Episode 53: Canton Recovers and Builds a Mountain Biking Park50m | Apr 5, 2022
Zeb Smathers, discusses the economic development in Haywood County and the region, along with his work to open a new park in the area; Chestnut Mountain Park.
Our host Joseph McElroy, Owner of the Meadowlark Motel in Maggie Valley, NC. is joined by an incredible guest, Zeb Smathers, he is a graduate of Duke University and UNC Law School who resides with his wife and son in Canton, N.C. Like his father, Patrick Smathers, before him, Zeb is currently Mayor of Canton, while also working as an Attorney with his dad.
Zeb has guided an Economic Resurgence in Canton and recently spearheaded the efforts to open an incredible new park in Haywood County—Chestnut Mountain Park – while also helping steer rebuilding efforts through two epic floods that nearly destroyed downtown Canton and surrounding communities.
Zeb is a highly respected community leader, renowned for his ability to avoid partisan politics while always working in the best interests of his constituents—regardless of party affiliation.
Tune in for this fun conversation at TalkRadio.nyc or watch the Facebook Livestream by Clicking Here.
Joseph kicks off the episode by mentioning the sponsor for the show, the Meadowlark Motel as well as upcoming events. This weekend, part 2 of the mountain heritage book series is happening at the motel. The following weekend, there's a fishing camp led by Grammy award-winning musician Charles Humphrey III. He also introduces his guest, Zeb Smathers, the mayor of Canton, North Carolina since 2017. Zeb also works as an attorney with his dad. Zeb was born and raised in Haywood County. He is also a graduate of Duke University and UNC Law School. He says that after the 90s, he was seeing a downhill spiral for the town of Canton. Buildings were breaking down and businesses were closing. When he returned home after finishing school, he noticed that there would be a change in Asheville. Around this time in 2008, President Barack Obama visited Ashville several times and Zeb knew that there would be growth and increases in housing and more. So he thought that Canton could also take advantage of this opportunity.
Joseph talks with Zeb about what it means for him to be from Haywood County and now mayor of Canton. Zeb says that it is something special and is proud of the community that he serves. He describes it as “what you see is what you get.” He describes everything about Canton and Haywood County as a place where people are sincere and real. When talking about his leadership skills, Zeb talks about his father who was always not afraid to talk about big ideas which pushed him to do the same. Zeb and Joseph also talk about other qualities in leadership like asking questions and listening and how our stories affect how leaders and communities can come together. Zeb also mentions more about his family’s legacy, what they have in Canton as well as some od Zeb’s accomplishments. They also discuss Haywood County being authentic and not too commercialized.
Zeb discusses more the comeback story of Canton and some new things within the town that he has been a part of bringing in along with the community. He mentions the Imperial, a building with a lot of history that is now a restaurant called Southern Porch. He mentions more food places as well as a coffee shop called Papertown Coffee. Joseph and Zeb also talk about other improvements that Zeb has helped with such as the environment. He also discusses the many challenges such as the recent flooding that brought losses for the community and how he and the community have been able to move forward.
Joseph mentions how Zeb was able to raise about $600,000 or more to build Chestnut Mountain Park. He says that this was accomplished with the help of the Southern Appalachian Conservancy, which help preserve mountain land. The park is 450 acres and will open this month. A major part of the park will be for mountain biking. Zeb also talks about the meaning behind the park and its location as well as the experience it provides for anyone passing through the Great Smoky Mountains. Zeb passionately talks about the local community and keeping the culture alive. Joseph thanks Zeb Smathers for being able to speak with him and loves what Zeb has been able to accomplish as mayor of Canton.
00:00:26.910 –> 00:00:32.250 Joseph McElroy: Howdy, Thanks for joining us on this week’s episode of Gateway to the Smokies.
00:00:32.610 –> 00:00:40.500 Joseph McElroy: This podcast is about America’s most visited National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the surrounding towns.
00:00:40.770 –> 00:00:48.960 Joseph McElroy: This area is filled with ancient natural beauty deep storied history and rich mountain cultures that we explore with weekly episodes.
00:00:49.500 –> 00:01:00.060 Joseph McElroy: I’m Joseph Franklin McElroy a man of the world, but also with deep roots in these mountains my family’s lived in the great smoky for over 200 years my business is in travel, but my heart is in culture.
00:01:00.870 –> 00:01:10.980 Joseph McElroy: In today’s podcast where I talk about a little mountain town called Canton and then also about mountain biking but first let’s talk about our sponsor’s message, and this case happens to be me.
00:01:12.270 –> 00:01:19.890 Joseph McElroy: Imagine a place evocative of motor courts of the past, you had modern and vibrant with a Chic Appalachian feel.
00:01:20.520 –> 00:01:33.030 Joseph McElroy: a place for adventure and for relaxation imagine a place where you can fish and a mountain heritage trout stream grill the catch on fire and eat accompanied by a fine wine or craft beers.
00:01:33.630 –> 00:01:45.270 Joseph McElroy: Imagine a place of old-time music and world cultural sounds, there is no other place like the Meadowlark Motel in Maggie Valley. Your Smoky Mountain Adventure Starts with Where you Stay.
00:01:46.440 –> 00:01:51.840 Joseph McElroy: and other sponsors smokies adventure that’s smokies plural adventure singular.com
00:01:52.380 –> 00:02:06.660 Joseph McElroy: The smoky mountains and surrounding area is a vacation destination for all seasons, some of the nation’s best hiking trails, motorcycle trails, waterfalls, outdoor adventures, and family entertainment can be found, right here.
00:02:07.140 –> 00:02:18.630 Joseph McElroy: start your adventure by using smokiesadventure.com to explore all the wonderful features of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the trails, the waterfalls, cade cove, the elk, and more.
00:02:18.990 –> 00:02:24.510 Joseph McElroy: then check out all the family attractions and entertainment, you and your entire family can enjoy in the area.
00:02:25.530 –> 00:02:31.830 Joseph McElroy: The goal of smokies adventures is to become the leading information portal for adventures and experiences, the great smoky mountain.
00:02:33.600 –> 00:02:38.970 Joseph McElroy: I wanted I there’s a there’s an event coming up this weekend, I want to let you know about there’s a.
00:02:39.660 –> 00:02:51.120 Joseph McElroy: in Meadowlark we have a heritage book series, and this one’s going to be presentation of the book the Legendary Hunters of the Southern Highlands a century of sport and survival and the great smokies.
00:02:51.630 –> 00:03:00.300 Joseph McElroy: From the heyday of the Cherokee nation and on through the 20th century, the great smoky have nurtured some of the most celebrated hundreds in American history.
00:03:00.870 –> 00:03:11.730 Joseph McElroy: predicting changes in the weather and almost telepathically sensing animal behavior this outdoorsman was linked inextricably with the land that is sustainable.
00:03:12.330 –> 00:03:20.460 Joseph McElroy: Local Author and General Manager of the Meadowlark Smoky Mountain Heritage Center, Bob Plott lovingly recalls the tales.
00:03:20.910 –> 00:03:32.340 Joseph McElroy: Of those hundreds rife with characters like the honest job the bear whose habit of killing only enough livestock to eat it one sitting granted him a reputation as one.
00:03:32.670 –> 00:03:39.930 Joseph McElroy: At one chivalrous and menacing and little George Plott, a Legendary Marksman turns World War Two hero.
00:03:40.830 –> 00:03:44.190 Joseph McElroy: That linger among the region’s harbored for us and misty for.
00:03:44.670 –> 00:03:55.410 Joseph McElroy: These tales. Rediscover an era of self sufficient mountain living where folks labored in logging camps brewed moonshine hunted for survival and fought for what they believe it.
00:03:56.010 –> 00:04:09.450 Joseph McElroy: it’s April night this Saturday at 4 pm at the Meadowlark Motel and there’ll be followed by a book signing and a free Barbecue for the guests $10 for people that are not staying in the motel and then music at the Meadowlark.
