Appalachia’s Gentrification – Clash of Locals & Outsiders

Aug 26, 2023 2.3M Views 8K Comments

There’s tension in the mountains of Appalachia, a divide between established locals and wealthier people moving in to buy up land and homes. This tension exists in many parts of the country and is increasing as more people want to live outside the cities. Join me as we meet the locals to get an inside look on this situation.

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► Video edited by: Natalia Santenello

► Headlund – Return to No Man’s Land

♪ somber country ♪
[Woman] This road right here,
it’s where I grew up.
That’s a holler.
Very close-knit family houses.
Around 2004, 2005, more resorts
started being built in the area.
A gentleman came in, bought
a lot of land to build developments.
[Peter] Like this one here, Eagles Nest?
How much are these places up here?
-They’re very expensive. [laughs]
[Nick] Half a million for something small
and they can be millions up in here.
[Ivy] Let’s put it this way, local people
aren’t buying property in Eagle’s Nest.
Well any of the resorts.
It’s kind of a local off-road area
called the Dust Bowl.
It’s up here on the very top.
They started gating everything up,
locals couldn’t go up there anymore.
[Nick] They’re trying to
get people to sell the property.
Back in here on the top they want to own,
down here, in front of here,
they want to own on the side of here,
behind the mountain.
They already own
a lot of this stuff surrounding it.
When you go into
the entrance of Eagle’s Nest,
I’ve done delivers in there before
where I was in Eagle’s Nest
driving up the mountain for
about 45 minutes at a slow speed
and I could literally see this road
from where I was inside of Eagle’s Nest.
It blew my mind.
You know how far away we are?
When you get to some of these places,
we’re very far from Eagle’s Nest
but when you’re in it, it’s right here.
-So these are second homes
mostly I can imagine?
‘Cause they’re not
working out here, right?
-Some are second and third homes,
some are strictly rentals,
or maybe they just come here
for a couple weeks out of the year.
We have people with tremendous
amounts of money that visit this place.
Unfortunately, it’s kind of
always been like that.
That’s even how we got
our famous Grandfather Mountain
was a rich man who
this was his passion coming over here
and he donated that land
and made it into a nature preserve.
It’s always been
the playground for the rich.
-So this is a bit different
than Southern West Virginia
or Eastern Kentucky.
That deep Appalachia
where the money hasn’t come in.
-This, you guys…
So I’ve been in West Virginia.
I’ve been to some of
the coal mining towns that are…
I mean it’s nothing but empty buildings.
We went a different direction with that.
We had a lot of iron mines in the area.
When that dried up,
industry went with that.
[Peter] So most locals now
are tied into this tourist, second home,
third home population, right?
-Like you have to be?
-There’s a hug percentage
of local people that are employed
purely because of tourism.
-So it’s good thing in that sense?
-It is.
Without it, we wouldn’t have…
We wouldn’t have anything.
-So what’s the problem?
-We don’t have
the infrastructure to hold all of it.
We have these two-lane roads.
Very narrow two-lane roads might I add.
We have three grocery stores
in the entire county.
-What county are we in?
-Avery, which up here
we’re close to the Watauga County line.
-[Ivy] But right now we’re in Avery.
-[Peter] But beautiful scenery.
[Peter] This is spectacular, you guys.
[Nick] I watch the sunset here a lot
when I come home from my buddy’s house.
-Yeah, so if you have the money,
who doesn’t want to have a place here?
-[Ivy] I absolutely get it.
-[Nick] Oh, yeah.
[Nick] One of the things
that I see is a problem
with some of the people moving here
is you’ll have swaths of land,
everywhere around here is like this
if you want to cut down all the trees.
But historically
we haven’t cut down the trees.
The people that live here,
the people that moved here
and integrated with the locals.
Now you have a lot of these people
with a lot more money
that they’re clearing out
their land like this
because they want
this million dollar view.
Which I get, but at the same time
it’s not historically
been done for a reason.
-Well, it’s to keep privacy.
Appalachian culture,
just traditionally private.
-The people are more private or what?
It’s… Just like talking about earlier,
you get in these hollers, it’s families,
it’s a community,
they stick together, you know?
And not even that long ago,
probably in the ’50s and ’60s,
people relied on their neighbors…
for food.
-For help with healthcare, everything.
-Okay, right.
-And I think that’s being stripped away.
So that close community, close connection…
-You’ve lived here since day one?
-Do you still have that?
-I have it mainly because where I live
on the other end of Avery County
there’s not as many people
have moved in that area yet.
-It’s coming I would say
in the next ten years
but I was fortunate enough to
marry someone who’s family had land.
-Do you worry about that
in the next ten years?
-Absolutely, I do.
-That’s a common worry in these parts?
-It is.
-But the question is who decides that?
Who plays let’s say ruler of the land
and says this person can live here,
that person can’t live here?
-And that’s the Catch-22 with it.
It’s you can’t tell someone
what to do with their land.
And you know, if I had…
If I had acreage and someone made me
a once in a lifetime offer
why wouldn’t I take it?
-Right, so a lot of locals are doing that.
-They don’t like the direction it’s going
but they’re sitting on land,
and they’re just gonna sell.
-There’s not really… There’s not a…
There’s no other option.
Like if someone offers you
half a million dollars for your land
you’re gonna take it.
-Especially if you make less than $20,000.
-You’re gonna take that half a million.
-You’re gonna take it.
-Okay, then say Avery County
gets too busy for everyone here.
