Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: A Facebook hiking group notes that the plane wreckage on top of Waterrock Knob is going to be moved off the site. It’s been gathered into a pile. Speculation is they’re waiting for good weather. So, Answer Man, is the plane wreckage from Waterrock Knob going to be removed? If so, why, and who is paying for that?
My answer: Now hold on — this could be some strange, as-yet-undiscovered giant bird that is gathering the material for a really honking-big nest. Let’s not just always assume human activity is responsible for everything.
Real answer: By way of background, this plane crash goes back to Thanksgiving Day in 1983.
A Citizen Times story from Nov. 30, 1983, stated: “The frozen bodies of two Chicago residents were found Tuesday near the wreckage of a twin-engine aircraft that crashed Thanksgiving Day near 6,292-foot high Waterrock Knob, close to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Cessna 414, a pressurized eight-seat aircraft, left DuPage County, Ill., airport Nov. 24 en route to either Jackson or Macon County airports.”
The plane’s engines were salvaged, but the fuselage, wings and other debris were left onsite, according to Blue Ridge Parkway spokesperson Leesa Sutton Brandon. The site and wreckage debris have become popular with hikers, but access to the site is via unauthorized trails, not official ones.
“We understand the interest in exploring abandoned sites like the one at Waterrock Knob and are aware of some local conversations speculating about the plane wreckage removal,” Brandon said via email. “The area where the wreckage is located is remote and not accessible by any authorized, maintained, or planned trails.”
This has created a lot of problems over the four decades the wreckage has remained on site.
“In addition to safety concerns for hikers getting lost and injured, the high volume of social trail use in this area is creating severe resource damage such as trampling, erosion, soil compaction, and illegal vegetation removal in a very sensitive area of the park that includes many rare species,” Brandon said.
Located on the Haywood County/Jackson County border, Watterrock Knob is a popular destination with more determined hikers, with several apps and websites posting directions. The plane debris is actually on nearby Browning Knob.
But the Parkway folks really don’t want people making the trek.
“We need everyone’s cooperation and involvement in protecting special places like Waterrock Knob, and we would ask that everyone do their part and not cause any further damage or injury to the resources or themselves by going off trail to find the wreckage,” Brandon said. “The park also has a responsibility to consider options for the long-term protection of the site, as visitor safety and resource damage issues present too great a threat to take no action.”
Reading between the lines here, my guess is the Park Service wants to get the wreckage out of there but doesn’t want to create a stampede to see it before it’s gone.
The Parkway acquired the property in 2016 thanks to a land donation that expanded the park’s boundary, Brandon said.
I also touched base with the Haywood County Emergency Services Department and spokesperson Allison Richmond, thinking they may be involved in any plane removal.
“I have heard some vague discussions about (removal of the plane), but that’s all,” Richmond said.
She’s not heard anything definite, but like Brandon, Richmond said the hikers exploring the site have been injured or created the need for official searches.
Rita Larkin, spokesperson for the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, a nonprofit organization that is the parkway’s primary fundraising partner, said, “We’re aware that the National Park Service has concerns about visitors leaving the trail to hike to the site of the plane wreckage at Waterrock Knob.”
The foundation is also aware of injuries that have occurred at the site, as well as damage to rare plants.
“As the nonprofit park partner, we would consider a request for funding for the site if the park determines it’s a need,” Larkin said.
Question: What happened to the FedEx station off of Patton Ave at I-240/26 that had served as the Asheville hub and a dropoff point as well. It had been there for years. I have heard rumors that both FedEx and UPS on Sweeten Creek Road were trying to consolidate all sorting operations to an industrial park in Fletcher.
My answer: I’m not going to lie here — every single time I went to this FedEx location I got lost.
Real answer: The FedEx station, which I must say was always a bit of an adventure to find, has indeed closed, according to FedEx spokesperson David Westrick. It was located off of Patton Avenue, but really off of Hazel Mill Road, on Richland Street, and you had to take a weird little trip off of Resort Drive by the Bowen Bridge to get there.
But I digress, as I did every single time I went to ship something there.
“As we continue to adapt and streamline the FedEx global network to meet our customers’ needs in a rapidly shifting landscape, we are evaluating our footprint and making operational adjustments that improve efficiencies, lower costs and enhance service,” Westrick said. “As part of these efforts, FedEx Express will begin leasing facility space from FedEx Ground in a new building located in Fletcher, North Carolina.”
They will not be one fused operation, though.
“While both FedEx Express and FedEx Ground operations will be co-located within the same facility, they will remain independent and separately managed,” Westrick continued. “With this relocation, customers can rely on FedEx to deliver the same outstanding service they’ve come to expect.”
As far as some kind of UPS/FedEx consolidation in Fletcher, Eric Rufa, the town’s planning director, said via email, “I haven’t heard anything about FedEx or UPS in Fletcher and haven’t had any inquiries/submittals for either.”
FedEx announced last June that it would consolidate some portions of its network “and promote more collaboration between its shipping segments under a new long-term strategy unveiled Wednesday,” according to an article from the online industry publication supplychaindive.com
Called “Network 2.0,” the plan will “optimize the resources of FedEx Express, Ground and Freight,” the publication reported. “The company will invest $2 billion to carry out the initiative, President and CEO Raj Subramaniam said in an investors meeting.”
The article noted that “by fiscal year 2027, FedEx expects to operate 100 fewer stations, eliminate more than 10% of pickup and delivery routes overall and reduce millions of linehaul miles driven. FedEx expects the more efficient use of its separate networks will provide it with a $2 billion financial benefit each year.”
Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at email@example.com or 828-337-0941.