00:04:10.980 –> 00:04:12.540 Joseph McElroy: So I hope to see you there.
00:04:13.620 –> 00:04:19.680 Joseph McElroy: Were also, next weekend, not this week next weekend we’re having I was having a fishing camp, with some acclaimed.
00:04:21.030 –> 00:04:38.910 Joseph McElroy: Fishing guides including Charles Humphrey III, who is also a Grammy award-winning musician call the motel for either one of these nights 82 89261717 to get to your place to be and stay, this is coming this April so.
00:04:40.470 –> 00:04:53.370 Joseph McElroy: We are, we are pleased to have a Leader of the Community and Haywood County specifically Canton his name is Zeb Smathers, he is a graduate of Duke University, hey Duke.
00:04:53.790 –> 00:05:12.270 Joseph McElroy: And UNC Law School who resides with his wife and son and Canton North Carolina. He is a working Attorney at Smathers and Smathers Law firm in Canada and he’s also been the Mayor of Canton since 2017, he’s been attracting national attention, since then hello Zeb, how are you doing?
00:05:12.840 –> 00:05:14.280 Zeb Smathers: Joseph, great to be here with you.
00:05:14.760 –> 00:05:23.430 Joseph McElroy: Oh, it is, I know that you’ve been suffering, some storm there just talking about and some hard weather down there hopefully the wind does it kick up like it’s been doing.
00:05:24.300 –> 00:05:34.500 Zeb Smathers: Yes, I said anytime it rains in Canton since the floods of August of 2021 every day, every time it rains I just get this bad my spider-sense goes off.
00:05:34.560 –> 00:05:35.250 Joseph McElroy: But yeah.
00:05:35.310 –> 00:05:36.390 Joseph McElroy: Right it’s like.
00:05:36.390 –> 00:05:36.990 Oh.
00:05:39.300 –> 00:05:42.930 Joseph McElroy: You know since that happened I look at the creek behind the Meadowlark and you know.
00:05:43.320 –> 00:05:53.430 Joseph McElroy: It has an escaped its banks and for 40 years my dad actually raised the ground about three feet all over the place, so you know but he’s been lucky.
00:05:53.790 –> 00:06:04.590 Joseph McElroy: I think the big thing is, we had all used to be bear mountains around there from logging, and now it’s all grown up, and I think that change the trajectory of the wash down and maybe didn’t get flooding anymore.
00:06:05.250 –> 00:06:16.170 Joseph McElroy: So I guess we’re lucky in that regard, but I think we’re excited I’m very excited we’re going to talk a little bit about the Chestnut Mountain Park that you folks are working on and we’re going to talk about the floods, but.
00:06:18.240 –> 00:06:32.700 Joseph McElroy: As a fellow Haywood County native and Duke Grad I’d like our visitors to get to know you better and then you know, and you know, and what will, how will a little bit about to so you were born and raised in Haywood County right, I mean I know your name, I have to, you have to be.
00:06:34.080 –> 00:06:38.910 Zeb Smathers: My son my two-year-old son. He actually is the not generation Smathers.
00:06:39.990 –> 00:06:48.990 Zeb Smathers: I tell people you know, I was, I was lucky to find a girl I wasn’t related to the Marry here and but no, I mean I was born in 1982.
00:06:50.160 –> 00:06:59.010 Zeb Smathers: My dad is an attorney my grandfather owned when the first modern supermarkets in Western North Carolina.
00:06:59.670 –> 00:07:12.840 Zeb Smathers: And you know I have memories of the store in the Canton in the late 80s, but also remember the ones in the early 90s, and it was a summary guard, I was a normal childhood and doing me to things you just you know advertised.
00:07:13.860 –> 00:07:25.800 Zeb Smathers: Your motel I mean just you know walking these mountains and playing in the streams and playing sports and the 90s, was a fun time to grow up with the birth of the Internet and just changes in movies and entertainment.
00:07:26.610 –> 00:07:33.900 Zeb Smathers: But that was more nationally, you know locally, we started watching the decline of Canton and Canton is a paper mill town.
00:07:34.740 –> 00:07:52.140 Zeb Smathers: And not you know much like other towns across North Carolina across the United States, these manufacturing towns these furniture towns, textiles, you know once employed so many people and so many you know, jobs and just the Center of culture, they started closing up.
00:07:53.190 –> 00:08:01.860 Zeb Smathers: A close to losing our paper mill camp is a paper mill currently evergreen packaging owns the paper mill here employees 1200 people.
00:08:02.400 –> 00:08:12.510 Zeb Smathers: But in our downtown, you started noticing boarded-up buildings and buildings falling down and just not just you know boarded-up windows.
00:08:12.960 –> 00:08:30.390 Zeb Smathers: But people’s spirits were broken and there wasn’t understanding, like so many places in the United States, our best days were behind us that there was simply no place for small towns, especially small manufacturing towns in the 21st century, and so I graduated Tesco High School in 2001
00:08:32.070 –> 00:08:43.890 Zeb Smathers: played football and basketball there you know your visitors, I mean the people listening, you know Canton and Haywood County is home to the greatest football rivalry in High School in the State of North Carolina.
00:08:44.040 –> 00:08:47.910 Joseph McElroy: And I happened to be on the other side of that equation, I went to test Cola.
00:08:49.560 –> 00:08:50.670 Zeb Smathers: No one’s perfect Joseph.
00:08:52.200 –> 00:08:58.860 Zeb Smathers: But you know we love work pays good and winds were Tesco, and that game draws anywhere from 13 to 15,000 people.
00:08:59.940 –> 00:09:00.840 Zeb Smathers: In so.
00:09:01.020 –> 00:09:02.580 Zeb Smathers: You know, after 2001.
00:09:03.990 –> 00:09:19.440 Zeb Smathers: Travel four hours away to Durham to Duke university graduated in 05 with a major in political science and modern history, then I traveled non-miles, the other direction to UNC-Chapel Hill to Law school.
00:09:19.650 –> 00:09:23.910 Joseph McElroy: why you made that decision I also went to Duke so.
00:09:25.560 –> 00:09:26.400 Zeb Smathers: Both blues.
00:09:27.840 –> 00:09:28.200 Joseph McElroy: But.
00:09:28.260 –> 00:09:37.530 Zeb Smathers: After that, you know I returned home, I always want to come home and practice law with my father, we have a general small-town practice a little bit of everything.
00:09:38.460 –> 00:09:49.050 Zeb Smathers: I ran for Alderman you know, which is our city council in 2013 because spending seven years in the Triangle Raleigh Durham Chapel hill.
00:09:49.470 –> 00:10:00.240 Zeb Smathers: I noticed, something I noticed these large metropolitan areas like Raleigh like Durham they were expanding they were suffering new you know, the new economy, new people you know.
00:10:00.300 –> 00:10:03.660 Joseph McElroy: I remember back then they were going crazy and expanded oh yeah.
00:10:03.900 –> 00:10:22.710 Zeb Smathers: And I noticed this, and so, when I returned home Canton is 20 minutes from Asheville an absolutely wonderful city with so much culture and art and craft brewing and it was in 2008 that’s when the Obama’s made several trips to Asheville I think really put Asheville on the map.
00:10:23.850 –> 00:10:27.030 Zeb Smathers: know, President Obama has his favorite Barbecue place in Ashville.
00:10:27.060 –> 00:10:30.360 Joseph McElroy: 12 bones know who they were 12 bones the bones right.
00:10:30.900 –> 00:10:35.880 Zeb Smathers: So I’m I had you know I put all that, together, and I said wait for a second here.
00:10:36.390 –> 00:10:52.620 Zeb Smathers: something’s getting ready to happen here ash Bergen county it’s going to grow it’s going to expand there are going to increase in housing and Lena let’s just logistic issues, and I said, you know if Canton if we play our cards right, we can take advantage of this.
