certainly a year to remember in the Swannanoa Valley, not just for the national events that made news but also because of the small, quieter moments that made history for us all.
Here’s a look at some of the more memorable events in the Valley, as gleaned from the pages of The Black Mountain News.
In January, weather was so warm during the first full week that people were at Lake Tomahawk walking in shirtsleeves, and dogs and cats were scratching their fleas. Speaking of Lake Tomahawk, recent rains put dredging of the lake on hold. Former Owen football star Jager Gardner shined in his first season at Temple University. ACA’s basketball ace Jordan Shepherd committed to James Madison University. Winter Storm Jonas dropped heavy snow on the Valley.
In February, Swannanoa Valley Fine Arts League put on its first 3-D exhibition. A new organization, Owen Babe Ruth Baseball and Softball incorporated the old Owen Little League and Charles D. Owen Babe Ruth in Swannanoa. On Martin Luther King Day, Warren Wilson College students fanned out to help the community during a service day. Town employee Keith Belt likely saved the life of an elderly woman who slipped in ice and tried crawling home before Belt helped her inside. Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry began looking for a new executive director. Hundreds of people attended the Martin Luther King prayer breakfast at Camp Dorothy Walls. Anthony Penland, chief of the Swannanoa Fire Department, was named Career Fire Chief of the Year (2015) by the Western North Carolina Association of Firefighters. The Swannanoa Fire Department awarded Doug Lane its Distinguished Service Award for his donating blood marrow to a little girl years ago. Some 400 local runners and others ran the Black Mountain Marathon and Mountain Mitchell Challenge.
In March, Gov. Pat McCrory bestowed the The Order of the Long Leaf Pine award on Jack Allison. At Owen High, Anurita Agrawal brought a strong work ethic to the school as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange program. 2005 Owen alum Steven Hensley starred in the Mexican winter baseball league. The Black Mountain News made news itself with its announcement that writers Barbara Hootman and Paul Clark won awards in the 2015 N.C. Press Association Editorial and Photojournalism contest. ArtSpace Charter School continued to recover from flood and mud damages from a Dec. 29 rainstorm. The newly constituted Montreat town board announced it suspended construction on the Texas Road bridge and would not build a new town hall on Florida Terrace. Harwood Home for Funerals bought Mountain View Memorial Park, ending concerns of some plot owners. A Zen community in Black Mountain, Cloud Cottage Community of Mindful Living, announced it would close. Ruth and Nelson Higgins are awarded The Order of the Long Leaf Pine.
In April, renovations to historic buildings on Black Mountain Avenue prompt many residents to start calling it “Old Black Mountain.” The Monte Vista Hotel announced that it was returning to management by owners Sue Conlon and Barney Fitzpatrick. Valley resident Cheryl Wilson began training as executive director of Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry, replacing retiring exec Renae Brame, who retired in May. After a three-year hiatus, Cheshire Fitness Club brought back its indoor triathlon for members and nonmembers. With a 10-4 record, Asheville Christian Academy baseball climbed to sixth in the state. Former Montreat mayor and D-Day veteran Andy Andrews died.
In May, filming for the movie “Three Buildings Outside Ebbing, Missouri” started in North Fork. Brownie Troop 30226 installed a tiny library at the Carver Center. Pat Rice, a popular marketing director, retired from Givens Highland Farms Retirement Community. Dr. John Wilson, who started the community garden later named for him, died, as did Nelson Higgins. After 46 years at Warren Wilson College, Rodney Lytle, often called “Mr. Warren Wilson, retired. The new Montreat town board voted to reimburse residents who sued it over the proposed placement of the new town hall. Runners ran the Black Mountain Monster race through In-the-Oaks.