So they’re like,
“We’re gonna go Northeastern Tennessee
where there are no people.”
Then the people there are gonna be like,
“Hey it used to be quiet here,
what are you guys doing moving in?”
[chuckling] It’s endless, right?
-It continues happening, you know?
However many years ago,
everyone moved to California.
Now everyone in California
is moving to Texas.
-At some point everyone in Texas
is going to move to
wherever the next happening place is.
[Nick] Around here
you don’t have to lock your doors,
your house, nothing, man,
for the most part.
[Peter] That’s awesome.
Ivy, what were you saying about church?
-I was just saying this area is…
I mean Appalachian culture
is steeped in religion.
A lot of people that are local here
feel that outsiders come in,
maybe make fun of that, judge them.
And you know that’s…
-That’s harsh.
-You don’t want to go
where the churches don’t go.
-There’s some really good people here.
-Salt of the earth people around here.
Some of the best people you’ll ever meet,
literally give you
the shirt off their back.
I’ve never been in
a kinder place in my life.
-Nick, you lived in Brooklyn, right?
-I lived mostly in the Bronx and Harlem,
but yeah, I lived in Brooklyn before too.
-So why’d you decide
to raise your kids down here?
-Uh, I mean it’s pretty obvious.
When you look at crime
and things that are going on in the city
with the prices, the crime,
it’s not a place anybody
would obviously want to raise kids.
So I want them to know there’s
more out of life than just the city.
That nature is very healing.
that there’s places you can go
where it’s safe to go outside at night
and people actually help a lot more.
These are some of the plants around here
that all grow locally.
They just grow wild everywhere,
you got hostas right here,
these are a type of daylily,
these are called flax.
These lily pads,
if you pop those off and eat them
they taste like a sweet green bean almost.
People fry them and eat them,
they do all kinds of stuff.
There’s tons of vegetation around here
that you can eat or cook with.
You got ramps,
they grow locally around here.
That’s a leafy vegetable
that tastes like onions.
-That’s something else–
-That’s a tradition around here.
That is an Appalachian tradition.
-What’s that?
-Ramps, it’s a wild onion.
Ramps and branch lettuce
Traditional Appalachian meal, soup beans,
corn bread, ramps, ranch lettuce.
That has been gentrified in finer dining.
-As in ramp butter, just…
-Whoa, okay.
Get me some ramp butter
with that corn bread.
-Well it’s not ramp season anymore.
-Of course it’s not, I knew that.
-You have to come back in ramp season.
-[all giggling]
[Nick] All those names,
these are all local families.
[Ivy] Actually I think
some of my family is in here.
-Some of your family is in here?
-Church, Jones, Guy, Baker.
[Ivy] Guy!
-[Peter] Guy, that’s your family member?
-[Ivy] Yep, lets’ see.
-I think what a lot of people
don’t understand from the outside
is how deep the roots go here.
My short time in Appalachia,
certain hollers,
three, four, five, six generations
of family have been there.
-No one has lived on that land
besides that family.
-In this area… let’s see, this is where
my great-grandmother grew up.
In this area here.
-I think…
A lot of people… like where I grew up,
my parents didn’t grow up.
So to leave was very easy.
-I left at 17.
-But I’m understanding in Appalachia
it’s very difficult
for many people to leave
because they have such deep roots.
-Fair to say?
-Yes, absolutely.
Just in my case, I did move away
from this area but I’m 20 minutes away.
But it’s a completely different community,
it’s a different culture.
Like it’s…
-Different community and culture, how so?
[Nick] This is the high country.
There’s a difference between
the high country
and places off the mountain.
-Right, there’s… different cultures
with each different holler.
Give me an example,
what would be a different thing happening?
Well, Roaring Creek is
the lower end of Avery County
and it has its own culture.
Their own colloquialisms,
their own dialect.
-So they could tell the way you speak,
they can tell you’re not from there?
-I actually sound more like I’m from
Roaring Creek than I do from here.
-And I’m not, but…
-When you’re up here they can say,
“Hey, Ivy’s not from here, we can tell.”?
-I actually… Yeah, a lot of people
don’t think that I’m local to here.
-You fooled me.
-Yeah, I know, but I’ve always
been made fun of for my accent.
-Clearly it’s pretty–
-Why? It’s beautiful.
-Thank you, but you know,
it didn’t strike me when I was younger.
-Was I not made fun of?
-Oh, yeah.
-Badly made fun of?
-Badly made fun of.
-Just I mean I guess easy target.
-Don’t most people
speak like this around here?
-Some do, some don’t.
I mean a majority of the people
have an accent
but they don’t have necessarily
a thick Avery County accent.
-So you were in and out
of here all your life.
So that’s why you have
an interesting accent, Nick?
You got a little Bronx going on.
-Yeah, I got a New York accent
mixed with Southern words.
Half South, half New York
is where I’ve lived.
So it’s an interesting accent
to say the least
but people can tell I’m not from here.
-It’s just like you see in the media,
if someone talks like me,
they’re missing half their teeth,
they’re trashy,
they’re pregnant by the age of 14,
running around barefoot.
It’s like your stereotypical hillbilly.
-So no one wants to sound like that
because the media has made it
something to be ashamed of.
-Right, like Stephen Colbert
is from South Carolina.
-And you would never be able to tell.
-Yes, right.
-So people work hard to not have–
-Right, because that’s…
It’s not glamorous.
-And something I’ve prided myself in
is trying to not do that.
-So you gotta stay strong?
-I mean I don’t–
-At this age, no.