00:10:52.800 –> 00:10:53.160 Joseph McElroy: yeah.
00:10:53.250 –> 00:10:57.210 Zeb Smathers: A lot of people looked at me as crazy luckily enough people who voted for me and didn’t think I was crazy.
00:10:58.260 –> 00:11:03.150 Zeb Smathers: But you know that, but you know you know that point is very important.
00:11:03.390 –> 00:11:10.650 Zeb Smathers: This was to have people believe that there was a place for places like Canton, in the 21st century.
00:11:10.650 –> 00:11:17.640 Joseph McElroy: When I think that that’s you know I think that’s important, and you know we’re talking a little bit about what some of the things you did to bring it back, which I think.
00:11:17.670 –> 00:11:18.600 are really impressive.
00:11:19.770 –> 00:11:30.030 Joseph McElroy: You know some of the things I know when I want to put a little bit more history into this, because you know I looked up a little bit about your background the Smathers and what did it five Smathers brothers migrated from.
00:11:31.260 –> 00:11:36.540 Joseph McElroy: The Scotch Irish and dramatic roles and Rowan County and then ended up here in Dutch cove and Haywood county right.
00:11:36.840 –> 00:11:44.580 Zeb Smathers: I don’t know what happened in Rowan County that they thought the best idea was to leave town quickly and hit to that point the frontier land but.
00:11:45.300 –> 00:11:55.830 Zeb Smathers: I’m glad they did but yeah absolutely we traveled here five brothers, if you ever come across the Smathers that are not from Haywood County they’re lying to you.
00:11:55.860 –> 00:12:02.610 Zeb Smathers: That is one Smather family in Massachusetts which has no direct relation to us but everybody else.
00:12:03.870 –> 00:12:13.590 Zeb Smathers: comes from this part of the woods and there’s actually been there was this Smathers in Camelot Senator George Smathers of Florida was very close to JFK.
00:12:14.580 –> 00:12:23.280 Zeb Smathers: I’ve always been told the story, you know these mountains are on the stories are true they make good legends that he actually introduced Jackie O to JFK.
00:12:23.400 –> 00:12:27.690 Joseph McElroy: And so you might as well grab a legend if you can you know what I mean it doesn’t matter when politics.
00:12:27.870 –> 00:12:29.490 Joseph McElroy: It doesn’t really matter whether it’s true.
00:12:29.490 –> 00:12:29.790 Joseph McElroy: or not.
00:12:30.240 –> 00:12:35.340 Joseph McElroy: there’s getting the perception of it turns out the George Washington did actually jumped up though Tara great.
00:12:36.630 –> 00:12:39.180 Joseph McElroy: But he grabbed that story or somebody did for.
00:12:40.650 –> 00:12:48.870 Joseph McElroy: So cool well you know your family like mine has been in the county for 200 years right so there’s a lot of history in Haywood county.
00:12:49.830 –> 00:13:01.530 Joseph McElroy: And I really like to talk about that, and when we come back, I want to touch a little bit on your immediate family history your father was a Mayor, and then were Canton growing from that.
00:13:01.860 –> 00:13:02.310 Absolutely.
00:15:18.390 –> 00:15:25.890 Joseph McElroy: Howdy, this is Joseph Franklyn McElroy back with a Gateway to the Smokies Podcasts with my guest Zeb Smathers.
00:15:26.340 –> 00:15:33.210 Joseph McElroy: that’d be no I’m one of the things I tried to do this podcast yeah there’s a lot of great professionals.
00:15:33.810 –> 00:15:41.310 Joseph McElroy: I mean brilliant people that come out of Haywood County and we can easily get talking to the ideas and accomplishments and plans and future.
00:15:41.700 –> 00:15:51.750 Joseph McElroy: And that’s all important you know, but you know, one of the things that is special about Haywood County is the community and family or the color connections.
00:15:52.050 –> 00:16:03.840 Joseph McElroy: Right it’s it there’s a very connectedness to your past, even though it goes into thinking about the future, you know and it’s you know, and you, like me, grew up and with.
00:16:04.320 –> 00:16:12.930 Joseph McElroy: Long family ties there, my father was Mayor of Maggie Valley I don’t know exactly when your father was Mayor, but my father was an Alderman for a long time, so they probably knew each other.
00:16:13.470 –> 00:16:30.600 Joseph McElroy: Now, your dad was a Lawyer and you know started this Law Firm that you’re in and then he served as Mayor and then he was an athlete appears good hall of Famer there and he also put went to Duke so you know how does it like to have that connection to who you are?
00:16:31.290 –> 00:16:38.160 Zeb Smathers: Well, I think you know being from Haywood County in this region it’s just truly part of your DNA and you know.
00:16:38.520 –> 00:16:44.130 Zeb Smathers: it’s one of those things where no matter and I have been blessed to travel the world and experience wonderful things.
00:16:44.850 –> 00:16:53.490 Zeb Smathers: But you don’t forget where you come from, and I think there’s something special about being from Haywood County and being around the people in the communities and schools and churches.
00:16:53.910 –> 00:17:03.120 Zeb Smathers: And what you see, is what you get and I’m very proud in Canton we’re a blue-collar town and what you see, is what you get and in a superficial society.
00:17:04.110 –> 00:17:14.640 Zeb Smathers: That is, you know so much of it is marketing and span when you come across places like Canton and the people of the Canton and you will you see you know what’s real.
00:17:15.780 –> 00:17:25.920 Zeb Smathers: And you’re just drawn to it because so much of his know the rest of the world is just made up and it’s more look and feels like something else, but when you come across the real McCoy.
00:17:26.280 –> 00:17:38.280 Zeb Smathers: You just feel it and I think that in Haywood County when someone says how are you or yet you they mean it and I think that’s that sincere, but I think on a greater level.
00:17:39.090 –> 00:17:51.960 Zeb Smathers: Is you know part of the challenge, but I think we’re doing it again and very proud of is how do you bring in new people new ideas, new money, new opportunity if you don’t change who you are and.
00:17:52.860 –> 00:18:00.480 Joseph McElroy: I think that’s you’re hitting the nail on the head there’s don’t change who you are you be who you are, you know look I’m sitting in the middle of New York City and.
00:18:00.840 –> 00:18:08.670 Joseph McElroy: You know I decided to have a brand about you know my family home, you know places like a Meadowlark motel.
00:18:09.030 –> 00:18:19.920 Joseph McElroy: And I decide to be authentic to that brand and while I’m modernizer’s left side I’m wearing overalls you know where I’m every day right my grandfather did right, so I mean you have to be.
00:18:20.340 –> 00:18:26.370 Joseph McElroy: There had to be some sort of leadership values that your father instilled to do what, what do you think those were.
00:18:27.000 –> 00:18:40.560 Zeb Smathers: Well, I think it was you know dad even, at times, I think it sometimes worries me, he is a huge optimist and in sometimes I think he was a man before his time a lot of the ideas that dad had.
00:18:41.160 –> 00:18:50.100 Zeb Smathers: I saw them come to fruition, he was again probably 10 years before his time and he has huge large big ideas, but when you’re around people like that.
00:18:50.490 –> 00:19:04.140 Zeb Smathers: That you know again going back to Canada I’m a big believer in the new frontier speech you know the big is the moon shots you know part of this country and part of being in West, North Carolina is not being afraid of the big idea.
00:19:04.830 –> 00:19:21.750 Zeb Smathers: To set out on those big adventures, and we need some more of that in our American discussions in politics and so dad was always pushing and when your son looking at your father and you see him lean in to not being afraid and talking about those big ideas, even when they don’t succeed.
00:19:22.860 –> 00:19:29.220 Zeb Smathers: gives you a belief and confidence, the push you to do the same.
00:19:29.310 –> 00:19:30.030 Zeb Smathers: And I think that’s.