In June, Swannanoa Valley Museum reopened after extensive renovations. Eden Roorda of Native Kitchen & Social Pub competed to advance to the Battle of the Champions of the Got to Be NC culinary competition. Four Montreat residents settled their complaints with the town board over the proposed town hall site. Black Mountain aldermen voted to keep the tax rate at 37.5 cents per $100 valuation. Verner Center for Early Learning was awarded a $1 million grant from Early Head Start. Turf was replaced at Owen High’s Warhorse Stadium. The Owen Little League All Stars blew out North Buncombe all stars.
In July, Black Mountain Academy, a private boarding school for boys with autism, announced it would open in the former Wilson Family Funeral Service building. The Asheville Planning Transit Division said it would discontinue bus service to Warren Wilson College. The popular Cycle to Farm bike ride connected riders with local farmers. Injury sidelined Owen running back Sidney Gibbs for the season.
In August, the Swannanoa Gathering celebrated its 25th year with a national debut of a song by folk music icon Janis Ian. The Black Mountain Kiwanis Club honored Ruby Begley with its community service award. The Sourwood Festival attracted hundreds of people to downtown Black Mountain. Nearby Mount Mitchell State Park celebrated its 100th birthday with a two-day celebration. Owen High’s football team recognized its biggest fan, benefactor Anne Michaels. Owen alum David Weaver began his seventh season in professional basketball by signing with a team in Japan.
In September, Black Mountain Farm & Fork assembled gourmands to an outdoor meal near the old depot. Local athletes ran in the Rock the Quarry 5K race. Black Mountain resident Eileen Hallman was one of 29 regional artists featured in the fashion runway show Project Handmade 2016-Elements of Nature. Warren Wilson College was named on of The Princeton Review’s “Best 381 Colleges.” Black Mountain aldermen took up a rezoning request by Harwood Home for Funerals that would allow it to increase the size of its building. Local resident John Travers was named Black Mountain Home for Children’s volunteer of the year. Aldermen adopted a 115-page bike plan for the town. Owen alumni Sue Hunnicutt and Lester Ballard were added to the high school’s hall of fame. Avadim Technologies, a life science company, announced a 551-job expansion in Black Mountain.
In October, Owen High principal Meg Turner was inducted into the Virginia High School Hall of Fame. Bruce Granger became the new executive director of Bounty & Soul. A group of merchants and residents opposed a crematory proposed for downtown. Residents Donaldson Woods and Don Jackson went to Washington, D.C. as part of the first Honor Flight for Korean War veterans. Residents around town put out yellow “Slow Down” signs urging drivers to be considerate. Steven Solnick announced his resignation as Warren Wilson College president, effective July 1. The college’s mountain biking team won its division of the USA Cycling Collegiate Mountain Bike National Championships. Asheville Christian Academy boys soccer team won a state championship.
In November, major renovations and new construction were announced for the old Swannanoa High School, now Community High School. Bounty & Soul extended its reach into the Latino community with a community resources event at Owen Middle School. The Warhorse Youth Football midget team completed a perfect season by winning the WNC Youth Football and Cheer midget division Super Bowl. Swannanoa Valley Christian Ministry announced plans to build “transitional” housing for homeless women and children. Black Mountain police chief Steve Padgett announced his retirement. Alderman approved the rezoning of the Harwood Home for Funerals property. Montreat Conference Center housed firefighters battling the Party Rock fire near Lake Lure. Local resident Hallie Saunders started selling homemade soup to aid residents of Recovery Ventures, a residential program in Swannanoa for people with addictions.
In December, Black Mountain held its Christmas Parade and Circle of Lights celebration on Dec. 3. Black Mountain resident Robert Boer prepared singers for a performance of the “Messiah” in Montreat. Asheville Christian Academy golfer Will Tamplin signed to play for the University of Richmond. White Horse Black Mountain celebrated its eighth year in part with a free Christmas concert. Owen High School celebrated its undefeated girls teams of the 1960s by hanging a banner in the gym. Owen boys and girls basketball teams opened their seasons with 4-0 runs. Warren Wilson College announced possible hate crimes directed against students of color. Swannanoa Valley Museum feted hikers who finished all of its Rim Hike series.