-But when you were younger?
-At this age, no.
When I was younger, the bullying was bad.
And looking back,
it’s like why were you making fun of me?
You’re from the same place.
[Peter] This is Eagle’s Nest?
[Nick] Right, they’ve cut down
the underbrush.
This belonged to
I can’t remember the name.
For years this was the same place,
they recently bought their house,
tore everything down and this is
where the development is going.
This is obviously old dirt road.
This will be paved eventually
when Eagle’s Nest fully takes over.
Right now there’s still
families that live up here.
So I guess they can’t 100%
do what they want with it.
[Ivy] I try to stay unbiased
with everyone and be friendly.
But this, I don’t know, it just…
-Look at the mountain out there,
see how it’s dotted with large houses?
This is the stuff
that we’re talking about.
-Okay, all up on this hillside here?
-Yeah, it’s everywhere.
A lot of these hillsides,
not just this one.
It’s not unique to just here,
it’s all over this county
and it’s all in the last 20 years,
it seems like to me.
[Peter] So this guy
is making money off this.
Nick, what is your job?
-I do house cleaning for Airbnbs
and basically people that have money.
-So then your income
is off of this too then?
-My income is 100% off of
people like this and it’s unfortunate.
But I’ll tell you the truth,
I mean you look at it on one end,
I’m making money from them,
and I make decent money.
But at the same time, I would rather…
In my personal opinion, I would rather us
not have all this extra influx of tourism.
Not have this huge jack up in prices
of land, and rent, and owning things.
I’d rather get paid $10 an hour
and live in an affordable place
than get paid $30 an hour
and live in an expensive place basically.
What are your thoughts on that?
-Let’s move so this one can…
And they don’t wave.
See, the locals…
That’s a thing I’ve noticed.
In deep Appalachia, on the roads,
everyone waves to one another.
-Here’s the thing.
Um, that’s hospitality.
That’s… you’re friendly.
You wave.
I think… and you can thank
the movie Deliverance for this.
I think people move up here
and they think that there’s gonna be
someone playing the banjo on the porch.
[Peter giggling]
I would like that actually.
I do play the banjo incidentally.
-Do you?
-I do.
I haven’t in a while.
-On a porch? Will you do it on a porch?
-I will not.
-And I won’t wear overalls.
[Nick] I wear overalls all the time.
-See that comes back to that stereotyping.
That’s the reason why I quit…
-[Ivy] That’s why I quit playing banjo.
-[Peter] Aw!
-Because that was another thing
I was made fun of over.
In Southern West Virginia
or Eastern Kentucky,
I mean they would be
accepting all of that 100%.
-Now they would be here.
But when I was growing up
it was social su*cide.
-There has been a shift in attitudes
of people actually wanting to preserve
and maybe go back to the old traditions
but at the same time
they’re getting withered away
and like she was referring to,
25 years ago when we were in school
that was kind of social su*cide
doing things like that.
You know, now you do see
a resurgence of kids
trying to get into some of the old culture
but it may be a little too late,
we don’t know.
[Peter] Do you feel like
there’s a big class divide going on?
-[Ivy] I think so, I really do.
-[Nick] There’s a wealth gap.
-There’s a wealth gap,
there’s a cultural gap.
People are afraid of what they don’t know
and that goes for both sides.
That goes to the people
that’s moving in here
and that goes to the locals.
-[Peter] Good point.
-[Ivy] So…
I’ve tried to be a lot better,
a lot more understanding
about the people that move here,
and not automatically judge them
as somebody who’s here to cause harm
or to ruin the atmosphere,
to ruin the geography.
I try to look at it that way
and be open-minded.
[Nick] There’s probably gonna be people–
[Ivy] I haven’t ever been up here.
-[Peter] I’m your new tour guide.
-[Nick] Six months ago, this was not this.
This was someone’s land six months ago.
[Ivy] Amazing place to stargaze
and now it’s gonna be private property
and we won’t be allowed up here.
[Peter] I’m just gonna say
in a very selfish way…
-How frickin’ sweet would that be to have
a home up here with those views, right?
-It would, and I 100% get it, I do.
I understand, unfortunately
I don’t have the money to do that.
-But you would if you could?
-I wouldn’t gate it.
-You wouldn’t gate it
but you’d have a house that big?
-No, absolutely not. No.
-No, I would want a little cabin.
Probably no water, no electricity,
just a cabin to be out in the woods.
[Nick] That’s part of
the conundrum that we’re in is
we do want to make money,
we do want to have
nice things like these other people,
but at the same time,
at what cost is it coming?
Because now we’re losing access to land.
We have a lot of land that’s government
property, national parks and such.
-[Ivy] Conservancy.
-[Nick] Conservancy.
-The crazy thing is,
if that wasn’t government land
it would be
some wealthy person’s back yard.
The reason why I say that
is because I’ve seen it.
Look at this view right here.
You know, this is…
They want all these views and I get it,
I would like a view like this too
but you know,
it’s almost like we’re losing…
The regular people
are losing a slice of this.
So unless the land is protected,
you can pretty much
kiss it goodbye these days?
-That’s the way it’s going.
-And even sometimes
if it’s in a conservancy,
you have to get permission
to access that property.
Even when I was growing up
you could go up in the woods, camp.
That’s gone too.
-You can’t do that?
-A lot of it’s in conservancy or somebody
owns it, and it’s private property.
[Nick] These people don’t like–
-You can go to a campground
and pay $35 a night for primitive camping.
-[Nick] Geez.