00:19:30.090 –> 00:19:39.450 Zeb Smathers: All that leadership is it’s not being afraid of the big idea finding away working across partisan lines or whatever and lines of divisions exists.
00:19:39.840 –> 00:19:48.210 Zeb Smathers: and saying yes, we can do this, and I think that’s something that you find time and time again in the mountains and smokies of smoky mountains of West, North Carolina.
00:19:48.660 –> 00:19:52.950 Joseph McElroy: I think I that you’ve demonstrated the ability to actually.
00:19:54.390 –> 00:20:02.250 Joseph McElroy: tell people, something that they don’t want to hear right, you know people there might be a poll, it says people want something, and instead of.
00:20:03.870 –> 00:20:10.200 Joseph McElroy: Just going with it, you actually like to educate people a little bit sometimes all right, because there are things that they don’t know.
00:20:10.650 –> 00:20:23.970 Joseph McElroy: Right and you provide that information and then allow them to make a decision and a lot of times you’ll find that decision comes around and what would be the right thing to do, and I think that the politicians who do that are the two leaders well.
00:20:24.480 –> 00:20:27.660 Zeb Smathers: yeah and I do think there’s an importance, especially these days to listen.
00:20:28.080 –> 00:20:37.830 Zeb Smathers: To be around people that you may not be with but ask you know, listen to, while they feel that way, and if you do that don’t just push them away I think that’s part of the problem is that.
00:20:38.070 –> 00:20:48.180 Zeb Smathers: Well, this person is wrong or I can’t believe they believe this way or vote this way listen to their story, everyone has a unique story, I mean, as part of this podcast and what you’re trying to do.
00:20:48.720 –> 00:20:59.550 Zeb Smathers: And if you do that, time and time again, you will find common ground that you may not agree on everything, but if you can find those common issues you can push it forward.
00:20:59.850 –> 00:21:05.460 Zeb Smathers: You know and it’s amazing how about New York City New York New York city’s just a bunch of little small towns, but very.
00:21:07.050 –> 00:21:07.500 Zeb Smathers: Energy.
00:21:07.530 –> 00:21:08.400 Joseph McElroy: A lot of little small.
00:21:09.330 –> 00:21:16.410 Zeb Smathers: But I think I think North Carolina especially but also across the United States, even in these large cities, you know you can call them burrows.
00:21:17.070 –> 00:21:28.830 Zeb Smathers: Is that if you understand small towns and where people you know their past and what got them where they are man Do you realize how many similarities, we may have different accents we may have different Barbecue.
00:21:28.830 –> 00:21:38.250 Zeb Smathers: sauces but truly we have so many common denominators that link us, and if you carry the conversation, you can actually get things done.
00:21:38.910 –> 00:21:44.670 Joseph McElroy: yeah we if you look at, even though you’re talking about you look at kind of co-op boards you look at.
00:21:45.030 –> 00:21:48.480 Joseph McElroy: Historical societies and a few hundred people and Members, and you have aboard.
00:21:48.720 –> 00:21:55.050 Joseph McElroy: I mean those are all like small towns being run with a board and the President and they’re all dealing with the same exact issues.
00:21:55.290 –> 00:22:06.720 Joseph McElroy: Many, many times in the city you know when I was doing that I record I recognize the same issues my dad went through is the mayor of a small town hey I’m in this historical society I’m dealing with the same issue.
00:22:09.360 –> 00:22:15.090 Joseph McElroy: Well let’s get back to Canton and you know and some things there I like to talk about some of the special stuff and we’re going to get to but.
00:22:15.450 –> 00:22:29.130 Joseph McElroy: I do not leave your father behind the last thing is, I noticed that he helped lead the effort to create that small Smathers farmer and public market, which I think is a really cool thing and in Canton, they have music there and all sorts of stuff.
00:22:30.120 –> 00:22:34.950 Zeb Smathers: Well, you really can’t be a small town and the 21st century, unless you have a brewery and a farmers market.
00:22:34.980 –> 00:22:35.610 Joseph McElroy: there you go.
00:22:36.840 –> 00:22:38.520 Joseph McElroy: don’t forget to go to have a church too.
00:22:38.760 –> 00:22:39.060 church.
00:22:42.030 –> 00:22:42.270 Joseph McElroy: But.
00:22:42.540 –> 00:22:53.310 Zeb Smathers: We have wonderful bear water brewing and that was a huge success for us several years ago they do a great job, but yet again, one of those big ideas that you know, sometimes that just we’re doing this and I just.
00:22:53.580 –> 00:23:04.050 Zeb Smathers: He doesn’t even give me time to add my input as many fathers don’t to their students, but we have these wonderful farmers market that brings people together with music beer crafts.
00:23:04.560 –> 00:23:17.220 Zeb Smathers: And again, it, you know it’s in the parking lot of my grandfather’s supermarket where our law offices, now that for so many years, you know wasn’t gathering spot over the same things it was stories, it was food a.
00:23:18.180 –> 00:23:29.340 Zeb Smathers: a lot has changed since the 80s, but again to have some Smathers market return in some regards and bring people together, you know for dad and my uncle Max Max my others and.
00:23:29.730 –> 00:23:38.670 Zeb Smathers: And their kids and this all the ones that are connected to Smathers market, but again, it makes my point valid where it’s different.
00:23:39.720 –> 00:23:48.150 Zeb Smathers: But it’s something new, but it’s a throwback to the past, you know and that’s important again howdy in that new energy.
00:23:48.600 –> 00:24:04.890 Zeb Smathers: But it goes back to your past of bringing people together over food and fellowship and commonalities and it’s the perfect example again know where you’re from what got you here, but also not be afraid to evolve it and listen and make changes, but not lose your soul.
00:24:05.340 –> 00:24:09.660 Joseph McElroy: You know there’s academic research that I become something of an expert.
00:24:10.230 –> 00:24:14.790 Joseph McElroy: For the marketing side enough from the academic side about something called memorable tourism experiences.
00:24:15.180 –> 00:24:19.560 Joseph McElroy: and part of that is cultural tourism and cultural heritage tourism.
00:24:19.890 –> 00:24:27.270 Joseph McElroy: And there’s actually lots of evidence that so that if you stay true to your cultural heritage and really emphasize and develop that, as you know.
00:24:27.570 –> 00:24:37.770 Joseph McElroy: And you know and use it as a part of your marketing and your approach to how you build your infrastructure and stuff like that it actually is highly successful in attracting tourism.
00:24:38.100 –> 00:24:50.370 Joseph McElroy: And it’s authentic how Haywood County can avoid becoming I mean I love Gatlinburg I love you know Pigeon Forge for what they are, but they’re very commercialized and Haywood county is not becoming like that so far.
00:24:50.670 –> 00:24:54.180 Joseph McElroy: Right, and I think that that’s a great success of what we’re doing.
00:24:54.630 –> 00:24:55.020 Zeb Smathers: mm hmm.
00:24:55.200 –> 00:25:08.580 Zeb Smathers: yeah absolutely and again is you know, in your background, you see a champion, as I tell some friends that do live in New York City, you know you have my skyscrapers you have your skyscrapers and I have mine, you know my mountains and.
00:25:09.360 –> 00:25:10.140 Joseph McElroy: Exactly.
00:25:11.070 –> 00:25:18.840 Zeb Smathers: How many people in marketing are drawn to places like Canton because you know what they’re for manufacturing towns are they remember going in visit their grandparents.
00:25:19.140 –> 00:25:28.140 Zeb Smathers: And it’s amazing they’ll come across a store a memory, a smell, and it will they will go back decades.
00:25:28.800 –> 00:25:42.060 Zeb Smathers: grandparents farm or you know the where their father lived in Ohio or a cold town in West Virginia, and this at it ignites this memory and energy and, more importantly, puts a smile on their face and.
00:25:42.390 –> 00:25:45.180 Joseph McElroy: So Haywood County can still do that it hasn’t.
