Like a fulfilled prophecy of Ayn Rand's book Atlas Shrugged, Eustace Conway's Turtle Island Preserve near Boone, North Carolina has been closed by the government. According to the Watauga County code enforcers, the crime is the 1,000 acre Preserve violates building health and sanitary codes.
The guilty man is Eustace Conway who pursues happiness in the same manner his American forefathers have since before pioneer days, living off his land and even teaching others how to respect, connect with and love nature.
Ironically, Watauga County gets its name from the Watauga River, called that by American Indians and meaning whispering waters. The county seat is Boone, named after Daniel Boone, a man with a spirit and ways very much like that of Eustace Conway, including his construction methods.
On September 19, 2012, nearly a dozen local government agents from health, construction and fire, many of whom carried weapons, showed up on Conway's land, presented him with a search warrant, blocked his private road with government vehicles, and searched his property most of the day, taking pictures of his buildings and writing in laptops. This was reportedly instigated by an anonymous tip and a detailed map they received and cost taxpayers $1500.
The "visit" resulted in a 78 page report of his violations and demands from the planning department that he tear down his cabins, barn, outdoor kitchen, blacksmith shop and sawmill, rebuild them according to public housing codes, or get a licensed engineer to certify they meet codes, and create a septic system, before he can hold any more classes or camps on the site. His lifework of 26 years is shut down with the Preserve closed to the public, and now he must spend his time with engineers and attorneys appearing before councils instead of doing the many spring planting chores.
Of interest is that a huge development project called Laurelmor, over the ridge from Turtle Island, had plans to build golf courses and million dollar McMansions. The county manager said it "could add a significant amount to the tax base" and "could have a property value of between $2.5 and $3.5 billion." It went bankrupt in 2008, but a second development group bought it for $32 million. Conway's valuable land is worth a lot more to the tax base if the county could get it developed as well.
After the Wall Street Journal reported the story on March 14, 2013, the Building Code Council of North Carolina announced they are "thinking of amending the codes for primitive camps." However, the rules are made by the state and even the amendment won't reopen the camp. There are still rules like needing a bathroom, fire sprinklers and smoke detectors in the cabin built by campers in summer 2012. Other violation examples are that the lumber used in the buildings is not 'grade-marked' because Conway milled it himself, and his stream bridge only has a handrail on one side.
Turtle Island is not an island and got its name from American Indians calling the earth "turtle island" based on their legend that after the world flood, a giant turtle arose to support life on its back. According to the website, Turtle Island is "an island of wilderness in a sea of development and destruction." It is a non-profit outdoor educational organization where Conway has taught school groups, scouts, and visitors for over 20 years. Money is raised by things like charging $65 for a two-hour carriage tour or $1,400 for teen camping for two weeks, speaking engagements and selling $10 tee shirts (which has been called illegal since there is no restroom in that shop).
Although Eustace's biography was called The Last Great American Man, written in 2002 by Elizabeth Gilbert who became famous after her book and the movie Eat, Pray, Love, and Eustace has appeared on The History Channel's "Mountain Men" TV shows, he is not a wild unschooled mountain man. He has degrees in anthropology and English from Appalachian State University. In 1924, his grandfather started Camp Sequoia where his mother, who later got her masters and became a teacher, grew up in a log house which would not meet today's building codes either.
What you can do to help Eustace:
- watch the attached video of a 2011 open house at Turtle Island Preserve
- read the Turtle Island Preserve website for the Preserve's mission statement and to learn more about the great things it offers to society
- read Eustace's thank you letter to all those who are trying to help, with his feelings about being told he can't eat natural food off his land, drink his spring water, or use his composting toilets
- like Eustace Conway's Facebook page and ask to be a friend so you can stay current with the actions
- listen to the Free Talk Live radio show March 18, 2013 interview with Nate Cox about the situation and then Eustace Conway calls in
- phone the Watauga County Planning & Inspections Department 828.265.8043 and the Appalachian District Health Department 828.264.4995 and tell them how you feel about their actions
- go to Change.org now and sign the petition in support of Turtle Island Preserve. They still need about 1200 signatures as of this writing.
- Share this article on Facebook and forward the story to as many people as possible to get the word out that America is losing more freedoms
- contact Eustace Conway by phone 828.265.2267, mail Turtle Island Preserve, 2683 Little Laurel Rd., Boone, NC 28607, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep in mind the only electric power he has is small solar and hydroelectric units he made so he does not do much computer work himself.
These building code laws are what is also making it impossible for those in the Carolinas who want to build off-grid self-sufficient structures like earthships, cob and strawbale homes but cannot get them code approved. Until more people voice their opinions about this, the government restrictions continue to multiply. The only option left is to get into mortgage debt for the expensive boxes built by licensed builders predominantly with unhealthy and environmentally unfriendly materials.