-[Peter] You like doing that?
I’m not paying someone
to sleep in the woods.
Actually I feel
kind of dirty even being here.
-I feel like I’m trespassing.
-[Nick] We probably are.
-[Ivy] I feel like I’m not welcome here.
[Peter] I think we’re fine here.
-I mean I would say so it makes me…
I don’t know, it gives me kind of
an icky feeling like I don’t belong here.
So it’s the class divide thing?
-Where you’re like–
-This isn’t for me.
-It’s not for you?
[Peter] This is an old-timer right on
the edge of the Eagle’s Nest, right?
[Nick] Oh, yeah.
I assume that these people,
their family probably used to own
all this property around here.
-And that may have been
somebody that’s bought that house
and they just wanted to keep it,
may still not be a local.
-Could be.
Sometimes if the houses
are decent enough they’ll keep ’em,
a lot of times they’ll keep
the old relics, they’ll keep the old barn,
they’ll keep
the old farm equipment for decorations.
[Ivy] There are some people
that move here, they buy an older house
and they fix it up.
They want to preserve that culture.
They want to preserve the architecture.
They do.
They want to preserve this area.
[Nick] My buddy Jake lives over here,
this is his family’s homestead.
You got his brother
who lives not to far from here,
his uncle used to live over there.
He lives here.
There was a house right here
for another family member.
His father lives down the hill
and his grandparents used to live
on this side of the hill.
This is my best friend.
-This is your best friend?
-So Jake, the story is
your family lives out here?
-Okay, and Eagle’s Nest is right there.
-Yeah, we can’t really see from here,
but their property
actually butts up against ours.
-How do you guys feel about that?
-Not to good about it.
-[Peter chuckles]
-They started in Banner Elk…
Or right outside of Banner Elk
and they’ve come all the way
up the mountain to where we’re at.
And they’ve just been
buying everything up across the hill.
And putting in roads and stuff, setting up
their development and everything,
and bought a lot of local families out.
-Why did the families sell,
’cause the money was that good?
-I guess so.
I mean I think they were
just giving them like $20,000 an acre.
-Which I think is the going rate, yeah.
-The family next to us, the Cooks,
they had a legal battle within the family
to fight over ownership of the property.
I don’t really know the specifics
but one of the sons I guess,
or one of the family members,
they had posted notes on the property
where they was going to court
and I guess it’s settled,
and one of ’em won,
and they sold the whole hill over there.
And they’ve put in roads,
and cut it up into lots,
and you know, cleared it all off.
-You grew up here?
[Nick] How long has
your family lived up here?
-My grandparents were up here,
they lived down right next to Tennessee
and then bought this up here
and moved into the little house
that’s in the curve.
-But we have older family
that’s been here a lot longer.
I don’t know the name specifically
but there’s an old graveyard
down in the woods that
they were, you know,
late 1800s, early 1900s,
they were up here.
-Okay, so deep-rooted
Appalachia families here?
-What happened to the house?
-We had an electrical fire
back in February.
It caught fire under the house.
One of the breakers
was supposed to trip to shut it off
but I guess it malfunctioned.
We tried carrying
buckets of water to put it out
but it really didn’t do any good
because it caught up so much.
-Aw, I’m sorry.
-That’s what the fire marshal said,
he thought it was an electrical fire.
-Not Eagle’s Nest.
-Not Eagle’s Nest, no.
-Trying to go for your property.
-[all chuckling]
-Jake, so has Eagle’s Nest
made an offer to you?
Like do they want to buy your land?
-I think they spoke to my dad.
-But I believe he gave them
a pretty high price.
He really didn’t want to sell it
unless it was worth it.
-But he would sell it if he got the price?
-I don’t know.
-I mean we’ve lived here
a really long time,
and we all like it up here, and it’s…
When your family’s been in a place so long
it really feels like it’s part of you.
I don’t know if he just… If they were
gonna buy him out it had to be
more than worth it or whatever,
but I don’t really think he wanted to go.
-How many acres do you guys own up here?
-I think it’s like four to six.
-It’s not huge.
-But it’s right on this knoll, I mean…
-Yeah, yeah.
-It’s really beautiful up here.
-We’ve got this hill here,
and then we’ve got the hill over there.
-The views are better over there.
-Oh, really?
[Nick] Yeah, there’s
an amazing view right here.
-But you don’t cut the trees down?
When they come in
and they cut all the trees down
or they leave up some trees,
and they cut all the underbrush,
and they put in the roads,
they push all the wildlife
that has no more shrubs, nothing
to live off of onto other properties.
So now the amount of deer
that we have here
are probably doubled where it used to be.
So we have to do our fences
about two foot higher
and they have to be
electric now to keep them out.
-Keep them out of your whole property?
-The garden, you can’t see it from here.
-Oh, you have a garden down there.
-The thing’s up but they’re getting in it
and everybody’s had
a problem with it so much.
-Not just that, raccoons and stuff too.
-[Ivy] All wildlife.
-You grow your own vegetables?
-We have a garden every year.
We used to have three little fields
and we would rotate them.
They taught that to our grandparents
during one of the older administrations.
Two years up, one year down.
[Ivy] Regenerative gardening.
-Yeah, rest the crops.
So they had one down in the valley,
and then two on the hills,
and they would rotate them out.
-So what’s your take?
Is it similar to Ivy?
Growing up it used to be
much more of, say, the local’s place
and now it’s like…
-Yeah, it was like a community, you know?
If a family was in trouble
your neighbors would come by.
