What with Charlie Taylor back home in North Carolina a private citizen once again, the congressional pressure is mounting on Dirk to end the Park Service's thoughts of actually building the "road to nowhere" in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and close the deal with a $52 million check to the Swain (N.C.) County Commission.
Taylor, of course, was a congressman -- now retired by the voters, thankfully -- who thought it wise to spend nearly $600 million on the dead-end road. No matter that most other folks -- including the county commission, the North Carolina and Tennessee governors, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and others -- opposed the proposal.
Anyway, last week the opposition grew as U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., and other members of the North Carolina and Tennessee congressional delegations wrote Dirk to ask him to abandon the road, which was envisioned to reach family cemeteries isolated by the creation of Fontana Lake in 1943.
“After closely reviewing the National Park Service’s draft environmental impact statement, and
after follow up discussions with that agency, it is abundantly clear from the Park Service’s
assessment that the environmental and economic costs to build the North Shore Road are just too
great,” wrote Sen. Dole. “It’s time to bring this 60-year controversy to a close, and it’s time to focus our efforts on providing the citizens of Swain County with compensation to make good on the government’s commitment.
“I sympathize with the folks in Swain County who want this road built, who want better access to their family land and cemeteries. While I understand that a monetary settlement is not the
outcome that some have hoped for, I welcome the support of Swain County residents in my
efforts to secure this funding, which will provide much needed resources for Swain County’s
local schools, economic development, and other important services.”
Among those supporting the financial settlement is Representative Heath Shuler, a Democrat who defeated Taylor in last November's election.
Unconvinced this is the way to go is U.S. Senator Richard Burr, R-N.C., who not only wonders whether the federal government could afford the $52 million payout (and it can afford a $600 million dead-end road?), but questions whether the majority in the affected communities support this solution.