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Sustainability

Sustainability

The Jackson County Tourism Development Authority dedicates itself to keeping Jackson County a clean, sustainable, and vibrant destination and community for visitors and residents.

The Jackson County Tourism Development Authority dedicates itself to keeping Jackson County a clean, sustainable, and vibrant destination and community for visitors and residents. To maintain these efforts, the JCTDA participates in and sponsors various environmental initiatives ranging from promoting Leave No Trace Principles® on its publications to sponsoring the largest single-day river cleanup event, the Tuck River Cleanup. Throughout the year, the JCTDA participates in the below efforts:

Tuck River Cleanup:

The JCTDA sponsors the largest single-day river cleanup in the country, the Tuck River Cleanup. The Tuckasegee River stretches over 50 miles, flowing the length of our county and is a favorite for fly fishing, kayaking, swimming and more. This event, organized by Western Carolina University, gathers hundreds of volunteers uniting for one purpose – to keep one of the area’s most precious resources clean. Since its inception the cleanup has removed over 80,000 pounds of debris from the river.

Trout Unlimited:

Trout Unlimited LogoThe Jackson County TDA contributes annually to local Chapter 373 of Trout Unlimited As part of our sustainable tourism efforts. Their work helps preserve and protect one of our greatest natural assets – our waterways. We remain appreciative of all our local chapter does. Funds provided by the JCTDA are earmarked for stewardship programs, to help organize cleanups, or in other projects that prioritize keeping our waterways pristine for future generations to enjoy.

Friends of Panthertown:

In sponsorships, the JCTDA contributes annually to Friends of Panthertown, who works to maintain over 30 miles of trails in the 6,400-acre Nantahala National Forest backcountry hiking area known as ‘Panthertown Valley. Their efforts encourage environmental stewardship, volunteerism, and create public awareness of issues concerning Panthertown. Each year, the JCTDA volunteers financial resources to their invaluable efforts to keep the “Yosemite of the East” a pristine place to visit. The JCTDA in 2017 contributed funds towards a 16-acre tract acquisition to facilitate public access and conservation.

Responsible Land Planning:

Cashiers Area Planning: The JCTDA funded $35,000 for an initiative focused on sustainable growth and destination appeal in the Cashiers Area. This project, led by the Urban Land Institute (ULI), employed an inclusive, transparent, and expert process to address critical growth issues. The ULI panel, comprising professional planners, market analysts, economists, architects, environmental specialists, developers, and public officials, offered practical solutions and objective growth management advice. The panel focused on specific local concerns, reviewed briefing materials, and conducted on-site tours and confidential interviews with over 80 stakeholders. Their findings were shared in a preliminary presentation, followed by a detailed, actionable report.

Pinnacle Park Master Plan: The JCTDA funded $50,000 for the Pinnacle Park master plan. Pinnacle Park expanded to approximately 1,800 acres with the addition of adjacent land parcels. The park, a popular destination for hikers, rock climbers, trail runners, naturalists, and paragliders, faced increasing recreational pressures, including a proposal for mountain biking trails. The Pinnacle Park Foundation and the Town of Sylva developed a Master Plan to guide future development, address trail erosion, and balance public needs with the protection of sensitive natural resources. The Master Plan aimed to rehabilitate the trail system, increase accessibility, provide adequate infrastructure, and identify new, ecologically sound trail destinations.

Village Green: The JCTDA funded $25,000 for The Village Green’s Grounds Restoration Project, aimed at planning for growth to enhance this heavily used community asset. The Village Green engaged Equinox Environmental to develop a Master Plan, which includes visioning, goal setting, program review, timeline setting, and community input events. This project focuses on improving the park’s 13+ acres to better accommodate visitors and community activities, ensuring it continues to serve as a vital green space in Cashiers. The plan’s completion by August 29th will enable the pursuit of additional funding to support the park’s role as a key destination for residents and tourists alike.

Pinnacle Park Foundation:

The JCTDA donates annually to the Pinnacle Park Foundation, which maintains one of the areas most celebrated trails. The 1,800+ acre town park, home to ‘The Pinnacle,’ features streams, waterfalls, and panoramic views. The park is a favorite among visitors and residents and is part of the JCTDA’s sustainable mission. The JCTDA also funded the process for Pinnacle Park to be named a Certified Forest Therapy Trail through the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy.

Sylva’s Bridge Park:

In 2024, the JCTDA funded $367,757 towards significant green improvements at Bridge Park in Sylva. This project solidified Bridge Park as a main attraction by addressing stormwater management issues identified in the 2018 Scott’s Creek Watershed Action Plan by Equinox Environmental. The new stormwater filtering technology and “Trash Trout” system enhanced water quality in Scott’s Creek and supported additional recreational activities.

Key green elements included converting a gravel lot into a 57-space parking area with bioretention areas, installing footbridges, a viewing platform over Scott’s Creek, and updated plantings and landscaping to increase the park’s aesthetic appeal. The project created a visual link between Bridge Park, Scotts Creek, and the Downtown Streetscape, providing a much-needed green space to ease Main Street congestion and serve as a gathering space for the social district and the popular Jackson County Farmers Market.