Bring you food,
see how you were doing and check in.
-Mostly everybody knew everybody.
-People would build homes, you left space,
it was just what you needed.
But when a development
comes in they cut it down
and put up houses
on every lot they can fit them in.
We used to go up to Eagle’s Nest,
and we’d go out to the field there,
and we’d lay out
to watch the stars at night,
and it was really special
for me and my wife.
It was one of the first things
we started doing together,
and they’ve put houses up all through it.
They cut all the trees down,
the lights going all night long,
so you can’t do that anymore.
-[Nick] Drowns out the stars.
-Yeah, it just…
-[Peter] You think you’ll stay here?
-[Jake sighs]
I mean we love the area.
We are trying to stay here
as much as we can.
-You’re trying, which even though
you own the land and the home…
-You feel pressure to…
-What’s the pressure?
-I mean for one thing
the land tax has pretty much doubled.
-Land tax has doubled, when?
-[Nick] Last year.
-[Jake] It just hit this year, so 2023.
-The taxes were.
-[Nick] They doubled our percentage.
-And that’s not just us,
I think it hit the surrounding areas too.
‘Cause a lot of people were
moving into the area during the COVID.
Getting out of the cities,
coming to where it’s less populated.
Um, I guess just to
get away from everything.
Get the mountain views
and the nature and all that, yeah.
[Nick] If I remember correctly,
when COVID first started
they were encouraging people
to get away from the cities
because that’s where all the people were.
It was like telling everybody,
“Get away and go to the mountains.”
-It seemed like.
-Proximity and stuff.
[Ivy] There were a lot of
TikToks that was like
these are the best small towns to move.
[Peter] So TikTok did that?
-I mean TikTok, social media in general.
-Okay, like this video?
[Jake chuckles]
-Well the difference,
those videos are like, “Move here.”
“This is everything you can do here.”
“If you want to be in
a quiet, serene area, move here.”
As opposed to this is an area, this is
what’s currently happening in the area.
-The thing I’m worried about,
I think a lot of people are worried about
is you have developments like the ones
in Banner Elk, there’s Sugar Top.
-Banner Elk, the next town over?
They put a condo
right on top of the mountain.
You can see it from every mountain around.
-I saw that,
like straight out of Bulgaria.
-They created what’s called the Ridge Law
to stop that from happening again.
[Ivy] It’s in North Carolina
real estate text books now.
-They just put it right on top
and you can’t–
[Ivy] That’s what you see
when you come into Avery County.
-Before ski slopes,
before the Christmas tree industry,
you’ll see Sugar Top.
-Okay so one of the benefits,
of all this new development here
if there is one for you guys.
They all pay property tax
so that goes into your county.
-So how does that benefit you guys?
Do you have better schools now
or what are you getting out of that?
-I haven’t seen
any improvement to the schools.
The last renovation they did
to Avery County High School has been–
-[Nick] They did do one recently.
-[Ivy] A couple years ago.
-They expanded the size of it–
-[Ivy] They build on.
-[Jake] During COVID I guess.
[Nick] It started before that.
[Ivy] It started before
and I think they were able to finish it
during COVID since students weren’t there.
[Peter] So if they’re charging you
double property tax,
what are they doing with this money?
[Nick] Good question.
-I wouldn’t really know
where it’s going to be honest with you.
I haven’t seen any
huge infrastructure changes.
-[Nick] Roads still have potholes.
-[Jake] Right, right.
They haven’t tried to use the hospital
in Banner Elk or anything to fix it up,
the old one there.
[Nick] The old abandoned hospital.
-No updates to the Sheriff’s organization,
public pools, or local outreach stuff.
-[Ivy] We did get a new pool.
-[Jake] Okay.
-There’s a new pool in Avery County.
A new one which is the county seat.
A very nice pool.
[Nick] Kids like it.
-It’s very nice, you can use it,
what, three months out of the year?
[Nick] Yeah, pretty much.
-So there’s been a little bit
of strife between people over that.
Like let’s use all of this money
for something we can use
for three months out of the year.
I think it’s great
there’s something for local kids to use.
-The local kids do use it,
my kids go there,
their friends at school go there.
So it is used by local population
but we don’t know how much it cost.
It’s pretty nice,
it probably cost a lot and like she said,
it’s only used
three months out of the year.
So, you know, who know?
[Peter] So you feel, I’m sorry
I didn’t keep going on that topic.
You feel… you’re gonna see
how long you can hold on
because even though you own
your property, your home, your land,
the taxes have increased.
-Is there any other pressures you feel
in regards to holding on?
Or is that it,
is there a cultural element?
-It does seem like it’s changing.
Like I said, people used to
come by when you had a tragedy.
They’d bring you food, check in on you.
Yeah, they’d see
how you’re doing and everything.
We had the fire this time and–
[Nick] This is the second time
he’s had a house fire.
-Unfortunately it happened in high school.
-Yeah, but that time they came in,
local people, community members.
People who’ve been here and checked in,
bring food, check if you need clothes,
stuff like that.
And this time
we didn’t really have a lot of that.
There were some families
who reached out, you know?
While we were doing our fundraiser,
we’re still doing it.
Nobody really came by or anything.
It’s just been maybe
four or five families locally.
Other than that, you just don’t have
that same… element I guess.
Where mostly everybody knows everybody.
Everybody stops
to talk to you, waves at you
when you’re going down the road
or walking, whatever.
-If you’d have one request
for the people moving here
would an easy starter be to wave back?