00:25:45.180 –> 00:25:53.190 Joseph McElroy: become this huge commercialized empire it’s become very authentic I mean it’s very successful now and becoming more so, but it hasn’t been.
00:25:53.580 –> 00:26:03.630 Joseph McElroy: Absolutely, so one last thing before we move on from the history, you know you know my father back in the day is Mayra’s tried to do something, where he would.
00:26:03.990 –> 00:26:09.900 Joseph McElroy: He would have the town by this old motel that had you know that was near the festival grounds and would become an artist.
00:26:10.680 –> 00:26:23.100 Joseph McElroy: sponsored our artists to come community, of course, it didn’t go over, but I know it’s something I would like to see happen, is there any ideas that your dad had but didn’t get implemented that you think you would like to pursue.
00:26:24.900 –> 00:26:30.030 Zeb Smathers: A lot of them, we have accomplished and I’ve tried to give credit where credit is due, and I.
00:26:30.030 –> 00:26:30.390 Zeb Smathers: Probably.
00:26:30.720 –> 00:26:40.020 Zeb Smathers: The better job with that you know I’ve we’ve talked about the Co OPS, I think there’s a great success for co OPS, the farmers market was a big one.
00:26:41.190 –> 00:26:47.040 Zeb Smathers: That is a really good question um you know I think again having more.
00:26:47.880 –> 00:26:55.230 Zeb Smathers: I would like to see more people get involved and encourage you to know, a downtown business association, but I’m a big believer.
00:26:55.590 –> 00:27:11.160 Zeb Smathers: That that’s not the government’s job to do yeah I want to see that organically come from business owners and have them have a stake in it will help any way that we can, but people need skin in the game, and it would really be nice to have a good downtown association.
00:27:12.180 –> 00:27:24.840 Zeb Smathers: And because that opens up tremendous other opportunities from business owners, but again that’s something for our business owners to get involved with but we’re only to that point for years and years, we had no businesses to do it organization.
00:27:24.930 –> 00:27:25.350 and
00:27:26.490 –> 00:27:35.790 Zeb Smathers: In 2013 we had about 20% occupancy right downtown we’re now up near 90 and I’m very proud of that watching our downtown come back to life.
00:27:36.480 –> 00:27:42.780 Joseph McElroy: By just you know we’re getting close to the end of the break here, I just wanted to before we move on to the next stuff when we’re talking about the things that you’ve done.
00:27:43.140 –> 00:27:50.160 Joseph McElroy: But I just wanted to do a shout-out that your last year, I think was selected as one of 19 leaders across the country.
00:27:50.490 –> 00:28:04.980 Joseph McElroy: to join the New Deal development of exceptional American leaders and just a selective national network of state and local elected officials, so I think that’s very proud of crop compliment and I congratulate you on that.
00:28:06.360 –> 00:28:08.340 Zeb Smathers: Well there’s the worse list I’m probably on but.
00:28:09.600 –> 00:28:11.700 Joseph McElroy: Well you’re not on the list that I bought.
00:28:14.130 –> 00:28:20.040 Joseph McElroy: All right, let’s take a break and we’ll come back we’ll start talking about the flood and the bicycle park.
00:30:26.730 –> 00:30:37.050 Joseph McElroy: Howdy this is Joseph Franklyn McElroy back with the Gateway to the Smokies Podcasts. My guest is Zeb Smathers Mayor of Canton North Carolina.
00:30:37.830 –> 00:30:46.920 Joseph McElroy: You talked about, you know how there was this you know things seem to be going downhill but there’s now been a resurgence and you’ve led the way for this resurgence of Canton.
00:30:47.370 –> 00:30:56.190 Joseph McElroy: And you know and I’ve been here the whole time I came every you know for 30 years I’ve been coming every six weeks back, they would count and never you know, Miss more than.
00:30:56.610 –> 00:31:06.390 Joseph McElroy: Two months at a time and spend a week here, you know family other things I’ve got to do here, I just love it, it will business has been elsewhere now been here quite a lot, because of the business and Maggie.
00:31:06.870 –> 00:31:16.140 Joseph McElroy: And, especially in the past few years I’ve been going through Canton, you know what I just noticed that resurgence like I think you’re one of the first towns and started putting out these barrels of flowers in them.
00:31:16.650 –> 00:31:21.450 Joseph McElroy: right that was pretty cool because now, all the other towns copied it right yeah.
00:31:22.830 –> 00:31:29.610 Joseph McElroy: What are some of the new shops and restaurants and things and then breweries that you’ve brought there because it’s pretty exciting, I think.
00:31:29.970 –> 00:31:32.700 Zeb Smathers: yeah and I’ll try to name them all because each of them is special.
00:31:33.090 –> 00:31:41.520 Zeb Smathers: And again I’m just part of a good great team I’ve got a great group of elected officials Democrats and Republicans in our town employees are absolutely amazing.
00:31:41.760 –> 00:31:56.370 Zeb Smathers: They don’t just believe in their job they believe that are making a difference and so I’m just part of a good a very, very good team, but I mean the first and is actually you know, a building that the dad owns the imperial it was the original.
00:31:57.600 –> 00:32:05.010 Zeb Smathers: This Victorian Hotel goes back to the 1890s it actually was here before the Biltmore house was built in Asheville.
00:32:05.640 –> 00:32:14.310 Zeb Smathers: And over the course of a decade dad had been renovating it in a piece by piece and another one those ideas I’m not sure I ever thought would happen, but.
00:32:15.000 –> 00:32:25.290 Zeb Smathers: It is a lot, it was the spark and now there’s a wonderful restaurant there to southern porch has the absolute best Bourbon selection in Western North Carolina I’m a Bourbon guy, so I have an.
00:32:26.790 –> 00:32:27.750 Zeb Smathers: expert on that.
00:32:28.470 –> 00:32:29.220 Joseph McElroy: An old fashioned.
00:32:29.490 –> 00:32:30.720 Zeb Smathers: yeah exactly and.
00:32:30.720 –> 00:32:32.430 Joseph McElroy: Put it aside put in a speakeasy.
00:32:32.460 –> 00:32:33.690 Joseph McElroy: we’re gonna have some smoky oh.
00:32:33.690 –> 00:32:37.200 Zeb Smathers: Nice very nice, let me, let me just let me know when that happens.
00:32:38.640 –> 00:32:43.500 Zeb Smathers: You know it’s it was the first restaurant it wasn’t the southern portion then it was said domain.
00:32:44.130 –> 00:32:53.910 Zeb Smathers: And the owners, then believe in Canton and it was you know it sounds crazy looking back, it was the first real true restaurant Canton had in decades, especially when the first serve alcohol.
00:32:54.390 –> 00:33:04.140 Zeb Smathers: And it started the Canton come back That was our hashtag because again to be a small town you gotta have a brewery got a farmers market he had to have a hashtag and ours come back.
00:33:04.650 –> 00:33:18.600 Zeb Smathers: Because that’s exactly what it was American loves to come back story and that’s what we did, and I’m still doing, but we have places like the Southern Porch we have Jay Rose, you know great Philly cheese hamburgers you gotta have a hamburger place.
00:33:18.690 –> 00:33:22.050 Zeb Smathers: Right, we have the Pigeon River Mercantile.
00:33:23.070 –> 00:33:27.180 Zeb Smathers: You know these paper town crafts, with all of these.
00:33:27.930 –> 00:33:36.060 Zeb Smathers: shops have started up paper town coffee I would put paper town coffee up against any coffee shop in New York City now I’m sure I’ll get some.
00:33:36.420 –> 00:33:44.220 Zeb Smathers: comments about that, but I’m truly but this couple, could you know they are truly artists in the coffee world.
00:33:44.550 –> 00:33:53.430 Zeb Smathers: And they could have gone anywhere in North Carolina or the United States and they chose can’t and because they were drawn again to all the stuff we talked about to our comeback story.
