Tryon, Saluda businesses clean up from May storms — twice

Published 8:00 am Saturday, June 30, 2018

TRYON — A month after the devastating mudslides on Warrior Mountain, businesses on Highway 176 and the Green River are starting to see things return to normal.

Saluda’s The Gorge Zip Line and Green River Adventures had to close for two weeks in May, while Tryon’s Caro-Mi Dining Room was closed for nearly three.

While the closures affected their revenues and their employees’ earnings, the business owners and staff said their concern is for those directly impacted by the storm damage.

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“It wasn’t a tragic event for us,” said Caro-Mi owner Dane Stafford. “We definitely escaped the really harsh effects.”

Caro-Mi, located on Highway 176, is very close to the worst of the mudslides.

Several residents sheltered at the restaurant and in the parking lot the night of May 18 when a series of mudslides devastated western Polk County. When Stafford was able to reopen on June 6, many of those who were trapped came back on that Wednesday and the days following.

Stafford said determining a reopening date was a bit challenging, in that he had to order the food a day early and was not sure when the road would be open for the truck to get through.

He expressed concern for the staff who missed work, but said his employees’ hearts went out to those in the neighborhood who were so adversely affected.

Though the Gorge Zip Line and Green River Adventures had to close, their employees did not miss any work — they simply turned their efforts to the cleanup. Co-owner Sara Bell said they had to close the business mainly because the river was running so high and was so full of debris, which made it unsafe to travel.

The first week they had to close Green River Adventures on May 19, and were able to reopen the following Thursday. They then had to shut both businesses down for the week following Memorial Day because of additional rain.

Bell, her husband, Tim, and their staff set to work cleaning up the debris in the river. They also had to hire a team of arborists and inspectors to cleanup the biggest trees and check to ensure the river and the zip line were completely safe.

“We had to shut down the river operations for a second full week to reclean what we had already cleaned up the week before,” Bell said. “One of biggest dangers to people in water is debris above and below the water surface. Of course we also had to wait for the water to lower to safe levels.”

H20 Dreams, a paddling school, is another business that runs on the Green River.

Co-owner Chris Wing said they only had to shut down for one day because, though they operate approximately 80 percent of their business on the Green River, they do have alternatives available. Wing and his staff, along with other volunteers, also helped with the cleanup.

“Of course, there were large trees in the river, but there was also all types of yard debris such as kiddie pools, construction barrels and riding lawn mowers,” Wing said.

Both Bell and Wing praised Polk County and the North Carolina Department of Transportation for their efforts in the cleanup.

“It would have been easier for [NCDOT crews] to just shut down the roads while they worked,” Bell said. “They seemed to understand the economic impact that keeping these roads open means to the area.”

In addition to her business using Green River Cove Road, Bell said there are several tubing companies that need the road to access the river as well.

“It’s really important to our businesses during the month of July,” she said.

Though not a business, Trinity Lutheran Church was also affected somewhat by the storms, as the church was unable to hold service on May 20. The Rev. Thomas Olson said the church had a lot of debris and mud in its parking lot, but was very blessed to not experience damage to the building itself.

A volunteer from the DOT cleanup crew helped church members haul four dump truck loads and four mulch truck loads of mud and debris from the parking lot.

Tryon Little Theater opened the Sunnydale facility for the church’s service the following Sunday, and the congregation was home again in its own building for the June 3 service.

As the businesses are recovering from the effects of the storms, cleanup still continues. Wing said Saluda Outfitters, H20 Dreams and the nonprofit organization Green River Keepers are planning a cleanup day on Thursday, July 5.

People interested in volunteering may contact Saluda Outfitters at 828-848-4060 or may visit Lower Green Cleanup on Facebook.