-That would be an easy start, yeah.
-That would do well with you guys, right?
-Yeah, become a local.
Get involved
in the community center and stuff.
They put in clothes,
they have a dinner and stuff like that.
If they are coming
and they want to be part of the community
they can really just jump right in.
And just see what you can do.
-So even if someone’s from out of town,
maybe they feel scared of you guys, right?
-There’s probably
stereotypes and stuff about us also.
-You’d want them
to be involved in the community?
If you’re gonna do it, go all the way.
I mean you’re moving
for the small town feel
and the community,
and everything, and the nature.
So really enjoy it, appreciate it,
and then you know, try to protect it
for somebody
who’s coming after you, you know?
We don’t want people not to move here.
I don’t want to say that at all
but if they’re coming in,
respect the views, the environment,
and the people,
and try to really become a member.
♪ somber country ♪
[Ivy] Being from Appalachia,
you’re punk and you’re goth.
Like Appalachian tradition,
we side up with the dead.
Like our dead was in the middle
of the living room on a cooling table.
-Your what?
-Our dead.
Our deceased loved ones.
You had a cooling table
that was a wooden table,
dry ice under them to preserve them,
and you received visitors
in your living room.
That was a wake.
We are very immersed in
keeping the tradition of decoration.
Going to cemeteries,
putting flowers on people’s graves.
-Right, I’ve noticed that, yeah.
It’s just a lot of goth ideas
I feel like are in Appalachia.
-What about the punk side?
-The punk side of it…
Traditionally anti-government.
You had your moonshiners.
[Nick chuckles]
You had people that would
shoot at government vehicles
if they pulled into the yard.
-[Nick] It’s always like that.
-[Ivy] Yep.
Live in your own way.
Having your own ideas.
It’s a very punk ideology.
[Peter] It still carries that?
-It’s quickly… it’s quickly going away.
It really is.
-People like to be told
what to do more these days?
-They follow authority a little easier.
-Younger generations or everybody?
And I think it’s
the influx of social media.
You see something on Facebook
and it’s a popularity contest.
If you don’t share this
or you don’t share this ideology…
-You know?
-You’re not “popular”.
-I think Appalachia’s gonna go full circle
and be very cool, like in vogue.
That’s my take because I think
those values are within a lot of us
and I think it will circle back to that.
-Like it will come around to that.
Because look, I put my first video
of Appalachia: Inside Appalachia.
It’s done really well.
People are interested.
People are super interested.
-It’s an under-represented
community for one part
and it’s also a community that’s been
over-represented in a bad way.
[Ivy] Stereotyped.
-Through media and stuff, stereotypes.
[Ivy] I mean we’re not…
again, it’s like… [sighs]
Beverly Hillbillies, that’s one of
my least favorite representations.
I’ve never eaten possum.
I know people like my grandma did
but it’s a very embellished idea.
[Peter] There you go, the cemetery
with all the flowers on the graves.
[Ivy] Yeah, that decoration
was probably here recently.
I’m not sure why FedEx is…
Oh, there’s a house.
-Okay, here’s a taboo topic,
hot button topic.
Lot of people think
Southerners are all racists.
Obviously not all
but a lot of people have that…
That idea about the South, Appalachia.
-I’m gonna let you guys
roll with that one.
Nick, what are your thoughts?
-Well, from someone
who has lived in New York City,
you know, I lived in Florida,
I’ve lived here.
I don’t think that that’s a…
I think it’s a very
inaccurate representation honestly.
I don’t know where it came to be.
Obviously it’s some leftover relics
from the Civil War time
and the way of
the Southern thinking back then
but as far as I can tell, people…
People in the hoods and people
in the hollers all act the same way,
they want the same things, and they really
just care about who you are as a person,
and not necessarily what you are.
-That’s interesting you say that,
people in the hoods and the hollers.
-That makes sense actually.
They’re very similar,
a lot more similar than people think.
People think they’re complete opposites
but they’re really the same thing.
with different clothing on.
[Ivy] And they cherish their community.
I think that there’s
good and bad everywhere.
I can see where people would assume that.
Again, Confederate flags
sometimes have the connotations
of being attached to racism.
Most of the people around here,
that’s not their purpose.
They legitimately and honestly
feel like it’s their heritage.
A lot of people in this area,
their ancestors fought in the Civil War
to keep their land.
Um, this was a very poor area.
There was a handful of people that
probably did have slaves in this area.
As a matter of fact, I know there was.
Overall in this area, no.
People legitimately think
that it’s heritage.
That’s how they believe.
-The Confederate flag?
-Yes, the Confederate flag.
They don’t want it
to be perceived negative.
On the other hand, the last several years
with the pushback of
we need to remove the Civil War statues.
We need to remove anything
of the Civil War of the Confederacy,
people have seen that
as infringing on them.
So they’re fighting back
by putting this stuff up.
Because it comes back to that thought of
I don’t want you to tell me what to do.
Both sides push so hard for their agenda
instead of trying
to come together in the middle
and talk about their thoughts
in a civil manner.
-So in a way,
the political discourse in the country
could be looked at
as the socioeconomic discourse here.
-Where you have the two extremes?
-And you guys are not coming at it
like everyone’s gotta go.
-You just want to bring awareness to it.
There is no easy solution.
-What I would love to see in this area,
I love the thought
of people coming in here,
starting new businesses
that everyone can use.
I would love to see clothing stores,
affordable clothing stores,
more restaurants,
places for local people to go.