00:33:53.790 –> 00:34:07.110 Zeb Smathers: And you know the people and how we have a such a sense of community-based based around what we are and who we are and what we stand for, and so we have attracted so many businesses, like those and bear waters brewing.
00:34:08.640 –> 00:34:16.320 Zeb Smathers: Their waters are done an amazing job, both here and Maggie Valley and Waynesville again being on the river, you know we have.
00:34:16.740 –> 00:34:28.470 Zeb Smathers: For years and years, we didn’t realize how lucky we were to have the River now people we have breweries own it we have people to bring it in the summer I mean I was my sister’s house is on the river.
00:34:28.950 –> 00:34:43.500 Zeb Smathers: And I remember during covid I mean people would float down and the course being a mayor, I want to know where they were from it was places Raleigh, Atlanta, Chicago floating down the very same river I floated down, but now, people are paying good money to float down that river.
00:34:45.180 –> 00:34:54.870 Zeb Smathers: It is things like that, but again it’s these businesses that are very much part of us like I said the coffee place it’s paper town coffee, we are a paper town.
00:34:55.890 –> 00:35:08.940 Joseph McElroy: that’s an interesting thing I mean because I see a lot of times when you’re talking about the town, especially tourism, you say we’re not a tourist town we’re a mill town, but yet you got all these things and starting to have tourists come there.
00:35:09.060 –> 00:35:22.140 Zeb Smathers: yeah because people because we’re different nothing against any other cities or towns in western Carolina, but a lot of are somewhat indistinguishable and tourism, and here we stand out we’re a paper mill town, so I think again when you’re different.
00:35:22.710 –> 00:35:26.820 Zeb Smathers: When you have something else to sell and your story’s a little bit different.
00:35:27.330 –> 00:35:38.280 Zeb Smathers: People are drawn to that because it is different and, especially, once again, people are coming to place what you see, is what you get and I’m not saying we’re not perfect and have flaws, but I promise you, the people of the Canton.
00:35:38.880 –> 00:35:42.660 Zeb Smathers: What you see, is what you get and there’s a boolean that they’re really.
00:35:42.810 –> 00:35:45.120 Joseph McElroy: You know, being in Middletown everybody probably knows and we.
00:35:45.120 –> 00:35:53.760 Joseph McElroy: can’t we can’t ignore it, but back in the day used to smell really bad all the time and people would tell me who can’t say well that’s the smell of money.
00:35:54.630 –> 00:36:05.430 Joseph McElroy: Now I noticed it’s cleaned up a lot but occasionally there’s a little bit how bad how How often is the owner there and as it gets even better than that it wasn’t bad when I was there.
00:36:05.640 –> 00:36:12.630 Zeb Smathers: I can’t say enough about the evergreen pag gene and what they’ve been able to do with the environment I work with my first project is an older man was helping.
00:36:13.350 –> 00:36:20.670 Zeb Smathers: One of the bowlers switch from coal over to natural gas they’ve done such a great job and like anyone else, we have a long way to go.
00:36:21.000 –> 00:36:27.570 Zeb Smathers: But I remember when I was younger going back and again we have flaws, the River used to be covered with the phone.
00:36:28.230 –> 00:36:31.800 Zeb Smathers: There used to sit on the cars, the older was every day.
00:36:32.280 –> 00:36:44.760 Zeb Smathers: and actually looking back how no one stepped up early decades ago, so this is wrong, but now you know you used to cut you couldn’t fish below the meal Now you can fish below the meal it’s things like that, but.
00:36:45.240 –> 00:36:50.910 Zeb Smathers: we’re working with evergreen and on a lot of different projects because we don’t want to stop we want to keep getting better.
00:36:51.180 –> 00:36:59.880 Zeb Smathers: And again, I think if there’s a breakdown there’s a problem with a meal that you’re catching odor every once in a while that’s not stopping us from growing and that’s again.
00:37:00.030 –> 00:37:10.830 Joseph McElroy: I wasn’t even the one day I happen to catch up with everything that it was, it was not bad it wasn’t like you know the soul from hell coming in going in and your sinuses.
00:37:12.750 –> 00:37:17.250 Joseph McElroy: Like it used to be, it was like barely bear oh I smell that okay yeah.
00:37:18.990 –> 00:37:32.100 Joseph McElroy: And that was you know, I was there, several times, and that was there was only one time that there was a smell, so you know it’s not I don’t think it’s a problem with the milton’s has been highly their technology work with them has been highly successful so.
00:37:33.180 –> 00:37:46.650 Joseph McElroy: Put you’ve had some problems recently right, which has been a sort of a big story you’ve had a couple floods right and hence it like bear water got destroyed and a couple other things, how how was that for you and how you been recovering from.
00:37:46.650 –> 00:37:57.630 Zeb Smathers: That, in August 16 17th of last year, out of nowhere without any warning, we knew we’re going to get a lot of rain about 330 that afternoon.
00:37:58.230 –> 00:38:06.300 Zeb Smathers: canton haywood county was hit with a tremendous flood event from the remnants of tropical storm Fred.
00:38:06.870 –> 00:38:16.590 Zeb Smathers: Six lives were lost 300 homes are downtown businesses by the River were completely flooded you’re talking about 20 feet of water.
00:38:17.460 –> 00:38:31.590 Zeb Smathers: Going back to that in oh four we had floods and so forth, to hurricanes back to back, they said they were 500 year floods, we made it 17 years luckily I was able to lean on dad for a lot of emergency management.
00:38:32.730 –> 00:38:39.330 Zeb Smathers: You know a lot of lives were saved common citizens jumped in the water, again, this was a flash flood and an hour and a half.
00:38:39.840 –> 00:38:54.750 Zeb Smathers: It came out of nowhere at one point I had to jump in and getting people out of the water, but so many others did and, if not the death toll would have been possibly into the hundreds, especially if it was later in the day and schools were out most of our bridges were knocked out.
00:38:56.400 –> 00:39:04.500 Zeb Smathers: And it was such an event, you just cannot explain in the intensity of the water, the level of water was similar to.
00:39:05.940 –> 00:39:21.030 Zeb Smathers: But there were places they got flooded and oh four that are no longer standing you can call it, global warming and climate change, whatever, but I think a lot of us realize that the intensity of these storms and what we’re seeing across the United States.
00:39:22.350 –> 00:39:28.890 Zeb Smathers: We need to have discussions, we should be having discussions, because how can I build back a town, how can I have manufacturing.
00:39:29.370 –> 00:39:42.300 Zeb Smathers: went on any given summer is going to be knocked down in a mountain town we’re talking about major flooding that you’d expect on in the coast in a small mountain time but they come up from the Gulf these hurricanes come straight up from the Gulf lot of energy.
00:39:43.350 –> 00:39:46.110 Zeb Smathers: And they dumped on us and so again.
00:39:47.250 –> 00:39:57.360 Zeb Smathers: out of nowhere, and this was an August my sister lost her home least the bottom part of her home, I say this just to make a point on August 2 my sister tragically lost her husband.
00:39:59.280 –> 00:40:12.000 Zeb Smathers: Two weeks later, she loses her home and then, all this is all the chaos and I say that because you know as Mayor and watching your little sister go through that there’s not words.
00:40:12.330 –> 00:40:30.270 Zeb Smathers: But myself, especially people who did lose those six families that lost people, the people of haywood county to dig deep and with the benefit of everybody from politicians to prayers across the United States and me, I had we had people on supplies being sent to us, you know from Hawaii.
00:40:31.650 –> 00:40:32.880 Joseph McElroy: moto motels and Maggie we’re putting.
00:40:32.880 –> 00:40:33.750 Zeb Smathers: motels and lagging.
00:40:33.870 –> 00:40:44.490 Zeb Smathers: Everybody coming together in these moments of tragedy and i’ve said time and time again, it is tragic that it takes tragedies to bring us together and bring out the best in people.
