Visitors to the Blue Ridge Parkway often ask when the Parkway closes for the winter. Even as many park facilities close seasonally, the Parkway roads remains open. Temporary weather or maintenance related closures, though, often impact Parkway travel during the winter months. In response to ever changing road conditions, National Park Service staff developed an online tool that allows visitors to monitor openings and closings along the historic, 469-mile route using an interactive, real time road map. The map allows visitor to zoom in on specific sections of the Parkway, provides up to the minute road closure information, and becomes an essential Parkway planning tool for park visitors, especially in the winter. Additional facility and winter activity information is available on the Parkway’s website at www.nps.gov/blri.
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Wilkes County has also seen its share of wildfires this week. A woods fire at 3433 Vannoy Road was called in just before 3am yesterday and contained by 1pm. Wilkes firefighters were on the scene for hours along with the Forest Service FAST team. About 70 acres of woods in the Wilbar community burned over the weekend. The fire was reported Saturday night and contained on Sunday. The fire began off White Oak Road and burned within a few yards of White Oak Baptist Church, but firefighters were able to prevent the blaze from reaching the church. A Blowing Rock fire along the Caldwell, Watauga, Wilkes line has also been of great concern this week. All the fires and dry conditions has led to Wilkes being included in a burn ban.
Burn Ban now in effect for 47 western NC counties including Wilkes. Monday, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler banned open burning and canceled all burning permits for 22 more counties in Western North Carolina. Added to the list are Alleghany, Anson, Ashe, Cabarrus, Caswell, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Guilford, Iredell, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Randolph, Richmond, Rockingham, Rowan, Stanly, Stokes, Surry, Union, Wilkes and Yadkin counties. The burning ban will be in effect until further notice. Under North Carolina law, the ban prohibits all open burning in the affected counties, regardless of whether a permit was issued. The issuance of any new permits also has been suspended until the ban is lifted. Violation of the ban carries a $100 fine plus court costs of $180. The ban on open burning is necessary because of the dry weather conditions.
Local law enforcement are investigating a couple of car thefts. The Wilkes Sheriff's Office was called about the theft of a truck in Millers Creek. The victim parked his 2006 Toyota Tacoma at his brother's house on Sunday. When he returned Monday, the truck valued at $16,000 was gone. Also, Wilkesboro Police were called to a car stolen from East Main Street. The 1996 white Acura valued at $3000 was taken sometime Monday morning. There is a suspect in the car theft and charges are pending.
The Wilkes County Community Foundation launched a month-long fundraising campaign beginning Nov.1 to boost local grant making. The Chairman’s Challenge is sponsored by the North Carolina Community Foundation. Any resources raised for the local grant making fund will receive a share of a matching pool given by anonymous donors. The Greater Wilkes Community Fund represents non-profits in Wilkes County. Since 1994, the Wilkes Community Foundation has awarded 117 grants totaling more than $80,000 in grants to Wilkes County nonprofits. This year alone, the Wilkes Community Foundation Board approved seven grants. Those interested in giving to the local campaign, go to nccommunityfoundation.org and indicate for Wilkes County in the memo line.
As deer season continues across the state, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Home From The Hunt™ safety campaign reminds hunters to always take their time and positively identify their target before pulling the trigger. The four basic rules of firearms safety: Always point a firearm in a safe direction; Treat every firearm as if it were loaded and never assume a firearm is unloaded; Keep your finger out of the trigger guard and off the trigger until ready to shoot; and Be sure of your target and what is beyond your target. All first-time hunting license buyers must successfully complete a Hunter Education Course, offered free across the state. For more information on hunting seasons, licenses, Hunting Heritage Apprentice Permits and the Hunter Education Program, go to www.ncwildlife.org or call 919-707-0031.
The results of a death by motor vehicle investigation are completed. Back on November 7, Billy Joe Sheets of Millers Creek was riding a moped on Hwy 421 when he was hit from behind by a car. The wreck happened just after 10pm on the 7th. Sheets was transported to Baptist Hospital where he later died from his injuries. The driver of the car was 18-year-old Zachary Williams of North Wilkesboro. The Wilkesboro Police Investigation determined that there were no signs of impairment, speeding, or cell phone use. Williams just failed to see the moped before merging into another lane. Williams was charged with unsafe movement and misdemeanor death by vehicle.
The Wilkes Sheriff's Office is investigating a theft from an outbuilding in North Wilkesboro. The property owner stated that he does not live at the location of the outbuilding which is used for storage. The victim found that someone forcibly entered his outbuilding and took miscellaneous building supplies valued at $1500. No suspects were listed with the report.
At another theft in North Wilkesboro, only money was taken. The victim told Sheriff's Investigators that someone broke into his home on Bradley Lane. The only things taken were two jars of change valued at 200 dollars.
Results from the Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE) 2016 found that Wilkes Community College students are more engaged in their education than the national average. When compared to the national average, WCC students were 31.1% more likely to have taken a study skills course; 3.4% more likely to have participated in a community-based project; and 16.1% more likely to have used email to communicate with an instructor. Students exhibited favorable and higher opinions of the quality of their relationships with other students, faculty, and administrative staff. WCC students were 21 percent more likely to be very satisfied with academic advising and planning. Finally, 95.5 percent of WCC students said that they would recommend the college to a friend or family member.
Mark your calendars now for the Wilkes 2016 Christmas Parade for Saturday, December 3 at 3pm. This year's theme is "Christmas in Toyland." Applications for participants in the parade can be downloaded from the Wilkes Chamber of Commerce website.