By increasing capacity for local events and encouraging sustainable growth, the project enhanced visitor experiences, attracted more overnight stays, and boosted local tax revenue. The park’s enhancements fostered a sustainable future for Sylva and Jackson County, promoting a vibrant community atmosphere.

Keep our Mountains Clean and Green:

The JCTDA is a partner with Jackson County Public Works campaign to keep our scenic area clean and free of litter. The campaign supports the semi-annual ‘Cleaning Up the Mountains’ program. As a result of these efforts, an estimated 4,000 pounds of trash is collected every year by our caring community.

Support for National Parks:

The JCTDA annually supports the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation in their dedicated efforts to conserve and preserve this iconic scenic roadway. The Foundation plays a crucial role in protecting the natural landscapes, wildlife habitats, and historical sites along the Blue Ridge Parkway. By funding essential projects, they ensure the maintenance and improvement of roads, trails, overlooks, and visitor facilities. Additionally, the Foundation’s educational programs promote a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Parkway’s natural and cultural heritage. Through this partnership, the JCTDA helps sustain the Parkway as a cherished and sustainable destination for future generations.

The JCTDA annually supports the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA) in their vital efforts to conduct scientific research, preserve historical sites and cultural heritage, and offer educational programs that enhance visitor appreciation of the park. This partnership ensures the long-term conservation of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park while fostering a deeper connection between visitors and this treasured natural area.

Green Printing:

The JCTDA prioritizes environmental sustainability by using soy-based inks on post-consumer recycled paper for all printed materials. Additionally, print quantities are adjusted annually to minimize waste and reduce the need for reprints.

Mailing Practices:

When a visitor requests a Visitor Guide through Facebook or our website, the mailing address undergoes CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) Certification to ensure accurate delivery by the USPS. This system automatically corrects addresses to achieve the highest deliverability rate. If an address cannot be verified, we refrain from mailing the guide. This practice reduces postage costs, minimizes the carbon footprint associated with delivery, and prevents unnecessary waste from undeliverable guides.

Trail Counters:

The JCTDA has funded trail counter projects at both Pinnacle Park and Panthertown Valley. These trail counters in Panthertown Valley allow volunteers to gather valuable data on peak visitation days, trail usage, and the most frequently used entrances to the 6,000+ acre national forest. This data is essential for prioritizing trail maintenance and identifying which trails require the most attention. A similar system is in place at Sylva’s Pinnacle Park, ensuring that both areas receive the necessary care and upkeep based on actual usage patterns.

Leave No Trace®:

The JCTDA is committed to promoting the seven principles of Leave No Trace® to ensure our scenic outdoors are here for generations to come. The JCTDA’s website listings for all its waterfalls and hiking trails along with its printed maps such as the Waterfall and Hiking Map, proudly display the Leave No Trace® logo and/or messaging.

The seven Leave No Trace® principles are:

      • Plan ahead and prepare.
      • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
      • Dispose of waste properly.
      • Leave what you find.
      • Minimize campfire impacts.
      • Respect wildlife.
      • Be considerate of other visitors.

 

Fly Fishing Trail Pledge:

The WNC Fly Fishing Trail® was designed to help everyone enjoy an unparalleled fly-fishing experience in the NC Trout Capital®. Users of the trail are greeted with the Sportsman’s Pledge on every fly-fishing map we distribute: “As a true sportsman, I pledge to never litter and to avoid trespassing on private lands. I will respect the rights of property owners, and always leave the streams in better conditions than I found them.”

Reducing Overtourism:

Research conducted by the JCTDA showed that some months of the year are at peak capacity with occupancy, which makes the experience not as enjoyable with increased traffic, long waits and more people utilizing the same trail. As part of its new strategic plan, the JCTDA will shift marketing focus away from heavy-capacity months to promote and spread visitation year-round. This effort enhances and improves both the visitor and resident experience.

Green Travel NC:

The JCTDA spearheaded a campaign among its local businesses to recognize partners who practice ‘green’ principles. In partnership with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, these restaurants and lodging partners received statewide recognition for their practices. As part of the application, they also learned of other best practices.

Did you know?

  • Sylva was named one of the “Top 10 Cleanest Cities in the U.S.” by Expedia, earning a 4.68 out of 5 rating due to its year-round green initiatives, as well as the Greening Up the Mountains Festival, which celebrates Earth Day and the community’s environmental efforts.
  • #TrashTag: Steven Reinhold, the founder of the viral movement known as #TrashTag, proudly calls Jackson County Home. This concerned mountain lover began collecting litter on a road trip to California when he came up with the TrashTag; he describes it as a way to track cleaning up litter. Several local groups participate in International #TrashTag Day by picking up litter in Jackson County.
  • Jackson County Green Energy Park: The JCGEP is the only renewable landfill methane gas-powered arts studio in the world. Located in Dillsboro, NC, it utilizes clean, renewable energy resources to encourage economic development, provide environmental protection, and offer educational opportunities to help promote a more sustainable future for Western North Carolina. Stop by the Green Energy Park for a tour of working studios to see how Jackson County is leading the charge in sustainability. 
  • Only recycled please: Why use plastic bags when you could use recycled paper? That is what we were wondering too. If you’re picking up brochures or purchasing an item from one of our visitor centers, you will be greeted with a Kraft paper bag that is made of 100-percent post-consumer recycled content. Less plastic means a cleaner environment. 
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