[Nick] Yeah, a lot of the restaurants are…
There’s some very fine dining around here
that local people basically can’t afford.
Don’t get me wrong,
there’s local restaurants
that regular people go to but there’s
also very expensive restaurants too.
It’s like there’s nothing in between.
[Ivy] The other problem
is affordable housing.
I would just love somebody
to be able to build
some affordable housing for local people.
There’s no rentals in the area.
Land is very expensive,
it’s very hard for people to buy.
Local people to buy and build.
It’s very sad and I worry if things
keep going the way that they’re going,
people who are, you know…
Children who are in
middle school and high school,
when they get older, what’s
their motivation to stay in this area?
And are they gonna be able to?
[Peter] Nick you were saying you bought
your home for what in what year?
-The end of 2020,
we didn’t close on it until February ’21,
and we paid 150 for that,
it’s a four bedroom house.
About 2,000 square feet,
and that was what the market was
around here forever.
It’s always been like that.
You’d have a house on the market
for 150 that was very comparable to that
it would sit for six, seven,
eight months, sometimes even longer,
and now all of a sudden,
these same houses…
My house personally has already gained
over $100,000 worth of value
and I didn’t even do anything to it.
-In just two years?
-In just two years, yeah.
And that’s what the Zillow value is.
The actual real value
is probably $200,000 more.
[Ivy] That used to be the hospital,
that was the Grace Hospital.
-This building right here?
-This is now,
I believe it’s dorms for Lees–McRae.
-[Nick] Christian College.
-[Peter] Okay.
[Ivy] So you remember were
I showed you the road where I grew up?
-That was not even
five minutes down the road.
-Look at the vast difference–
-Oh, jeez! [honks]
-Also, a lot of people that move here do
tend to pull out in front of people a lot.
-Well they’re from Florida probably.
-[all chuckling]
Florida, home of
the second worst driving on the planet.
Number one is Riyadh, Saudi Arabia,
number two is Miami.
-I am a Dolphins fan, so…
So this is where
I went to elementary school.
-Oh, right here?
-This was Banner Elk Elementary School.
It is now…
I think it’s little shops and stuff.
-So this is a tourist town now?
-Back when kids used to still go outside,
this was the skateboard shop.
It was always popping here,
all the cool kids…
-Back when kids used to go outside?
They don’t go outside here?
-We were in high school,
they had a half pipe, didn’t they?
-Yeah, they had a half pipe
and there was kids always on it.
-I’ve noticed that in Appalachia.
All these towns, I don’t see any kids.
I was a bit naive, I thought it would be
sort of stuck back in time a little.
’90s style, BMX bikes,
everyone hanging out.
-Social media killed that.
-You’re not seeing much of it, huh?
-Nah, social media has really
infiltrated all parts of society.
Over here in the hollers is no exception.
-So coming up on our left
is the old Cannon Memorial Hospital.
It was featured I think
on Ghost Adventures or something.
I don’t believe it’s haunted at all.
[Nick] People say it is.
-If it was it was people in there
trying to strip copper and stuff.
It’s sat empty since about 1999.
[Ivy] We needed it, we needed those jobs.
-[Peter] The Lowe’s Hardware?
-[Ivy] Yes.
-What was the problem?
-A lot of the people that were not local…
A lot of the people that lived in resorts
did not want a chain store in the area.
-They felt that it
brought down the quaintness.
[Nick] Devalued the property,
that’s what they really think.
-But you guys wanted it?
-We needed it, we needed the industry.
[Peter] Oh, there’s that
massive development up there, huh?
[Ivy] Yep.
[Nick] Sugar Top right here,
we can’t go in
’cause you got to go through security.
The law to stop this from happening again
was called the Ridge Law.
Now you can’t basically build
or ruin the tops of ridges anymore.
-When did that happen?
-I guess after this was built.
-[Ivy] In the ’70s.
-[Peter] ’70s, okay.
-Those are all condos by the way,
about the size of a New York City condo.
Like a one bedroom, two bedroom.
A one bedroom, pre-COVID was $60,000.
Now that one bedroom is probably $200,000.
A two bedroom is for sure
at least $250,000 in there now
and it probably was $90,000.
These cheap prices I’m telling you,
the 60 and the 90,
that’s how much those were…
They’ve been that price for over a decade
and then now all of a sudden
since COVID with the rush of people
coming here, the demands went up.
[Peter] So I think when
a lot of people think of Appalachia,
from the outside,
not from this part of the country,
they’re not thinking of all this wealth.
-They’re thinking of West Virginia,
the southern part.
-You know?
-But there’s a ton
of money here obviously.
-These condos, these are all probably
a few years ago were in the $200,000s,
now they’re probably $400,000 or $500,000.
A lot of them bought these properties…
Not these specifically
but other properties around here
strictly for either flipping
or turning into Airbnbs.
-We’re at elevation 5,100 feet right here.
-Oh, wow.
-We get up to I think 55 maybe.
-So Airbnbing is big up here?
-Airbnb is taking over
and ruining our rental supply big time.
Not only ruining the rental supply,
it’s making the price go up
because when someone from
let’s say, New York moves here,
$1,200 is not a lot of money
for them to rent a place for a month
but for someone who’s only making
$10 an hour around here,
it’s impossible to afford and that’s
one of the situations we’re in right now.
[Nick speaking indistinctly]
…or touch me nots.
They have little banana-looking, um…
If you want to call it
a fruit or a flower, you pinch them,
they explode and shoot seeds everywhere.
-[Ivy] I will not be joining up there.
