A project update for the EBCI

by Jun 28, 2023NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


One Feather Reporter


CHEROKEE, N.C. – EBCI Project Management works with all the construction and development projects that are directly managed by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

The Cherokee One Feather recently sat down with Travis Sneed, director of EBCI support services who currently oversees Project Management, to get a breakdown of the ongoing and upcoming projects on and around the Qualla Boundary. The former manager of EBCI Project Management left their position last year, and that role has yet to be filled. This has left Sneed at the helm of these discussions.

This article will list tribal projects in four different categories: ongoing, upcoming, delayed, and completed. There will be a brief description of the project and where it stands. Individual articles on projects will be needed for further detail of each project progresses. This simply aims to be an overview of current major projects for the EBCI.

Ongoing Projects

Acquoni Rd. Water Pipeline Project – This is a project that will see new water and sewer infrastructure installed throughout Acquoni Rd. This is why the beginning of Acquoni Rd. is still blocked off under construction. The road will continue to be worked on for the foreseeable future, and there has not been a completion date offered at this time. This is one of the ARP-funded projects on the Qualla Boundary, with $20 million being allotted from that funding. According to an update provided by Ethan Arch, manager of Cherokee Water & Sewer, phase one is complete and they are looking to start phase two of the project this fall.

Progress is being made on the new Cherokee Speakers Building in the Yellowhill Community. Travis Sneed, director of EBCI Support Services, related it should be completed by the end of 2023. (JONAH LOSSIAH/One Feather photos)

Speakers Building – The construction is well on its way and Sneed said that they are hoping to finish the work at the end of the year. Significant progress has been made, and the structure is beginning to take shape.

Remapping the flood plain – A renewed flood plain map has been proposed to FEMA. The Tribe has received notes on this and responded but are still waiting for final approval from the Federal Government. Sneed said this could take some time and that they are at the grace of the gears of the Federal government.

Cherokee Central Schools remodel and water damage – Cherokee Central Schools (CCS) has been developing a repair plan for the campus buildings that have shown significant water damage. The water intrusion was discovered during phase two of a major construction project on campus. Phase two included remodeling the original buildings. When that work began, there was evidence of mold and water damage throughout several buildings. The last year has seen the school bring in outside experts and contractors to create a plan to finish the remodel, fix the water damage, and continue forward with the remaining construction. CCS recently received initial remedial designs from Terracon, the consulting firm they hired for this project.

Tribal Foods Building – This project should be done in the coming months. Sneed said that they are on schedule for a ‘late summer’ completion time. This construction project saw them repurposing the old Warehouse and building a new addition to the front. The new building will also incorporate the Tribal Cannery. This project will also enable drive-thru capabilities.


Upcoming Projects:

Kituwah Mound Structure – A new structure will replace the hanger near the Kituwah Mound. This building will be of a minimalist design and offer a meeting space and bathrooms. The structure has been designed to be resistant to floods, as it is formally in the flood plain for Kituwah Fields. Sneed said they consulted with tribal elders and speakers to properly integrate Cherokee culture into the facility. The design is about complete, and they are hoping to break ground on this project this year.

Junaluska Memorial Site (Robbinsville, N.C.) – This will be a memorial building set to honor the burial place of Junaluska. While maintaining and improving the current memorial site and trail, there are now designs for a building to be constructed on the land. Sneed said that they want to improve the space without changing the character. There is no timeline, but much of the design is done.

Junaluska Museum (Robbinsville, N.C.) – The EBCI bought a separate 32-acre parcel that will be the home of the Junaluska Museum. On the property there are designs to include a language school, a stickball field, an event lawn, additional parking lots, and more. Sneed says that this is a significant development that has not been completely greenlit at this time. It is still in the design phase.

Fire Mountain Expansion Project – This will be a new set of mountain biking trails in Cherokee that would double the current mileage of trails. The project includes a pump track that will look to offer a lower barrier of entry for those looking to get into the sport of mountain biking. The Department of Operations is working in tandem on this project. Designs are nearly complete, and they are working on getting construction documents. While there were hopes to begin construction this year, 2024 is more likely at this point according to Secretary of Operations Jeremy Hyatt.

Fire Mountain Trailhead Structure – There are designs for a building that would be placed on the hill near the current Fire Mountain Trailhead. It would reposition the entrance and offer some benefit to the botanical gardens and the Oconaluftee Indian Village. They want it to be a smaller structure that is quicker and more affordable to build. They also want it to be versatile. This includes having bathrooms, hooks ups for food trucks, a shelter space, bike station for washing and tools, and a vending area. Part of this project will be reworking the water and sewer for the area, which will also assist the Indian Village’s facilities. They want to get started on this project as soon as possible, and they hope to have it out for bid soon.

John Crowe Expansion – This will be an upgrade to the current recreation complex.  Designs are complete, and this project is out for bid.


Delayed Projects:

Fairground Remodel – The Fairgrounds are still in the design phase. Project Management shared some initial designs at May’s town hall meeting. Sneed said that there is still quite some time from construction and that community input is still being heard and considered.

Community Pool – There was no update offered on the potential of a community pool. There is a considered location, but that is requiring an MOA with Steve Youngdeer American Legion Post 143. This has been the case for this project for several years. There is no further plan of action at this time.

Soco and Mingo Falls re-trail – Plans for Mingo Falls are close to being finished, while plans for Soco Falls are still on hold. Sneed said that Soco Falls in particular has a very dangerous pull-off and access point.  For Soco Falls, they are looking at creating a new trailhead further up the road, while closing off the current access point to the public. Mingo Falls also had parking issues and a need for restrooms. They will be increasing parking, adding restrooms, and adding vending at Mingo Falls, and the hope is to start on that soon. Something that hasn’t been confirmed is the possibility of adding lighting at the falls. That would require additional infrastructure. Soco Falls has fallen behind in plans because it is more complicated. The road, water, and sewer situation is more elaborate and will take more time to get out for bidding.

Oconaluftee Island Park Remodel – There have been some designs done for potential work on the Island Park, but according to Sneed not much more can be done without completion of the updated flood plain. The hope is to integrate improvements to the Island Park with other projects that will take place along the road in coming years.

Trout Hatchery Remodel Phase 2 – The next stage of the major remodels at the Tribal Trout Hatchery is currently in the design phase. The first phase of this project included remodeling and adding administrative space. That was completed in 2021, but there has not been significant movement on the project since then. The hope to increase production and capacity of the facility, but there has yet to be anything decided yet.


Recently Completed Projects:

Fire Mountain Disc Golf Sanctuary Parking Lot – A new parking lot across from Cherokee Centrals Schools has recently been finished and is in use. There are two new areas of parking on that side of the street that will assist in accommodating the school and the disc golf sanctuary.

A new parking lot for the Fire Mountain Disc Golf Sanctuary across from Cherokee Centrals Schools has recently been finished and is in use.

Cherokee Youth Center – A ribbon-cutting was held in July 2022. This year, it has also been used to house displaced Tribal Education workers after the flood of the Ginger Lynn Welch Complex.

Downtown Main Bridge and sewer line – The pedestrian bridge in the business district was set and fixed with a hidden sewer line last summer.

New roof on Finance Building – The Tribal Finance building got its new roof within the last six months.

Jacob Cornsilk Complex (Snowbird) – The multi-function community complex had its ribbon-cutting in May of last year.

Wolftown Airnasium – The Wolftown airnasium (covered outside court) finished construction in December 2021.

Big Cove Gym – Big Cove Gym opened in November 2021, and in the following months finished the final touches.