ROBBINSVILLE, N.C. – Marisue Hilliard, forest supervisor of the USDA Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina, has signed a decision to permit the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) to construct and operate a youth center facility on approximately 20 acres of national forest land near Robbinsville.
“This youth center facility and the programs that it will offer are in the public interest, and I am pleased that the Forest Service and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians were able to work together to identify a suitable location on national forest land near the Snowbird Community,” said Hilliard.
The decision allows the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to build a 15,000 square-foot building, which will meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building certification, and include a multi-purpose field and an interpretive hiking trail. The youth center is affiliated with the Boys and Girls Club of America. Center organizers hope to offer a variety of programs including Cherokee Language classes, social skills development, cultural craft classes, computer labs, and physical fitness programs. The youth center will serve ages 5 through 18. There are approximately 150 youth already enrolled in programs at the current facility.
The youth center will be constructed directly across from the North Carolina Forest Service Graham County Office on Massey Branch Road. The youth center facilities will be constructed and operated under a 20-year special use authorization from the Forest Service.
The EBCI approached the Forest Service in early 2010 to identify a suitable location for a new youth center for the Snowbird Community. The current youth center facility, in the Jacob Cornsilk Building in the Snowbird Community, had reached its maximum capacity, and the
EBCI was unable to locate a suitable location in reasonable proximity to the community on tribal lands. The decision to allow the EBCI to construct the youth center facility was based upon an environmental analysis (EA) that was completed to analyze the environmental effects of the proposed activity on national forest lands.
“I understand this Environmental Assessment process was an important first step in our plans for the development of the Snowbird Youth Center, and I am pleased that it is completed,” said Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Michell Hicks. “The Eastern Band’s goal is to keep this entire process running smoothly and continue to foster our relationship with the Forest Service. We are dedicated to this project and are taking the appropriate steps to ensure this project becomes a reality. And I am very much looking forward to the completion of the Youth Center, as I believe it will greatly benefit the Snowbird Community.”
The building will be constructed on national forest land in the Cheoah/Tusquitee Ranger District of the Nantahala National Forest. The ranger district encompasses more than 270,000 acres.