Can a community initiative rise from the ground up, with no leaders and no set agenda? The answer is yes, and it’s apparent in newly affixed “Ole Town Candler” bumper stickers and a CleanUp Candler campaign that’s taking off via a Facebook page. And on Thursday, April 9, the initiative takes another step forward with a community meeting at Enka Middle School.
The event is a chance “get in a room together and talk about our issues,” says Michelle Pace Wood, an Enka High graduate. Wood is active on the group’s Facebook page and has helped make sure a host of politicians as well as transportation and law-enforcement officials will attend on April 9. But she insists the group has “no leader, no one person” spearheading its mix of activities, concerns and question-raising.
There are residents focused on improving traffic safety on Highway 19/23, along Highway 151 and on the “mile straight” where one resident once clocked a vehicle going 114 miles per hour. There are folks asking what’s being done to address crime in the area — which the Buncombe Sheriff’s Department says has ranked high in the county for break-ins. There’s a call to repair and refurbish the historic jet airplane on display at Enka Middle School. There are zoning questions being raised about regulating junkyards, signs and employee parking. And there are even answers to questions, suggestions for solutions and calls for collaboration. There’s even the idea that a parade could help celebrate a vibrant Candler.
In short, CleanUp Candler’s Facebook page shows a community that wants to remind people that it is a community, says Wood. “It started with some folks wanting to address litter,” she says, mentioning a March cleanup project that WLOS-TV spotlighted. And the litter campaigns are ongoing, Wood emphasizes.
But community interest also grew because many Candler residents feel the area gets a bad rap, little attention to its issues and not much action that would improve it, says Wood. “We feel this real sense of community [and a sense] that we need to clean up Candler [and] work together.”
One of her personal interests is creating a community center. Candler doesn’t have one, which led to the April 9 meeting being planned initially to take place at the local fire station.
But the buzz on Facebook showed that more than 100 folks would be coming — so the group decided to move the meeting to Enka Middle, which used to be the community high school, she explains. “The agenda will be set by the people,” says Wood. Invited politicians and elected officials include Buncombe Commissioner Joe Belcher, Rep. Brian Turner, Buncombe Sheriff Van Duncan, Congressman Mark Meadows and Buncombe Board of Commissioners Chair David Gantt, she says. And state Department of Transportation officials will be on hand, too, to hear what’s on residents’ minds.
The whole idea is to “make things better” in Candler and “bring people together,” says Wood. Candler “is a community, and we want to talk about [what we need to do]. This is an opportunity … to come together.”
MORE INFO: facebook.com/cleanupcandler
WHAT: CleanUp Candler community meeting
WHEN: Thursday, April 9, 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Enka Middle School on Asbury Road