-[Peter] Okay.
[Ivy laughing]
[Peter] Yeah, look at
the biodiversity here.
What are these?
[Nick] That’s rhododendron.
[Peter] Rhododendron.
[Nick] Rhododendron
with the white flowers.
[Peter] This is so mixed up in here.
-[Nick] These grow naturally around here.
-[Peter] Blueberries?
-They call ’em mountain blueberries
but they’re technically a huckleberry.
-Okay, what a spectacular view.
Look at that.
-There’s Banner Elk right there.
-I see why people want to live here.
-Yeah, for sure.
-It’s pretty obvious.
-There’s an abundance of beauty,
that’s for sure.
That’s the thing,
I can’t hate people for living here,
but at the same time, like I said,
I like things the way they were.
And things used to always be
the same way here for the longest time
and now all of a sudden
we have this rapid change.
I think that’s what makes people
uncomfortable, people like me.
-Okay, so it’s the rapid change
that bothers you?
-Change in general, but yeah,
the pace of it is what’s really
kind of getting
under people’s skins I think.
When they come
and clear out some of this land,
people used to live off of things in here.
They used to live off of
digging ginseng, or stripping cherry bark,
and things like that.
And when you have people that come in
and buy these large pieces of land
and develop it, all that stuff is gone.
It ruins it for the people that may use it
for whatever purposes they use it for
and also scares off the…
gets rid of all the animals.
We actually… I’ve heard stories
of years ago when they first made the…
The Blue Ridge Parkway when
they were doing the Linn Cove Viaduct.
People in that area started seeing
a huge influx of rattlesnakes
because when they were
doing the construction,
blowing stuff up with dynamite,
all the rattlesnakes moved
a couple miles over.
So those people had
rattlesnakes all over the place.
There’s even a place
called Rattlesnake Mountain,
there’s Rattlesnake Den… Mountain.
Like all kinds of references
to places like that.
[Nick] This is the Linn Cove Viaduct.
This is one of our
little jewels around here.
One of the things people are proud of.
It was built to keep the mountain in mind
as far as they didn’t dynamite
and destroy things.
-They actually built around the mountain.
-We’re on the Blue Ridge Parkway, right?
[Ivy] They built with nature
instead of through nature.
[Nick] There you go.
[Peter] Okay, so when was this done,
back in the ’30s maybe?
[Nick] With Roosevelt
in the New Deal time.
Probably late ’30s, early ’40s.
-In that sense, there was more respect
for the development here?
[Nick] Oh yeah, of course.
It seems like a lot of times
when they did develop things
they always they always tried to have
respect for the natural environment
and I think that’s kind of
going away nowadays.
-[Peter] So this is all locals up here?
-[Ivy] Yes, this is all locals.
My great-great grandmother
is buried in this cemetery.
Granny Dill was her name.
-Okay, what was the witch granny?
-Oh, granny witch.
So, um…
In Appalachia, you know,
healthcare was nonexistent.
-You went to–
-How long ago?
Like a hundred years ago?
-I would wager to say
even more recently than that.
-A hundred years ago
there was zero healthcare.
-There was nothing.
Even in the ’50s and ’60s
there were places in Avery County that
no electricity,
no water.
Very, very primitive.
So people didn’t have doctors.
Generally there was
what was called granny witches.
This was somebody who would go around
to different houses, deliver babies,
help with illnesses.
-Why was she called a witch?
-It was just a term.
-Gathering herbs
and flowers off of the land
to make different medicines.
-[Peter] So this like the local–
-[Ivy] This is local.
[Peter] The outsiders and locals
live in completely different places?
[Ivy] There’s some people that have
moved here that live around the area
but more or less, this is local.
Again, more Christmas tree farms,
a lot of people work in Christmas trees.
-And your trees go
all over the country, right?
-We’ve had two at the White House.
-There’s been several in the White House.
-Hey, a punch buggy.
-Oh this is nice though,
it’s beautiful out here.
[Ivy] It’s very beautiful here.
Very peaceful.
-Okay, so super complicated top…
Ugh, Super complicated top…
[all giggling]
Super complicated topic,
it’s happening all over the country,
and what were you gonna say?
You had some final thought there.
-We want you to come here.
We want you to be part of this.
Um, learn about Appalachia, respect it,
learn about the culture, the traditions,
and protect what we have here.
Take care of the land.
Um, it’s a beautiful place,
and we want to keep it that way,
and we want to enjoy it,
and we want to share it with people too.
Um, so be kind,
be respectful, and just get along.
-Yeah, okay. Very cool.
I’ve loved it.
Guys, this started
in West Virginia three weeks ago.
Kentucky, now North Carolina.
Appalachia, I’d say this is
sort of the heart of it culturally.
From those locations.
And it’s been fascinating,
it’s been beautiful,
it’s very raw, it’s very real, authentic.
People love you
or they hate you, one of the two.
There’s a sadness, there’s a beauty.
It’s an amazing part
of the country and world.
So it’s been an honor
to meet people like you guys.
-You as well.
-Bring me in, get a better understanding.
Part of the country
I really knew nothing about.
-Thank you for being kind.
-Welcome to Appalachia.
-Thank you.
Got a whole other series, guys.
Roughly eight videos now.
Somewhere in this video
there’s a playlist.
Check ’em out.
From coal miners, to drug stories,
to success stories, we got it all here.
So thanks for coming along.
-Thanks, you guys.
-Thank you.
-Until the next one.
♪ somber country ♪

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