Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Turtle Island in Danger

If you read my background page you'll see mention of my apprenticeship with Eustace at Turtle Island in 1998 and 1999.  It is there that the very spirit and character of Land of the Sky Wilderness School was forged.  Eustace's unique vision is a carryover from his grandpa's program, camp Sequoyah, a program for boys that operated near Asheville from 1923 until the 1970's.  This vision is one that encourages challenge, healthy physicality, and hands on work to develop character and qualities in young folks that our current educational system fails to do.  Outdoor camps do it with excellence!  In addition to the instruction and experience available to kids Turtle Island, in the nineties, was the only place I could find to learn Appalachian building techniques, gardening and preservation methods like my family used, horse care and riding skills, hunting, and more stuff than I could ever list.  Now that opportunity that I had, as well as all the campers for the past 26 years of Turtle Island's history, is about to end.

The late night drums, thunderous storms, daily swims in pristine waterfalls, the smell of food prepared on wood stoves and over glowing open coals, the sound of hooves and a crowing rooster, the bark of a distant dog and the laughter of kids around a storyteller - these are things more rich in the memory than any bank account.  They are a treasure to our state!

Eustace has been featured in our state magazine and his preserve Turtle Island is one of National Geographic's top 10 places to visit in the nation!  Recently the show Mountain Men showcased a dramatized version of his life near Boone but for many of us the farm and camps are so much more.  Eustace taught us to think outside the box, to problem solve impossible issues in group settings, to fix with whatever is on hand, and honor our elders and teachers. 

A ridiculous invasion of county authorities (as if they just found out he was there), complete with satellite photos and four wheelers, sidearms and badges, recently shut the gates to our Preserve - a non-profit organization.  Citing building code violations, for buildings that are made of solid timber using historical and effective Appalachian methods proven over four centuries, agents have cut off outside access to the living history world known as base camp.

Eustace has made huge steps to accommodate health codes for primitive camps, always working out necessary changes with officials to keep the Preserve open.  This sudden action is more like an attack than an interest in safety and could be motivated by any number of possible issues.  As one of the inspectors said, paraphrased, "This is coming from higher up", and wasn't really a problem for him personally. 

Please take the time to sign a petition that helps protect ALL historical North Carolina buildings and primitive camps, including LOTSWild, by allowing negotiation and exemption from certain building codes for historical buildings. 

The Watauga County office website is here;

Please share the word with as many people as you can the time frame is short.  Contact State officials as possible as well.  Thank you.