00:40:45.330 –> 00:40:58.950 Zeb Smathers: You watch people that lost everything find a way and even today to recover and i’m I don’t care if you’re a mayor, I don’t care where you are when you hear these stories recovery and they happen every single day and people coming together.
00:40:59.340 –> 00:41:08.850 Zeb Smathers: Especially in these times, it gives you that push to keep going so when people ask me said hey you know you’ve been through a lot, how are you doing you keep going.
00:41:09.120 –> 00:41:09.600 Zeb Smathers: that’s what.
00:41:09.690 –> 00:41:11.730 Joseph McElroy: You doing the mountain, so you you’ve done.
00:41:12.210 –> 00:41:20.970 Joseph McElroy: you’ve done an amazing job you know the you know the lots of the infrastructure is backup bear water bruins backup you know Maggie has a version of the.
00:41:21.330 –> 00:41:29.790 Joseph McElroy: One of the Alex bear water for a while it was the main one, and now the main ones back open up and can, and you did an amazing job, what is the.
00:41:30.660 –> 00:41:36.900 Joseph McElroy: You know I don’t want to get too much into climate change and discussing that we could go on for an hour about yeah the solutions for the world.
00:41:37.320 –> 00:41:50.760 Joseph McElroy: What specifically can can do to help alleviate the future things and I don’t want to give you a long discussion about this, a lot of time, but do you have any quick things to reassure people that were taken action to make it less dangerous.
00:41:51.150 –> 00:42:01.620 Zeb Smathers: yeah our our obligation is no matter what we do, rebuilding back moving things we have to ask the question, what can we do to help mitigate future storms again.
00:42:01.920 –> 00:42:11.880 Zeb Smathers: In 2004, we were told, would it be another 500 years before this happened, we made it 17 and so everything we do is we build back, we have to see.
00:42:12.300 –> 00:42:23.610 Zeb Smathers: Whether on a large scale, or a small scale, what we can do and it’s not easy just tearing everything down again we have to fight for our soul and much like cove and how do we balance safety.
00:42:24.780 –> 00:42:37.050 Zeb Smathers: without sacrificing you know our soul and as we rebuild you know some things, whether it be historic theaters or armories or stadiums they’re going back, but in small ways we’re looking at what can we do.
00:42:37.410 –> 00:42:46.830 Zeb Smathers: To mitigate future damages, but also where are we building homes, where we building businesses and that’s, not just in the floodplains that’s all tops like you said in Maggie.
00:42:47.280 –> 00:42:56.820 Zeb Smathers: All that increases water flow so having those discussions calmly about what we can do we shouldn’t be doing anything unless we understand.
00:42:57.090 –> 00:43:09.870 Zeb Smathers: The world we live in, whether we like it or not, or understand everything it’s a reality, and I think part of leadership is not leading in a world that we wish that there was, we have to leave in the world that is and follow those reasons.
00:43:10.140 –> 00:43:17.610 Joseph McElroy: that’s a great answer so we’re going to take a break and then we’ll come back and finish up talking about chest that mountain Barker I think everybody’s excited by that.
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00:45:19.980 –> 00:45:28.710 Joseph McElroy: This is Joseph Franklin mcilroy back with the gateway to the smokies podcasts and I guess eps matters and the Mayor of can North Carolina so.
00:45:29.070 –> 00:45:42.600 Joseph McElroy: yeah these strategies, you also had an economic resurgence resurgence, but somehow you also were able to raise $600,000 maybe more to acquire 450 acres of land and you’ve built a state of the art park outside of can.
00:45:43.140 –> 00:45:46.440 Joseph McElroy: it’s called chest out market mountain Park, can you tell us about that far.
00:45:46.800 –> 00:46:03.330 Zeb Smathers: yeah absolutely but two years ago now, I received a phone call from honey mujer she’s the Executive Director of the southern appalachian conservancy and what this group does is throughout the mountains, they purchase and help preserve mountain land, which is so important.
00:46:04.710 –> 00:46:14.250 Zeb Smathers: You know as much as we love, economic development and manufacturing, we cannot just give away or develop every piece of want to god’s greatest treasures and.
00:46:14.970 –> 00:46:28.050 Zeb Smathers: So she says, I have this idea and there’s there’s 450 acres located chestnut mountain outside right outside the city limits back in the early 1990s, there was plans to make it a nascar track those fell through.
00:46:29.130 –> 00:46:35.100 Zeb Smathers: There has been a lot of crazy ideas through the years there’s been talk of everything from.
00:46:36.120 –> 00:46:44.790 Zeb Smathers: You know meeting locations and camping to rock stories and so, with the help of public and private partnerships.
00:46:45.270 –> 00:47:02.070 Zeb Smathers: Southern appalachian was able to purchase that property and we’ll hand the keys over in April in our grand opening and we’re, it is a 450 acre absolutely amazing beautiful land for outdoor recreation and a major part of it is going to be mountain bikes.
00:47:03.240 –> 00:47:16.350 Zeb Smathers: A well known mountain biker from asheville has raised probably over about $280,000 to open, something it burn park it’s his personal park open to the public.
00:47:17.100 –> 00:47:22.650 Zeb Smathers: And again it’s the perfect example if something’s going to bring in new people new ideas economic growth.
00:47:23.100 –> 00:47:31.350 Zeb Smathers: But it doesn’t change, who we are it’s used to the mountains it’s low impact it preserves his land and the beauty.
00:47:31.890 –> 00:47:38.490 Zeb Smathers: Of and it’s just that perfect situation and it sits on the bumpkin county where asheville is located and haywood county line.
00:47:38.970 –> 00:47:53.730 Zeb Smathers: And I love the show’s called gateway to the smokies one of my favorite quotes is from Walt Disney that if you want to control the experience control the entrance haywood county in canton where the gateway the smokies if you come West or.
00:47:53.730 –> 00:47:54.900 Joseph McElroy: Heaven yes.
00:47:54.990 –> 00:48:12.300 Zeb Smathers: We can West asheville whether it’s waynesville Maggie valley Western Carolina university cherokee Murphy any of those places, you have to pass through can either through the interstate or old asheville highway where this park is located and to put this park.
00:48:13.410 –> 00:48:24.600 Zeb Smathers: at the entrance of the smokies it speaks volumes about what we are what we intend to be and again the economic growth, I know very little about mountain mountain biking.
00:48:25.320 –> 00:48:25.890 Joseph McElroy: can be viewed.
00:48:26.280 –> 00:48:36.480 Zeb Smathers: As not my field, I do know something about economic impact, and you know going for a hike and then wanting to get a beer afterwards or getting a T shirt going to eat.
00:48:36.990 –> 00:48:45.570 Zeb Smathers: And if we can open our arms of outdoor recreation and then, once they get can get the Maggie valley get them the cherokee tell our story.
00:48:46.560 –> 00:48:56.370 Zeb Smathers: You know I think that’s part of the experience that we want to provide, and it goes back to flood recovery is we build back canton you know in our REC part we’re going to we are raising money.
00:48:56.940 –> 00:49:02.640 Zeb Smathers: We want to build an absolute fantastic and large all abilities playground because.
00:49:03.060 –> 00:49:10.500 Zeb Smathers: When you come back from a flood people are going to ask you, you know what are you focusing on if we can do something in our REC park.
00:49:10.980 –> 00:49:20.640 Zeb Smathers: That that smiles on children’s faces and families faces, no matter what they’ve been through in life, especially if they’re if they’re they’re suffering from special needs.
00:49:21.330 –> 00:49:33.330 Zeb Smathers: Especially in these times, where kids and families, we need a smile again we’re back and we don’t want Kobe to take more from us than it already has and it’s taking so many and so many lives.
00:49:33.900 –> 00:49:34.260 Zeb Smathers: and
00:49:34.470 –> 00:49:35.940 Zeb Smathers: What that is our forefront.
