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News Town of Franklin kills grass on historical site

The Nikwasi Indian Mound -  Photo by Vickie CarpenterNew grass expected to save maintenance cost

According to Franklin Town Manager Sam Greenwood, the grass covering the historic Nikwasi Indian Mound has been intentionally sprayed with an herbicide to kill the grass and prevent it from growing, but the Town's intentions are to better preserve the mound.

“It has always been considered disrespectful to have people on top of the mound to maintain the grass,” said Greenwood. “By spraying it with herbicide, the old grass will be able to be raked off and we will replace it with hydroseed that will require less maintenance and will lead to the mound being less disturbed.”

In a memo dated April 12 sent from Greenwood to the Town Board, Greenwood informed board members that the hydroseed needed to be planted as soon as possible in order to take advantage of the optimum planting time to assure the overall best result for the new ground cover. The memo also informed board members that other areas within town limits which are considered difficult or expensive to maintain were being evaluated and may also receive the same treatment to save taxpayers the cost of maintaining those properties. Greenwood explained that it takes a crew of four men, three hours each week to maintain the grass on the Nikwasi Indian Mound. At 6,000-square feet, the Franklin site is one of the largest intact mounds remaining in Western North Carolina.

In about two weeks the mound will be ready to be raked and the new grass will be planted. According to Greenwood, this is a one time process.

The mound represents an archaeological site which marks a Cherokee period townhouse for a town previous located on the Little Tennessee River. The Nikwasi Mound was added as a site on the National Register of Historic Places on Nov. 26, 1980. The mound itself is still fully intact, but while it is near the original height, it is about half of the size of the original area. Although it has been wellpreserved, the actual age of the site or the town it represents is uncertain as it has never been excavated.

Discussion of what to do to continue to maintain the mound first arose in the fall of last year, at which point a committee was charged with the task of developing a plan to determine the safest, most costeffective approach to continue preserving the historic site.

According to Greenwood, the committee had not met in several weeks and with town crews already having to begin mowing the mound, it was decided to replace the grass. To better preserve the mound, Greenwood said that the town has instructed the town attorney, John Henning Jr. to draft up an ordinance to allow law enforcement officers to patrol the mound to prevent people from accessing the mound.

Franklin Alderman Bob Scott said that it was not Greenwood's responsibility to make the decision to spray weed killer on the mound. “That was not his call to make,” said Scott. “The Indian Mound committee has been having ongoing discussions about exploring alternative options for maintainance on the mound. There was no need to rush a decision. The committee even suggested that the town stop mowing the mound entirely and just maintain beautification around the mound until all possibilities had been evaluated.”

According to Scott, the mound could be considered the most historical thing in Franklin and should have been given more consideration by town officials before making an impromptu decision. “The Indian Mound committee has been working hard to fix things around the mound. They got the DOT to fix the historical marker and get rid of signs of businesses that were no longer in operation,” said Scott. “Committee members were in total shock. The bottom line is that the mound committee should have been given the respect and courtesy of knowing what was going to happen before it did.”

The Town of Franklin plans to continue moving forward with the Indian Mound project and believes that the new approach will reduce costs down the road.


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