Published On: Tue, Feb 2nd, 2016

Mountain Partners envisioning Nikwasi-Cowee Future


A group of residents from Franklin and Cherokee have been meeting for the last eight months to explore strategies to work together for economic development and historic preservation. Calling themselves Mountain Partners, the group has engaged in discussions regarding a potential Nikwasi-Cowee corridor that promotes heritage-tourism and related economic development opportunities.

According to Barbara McRae, one of the Mountain Partners from Franklin, the group’s efforts have been productive and insightful. “It’s been an exciting experience, especially getting to know the Cherokee members and their perspectives on the history and culture of the Nikwasi Mound.”

The non-political, collaborative and cooperative dialogue was initiated by Mainspring Conservation Trust (formerly Land Trust for the Little Tennessee), headquartered near the Nikwasi Mound in Franklin, and made possible by support from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina and from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation.  In addition to conserving land and water, Mainspring’s mission includes cultural heritage preservation in its seven-county service area.  Although Mountain Partners was not formed at the direction of either the Town of Franklin or the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the group has kept those  governmental entities fully informed and will continue to do so as it moves forward.

To assist the group in its process, Mainspring retained the services of Catalpa Circle, a consulting firm based in Asheville. Catalpa Circle facilitator Dr. Tom Hatley said, “There is a strong willingness from the members to share and have positive dialogue for future collaboration.”

Mountain Partners plans to continue meeting and ultimately formalize the group into an operational organization. McRae says the initial goals of Mountain Partners are to: 1) promote the concept of linking cultural and historic sites such as Nikwasi and Cowee; 2) help raise awareness and funds to pursue these efforts; and 3) explore opportunities for collaboration between the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and local communities.

Juanita Wilson, a Mountain Partners member from Cherokee, summed up the group’s sentiment, “Mountain Partners is enthusiastic about helping to bring increased collaboration between our communities. If people can see the bigger picture, we can build something that has positive and long range impact for the region. As we unite together, we put efforts in a collaborative pot of stone soup. There will then be a feast of working together for the benefit of today’s and future generations.”

– Mountain Partners