00:49:36.030 –> 00:49:41.550 Joseph McElroy: To say make it, you know, everybody can enjoy it, I agree with you, you.
00:49:42.300 –> 00:49:52.860 Joseph McElroy: You know, one of the things exciting to me is i’ve read that there’s something called a type bike trail that’s going to be in this new area, I have three and a half year olds, you know so they’re writing their little bikes down but executive be.
00:49:53.160 –> 00:49:57.750 Zeb Smathers: Well, hopefully plays like my two year old you can turn loose safely, let me get some energy out, for they come home.
00:49:58.530 –> 00:50:00.030 Joseph McElroy: found biking for tops.
00:50:01.140 –> 00:50:04.050 Zeb Smathers: Come one it’s a byob bring your own box.
00:50:04.050 –> 00:50:04.470 So.
00:50:06.240 –> 00:50:23.820 Zeb Smathers: Once again, I mean we see that’s what’s in many parts of West, North Carolina it’s retirees its people moving here from different places in eastern haywood we’re focusing on young families, we won’t young families our school system, I became schools is ranked number 11th in North Carolina.
00:50:24.840 –> 00:50:33.360 Zeb Smathers: We love our sports we love our schools, I mean we can provide the total package, but again, we love having people come visit us and and move here.
00:50:33.750 –> 00:50:44.790 Zeb Smathers: But it’s important to us that we don’t lose who we are and if we lean into that I think we can have the best of both worlds and people will be drawn to us because of our past, present and also our future.
00:50:45.210 –> 00:50:51.330 Joseph McElroy: yeah I agree with you, if you celebrate your good heritage of you live it and live the good heritage.
00:50:51.720 –> 00:50:58.200 Joseph McElroy: Then, your heritage, the people coming in to adopt it instead of you adopting there’s right, so you know the.
00:50:58.470 –> 00:51:09.420 Joseph McElroy: You know that’s all we celebrate dance and music and fishing and all these things at the middle art because it’s about promoting a positive a positive experience of mountain culture.
00:51:09.960 –> 00:51:15.930 Joseph McElroy: So these are a little bit more details, I just wanted for the viewers, do you know how long these biking trails are going to be.
00:51:16.680 –> 00:51:17.430 Zeb Smathers: How long.
00:51:17.730 –> 00:51:20.850 Joseph McElroy: Do they have any measurements how much how many miles.
00:51:21.510 –> 00:51:35.670 Zeb Smathers: pins I mean long term we the money, you spoke of we received about $750,000 of grant money from the state which will allow us to really complete the second phase and there’s going to be the largest rails to trails the top the outdoor classrooms.
00:51:36.750 –> 00:51:45.780 Zeb Smathers: I think the the I don’t know the exact length, but the barn Park, you know these are the jumps, these are the you know the barrels and.
00:51:45.780 –> 00:51:46.140 Joseph McElroy: All the.
00:51:46.410 –> 00:51:47.880 Joseph McElroy: Other fancy stuff right.
00:51:48.150 –> 00:51:50.910 Zeb Smathers: fancy you know the the fancy stuff out there, so.
00:51:51.390 –> 00:51:53.550 Joseph McElroy: world class of biking facility right.
00:51:53.610 –> 00:52:02.040 Zeb Smathers: yeah, this is not something that was very important to myself and our elected officials that if we’re going to do this we’re going to do it throughout way, and so this is state of the art.
00:52:02.460 –> 00:52:11.820 Zeb Smathers: done by amazing contractors that have just really no use the land, I mean the mountains themselves create trials and they create jumps, so this is not.
00:52:12.960 –> 00:52:16.830 Zeb Smathers: This is again what you see, is what you get, and these are some great mountain bike trails.
00:52:17.100 –> 00:52:27.600 Joseph McElroy: All right, well cool, then you know we’re going to close it up here I want you to anything else you want to tell our viewers about canton and then any shout out to want to give and where they can find out more information.
00:52:28.170 –> 00:52:35.820 Zeb Smathers: No, I mean, I think, obviously, Google any of these things are websites explore west, north Carolina our people love to tell our stories.
00:52:36.570 –> 00:52:47.340 Zeb Smathers: that’s something that is just you know ingrained in us and you know again we’re so much surrounded by food and fellowship but again i’ll go back to the little bit higher and I saw this during the floods and I saw this working with.
00:52:47.760 –> 00:52:57.840 Zeb Smathers: democrats and Republicans, and this is a message I say I don’t mean this to be political is you know, again we have to make week, we have the decision each day is people.
00:52:58.590 –> 00:53:05.040 Zeb Smathers: To what type of law for we’re going to live, what type of decisions we’re going to make what are we going to demand from our leaders.
00:53:05.370 –> 00:53:14.490 Zeb Smathers: And we don’t have to settle for the toxicity and the division that surround us, I once you see what I was able to witness and others.
00:53:14.910 –> 00:53:21.030 Zeb Smathers: In haywood county during the floods and happens every time there’s a disaster in this country we don’t have to go back.
00:53:21.480 –> 00:53:30.330 Zeb Smathers: To where the way things were of division and just you know people tearing each other down, we can do better, but you have to demand it because, once you see it.
00:53:30.630 –> 00:53:38.310 Zeb Smathers: You know it exists, you just you have to lean into it and he can accomplish and so again I don’t want that to be one of the legacies from the floods.
00:53:38.880 –> 00:53:49.020 Zeb Smathers: Not the death toll, not the destruction, but maybe just maybe we started the walk towards less division and more cooperation and doing things.
00:53:49.290 –> 00:53:59.370 Zeb Smathers: for the common good, because it does exist and i’m just glad to be part of it with our employees and our elected officials and everyday citizens trying to make haywood county the best place that can be.
00:53:59.880 –> 00:54:07.230 Joseph McElroy: Well, I congratulate you on what you’ve done so far and I thank you for being on this show it’s been a pleasure talking to you and you’re doing exciting things.
00:54:07.560 –> 00:54:21.660 Joseph McElroy: I love the biking mountain, because I think that’s gonna be huge tourism thing for the for the for the haywood county and of course me being in tourism itself actually meeting my my personal goals, but I also think it’s great for the Community.
00:54:22.950 –> 00:54:28.620 Zeb Smathers: Thank you so much it’s been a privilege being part of you, I hope, some of my friends in New York City hard my my southern accent today.
00:54:29.070 –> 00:54:31.350 Joseph McElroy: So so to let me know if you did.
00:54:31.620 –> 00:54:51.810 Joseph McElroy: I will, so this has been the gateway to the smokies podcast you can find out more about this podcast by going to smokies adventure calm and there’s a link to all the previous podcasts touching and peruse it’s also This is also done was streamed live on talk radio dot nyc.
00:54:53.070 –> 00:54:58.500 Joseph McElroy: And that happens every week on Tuesdays from six to seven, this is a wonderful network.
00:54:58.890 –> 00:55:08.160 Joseph McElroy: I encourage you to investigate other shows on this network, because all live podcast so you get a very dynamic experience listening to things that range from self help.
00:55:08.550 –> 00:55:19.530 Joseph McElroy: To to New York City to other travel shows to pets and you know it’s it’s a it’s a it’s almost like a Community radio just done in the big city.
00:55:20.640 –> 00:55:28.800 Joseph McElroy: And I encourage you to come, look at it, I actually have another podcast on this network called wise content creates well, which is about.
00:55:29.850 –> 00:55:39.270 Joseph McElroy: Marketing and content marketing seo and artificial intelligence in the upcoming all the augmentation of human creativity with Ai.
00:55:40.290 –> 00:55:48.210 Joseph McElroy: And how that’s necessary for the future of marketing, so I hope you will come and listen to that and that’s on Fridays from noon until one.
00:55:49.470 –> 00:55:56.070 Joseph McElroy: And I appreciate you being here today and listening to this wonderful program that we had and i’ll see you next week same time.