Guest Commentary from Dale Ditmanson
Today, the Asheville Citizen-Times published a guest column by Dale Ditmanson, Superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In this column, reproduced in full below, Superintendent Ditmanson praises the actions of Congressman Heath Shuler in assuring an initial financial settlement for the North Shore Road.
For a discussion of the North Shore Road issue, look at this article.
This column is reproduced below instead of providing a link to the article, because the Asheville Citizen-Times only keeps its material on the web for a week.
Shuler a friend to the Smokies
Dale Ditmanson January 11, 2010
2009 was a year of terrific 75th Anniversary events, memorable connections to our past and some wonderful commitments to the stewardship of Great Smoky Mountains National Park for generations to come. One of the most significant actions of the year, however, took place late in December, and you may have not seen or heard the news. I wanted to make sure that everyone was aware of the historic steps taken by U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, -Waynesville, toward final resolution of the North Shore Road.
Congressman Shuler successfully obtained $12.8 million for Swain County as a down payment on an eventual North Shore Road settlement. The funding for the initial North Shore Road payment was passed as a provision to the Defense Appropriations Bill. The appropriation releases $4 million to Swain County immediately, with the remaining $8.8 million to be released 120 days after a settlement agreement is reached. As you recall the National Park Service published a Record of Decision in December 2007 which determined that the North Shore Road would not be constructed and that the Department of Interior would instead pursue a monetary settlement with Swain County. Since then, Rep. Shuler has worked tirelessly to guarantee fair compensation for Swain County. I am particularly pleased that he has been able to work with the administration to assure this initial payment and garner support for final resolution of the 1943 Agreement.
You will recall that one of our key goals for the 75th Anniversary was “stewardship for the future.” Resolving this decades-old issue is one of the most significant successes in assuring the protection of the Smokies for future generations. At the same time, I know that Rep. Shuler shares our concern for the history and heritage of those families and individuals who inhabited the hills, valleys and communities along what is now the North Shore of Fontana Reservoir. We will continue to provide transportation to annual cemetery “decoration days” and tell their stories through exhibits and programs.
I cannot emphasize enough that the resolution of the monetary settlement would still be at an impasse without the personal commitment and actions of Heath Shuler and his staff. Our thanks to Congressman Shuler for his efforts in resolving the North Shore settlement and his ongoing support for Great Smoky Mountains National Park.