Category Archives: News

Upstate Forever honors Chastain for conservation advocacy

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter


Pickens resident Dennis Chastain was recently recognized by Upstate Forever for his decades of dedication to preserving the history and beauty of this area.

Chastain received the Extraordinary Achievement Award at the 2019 ForeverGreen Awards Luncheon held Feb. 19 in Greenville.

The Extraordinary Achievement Award recognizes an individual who, through dedication and leadership, has made an extraordinary contribution to conservation and/or sustainable growth in the Upstate, according to a news release from Upstate Forever.

The award recognizes Chastain for this more than 40 years of work as a writer, historian, botanist, guide and conservation advocate, the release said.

Chastain is an award-winning outdoor writer, historian, tour guide and interpretive naturalist.

“I’ve written about everything from black bears to butterflies,” he said in a video shown at the awards ceremony. “You’d think there were no more topics, but actually there’s always something to write about.”

Chastain is currently the Blue Wall vice president of the Pickens County Historical Society. Among his work for that group is helping to secure funding for a historically accurate reconstruction of the colonial era Fort Prince George.

“I think the best way to describe Dennis is ‘Renaissance Man,” Upstate Forever founder Brad Wyche said in the video. “Dennis has been such a great ally for Upstate Forever and other conservation organizations on so many important initiatives in the Upstate over the last 40 years. He is such a treasure for the Upstate.

Chastain has “helped us learn more about the region in which we live,” he said.

“He’s helped make the Upstate a much better place,” Wyche said.

Chastain’s roots in the area run deep. His ancestors arrived in the region in 1796.

He and his wife, Jane, live on the Chastain family’s homeplace in the shadow of Table Rock.

In the video, Chastain said he spent a lot of his summers growing up at the old homeplace.

“Somewhere along the way, I just developed this enduring love for all things wild and wonderful,” Chastain said.

Speaking with the Courier, Chastain said the award “came out of the blue.”

“It’s honestly just incredible,” he said. “It was an absolute, complete surprise.”

He’s the sixth person to receive the award.

“I have the greatest respect for Upstate Forever as an organization,” Chastain said. “Jane and I have been members since the organization consisted of three people. We’ve been associated with Upstate Forever for a long time. It made the honor even greater.”

Filling out a questionnaire in preparation for the award ceremony sent him on “a journey back through time,” he said.

“One of the questions was ‘what was your greatest environmental or conservational success?’” Chastain said.

One was a battle in the 1980s to keep the waters near Table Rock pristine after a developer proposed a sewage treatment plant.

“They were proposing to discharge the effluent into the Oolenoy River at the very point where the wildlife department stocks trout,” Chastain said.

A concerned group appointed him to “take on the task of fighting this thing,” he said.

“It really was a David vs. Goliath story,” Chastain said. “Just me and my powers of persuasion and the documents.”

Chastain studied the permitting system and “found a way to beat them,” he said.

“You’ll notice there’s no sewage treatment plant on the Oolenoy River,” Chastain said with a laugh.

“Rivers at Risk,” one of his articles for South Carolina Wildlife magazine, led to statewide changes. His research revealed that two-thirds of the state’s lakes, rivers and streams were classified by DHEC as Class B, a classification that permitted fecal coliform bacteria at levels considered “unsafe for swimming and fishing,” he said. That was a direct violation of the Clean Water Act’s “fishable/swimmable” standard, Chastain said.

“The agency charged with protecting our health was allowing discharges to the point where it wasn’t safe to swim or fish,” he said. “This was outrageous.”

The article created “a drumbeat of support” from residents, and six weeks after its publication, Chastain received a call from Mike Jarrett, then the executive director of DHEC.

“He said that he had read my article and made the decision while actually reading the article that they were going to totally eliminate the Class B classification and revamp their entire stream classification system,” he said. “Amazing. It was honestly one of the most gratifying moments of my life.”

Chastain says he’s used a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt as his guiding philosophy in life.

“‘Do what you can, with what you have, where you are,’” he said. “That says it all.”


SWU shows gratitude to government officials

CENTRAL — Southern Wesleyan University honored those in public service at local, state and national levels Feb. 25 with its Government and Legislative Appreciation luncheon.

During the annual luncheon, elected and appointed officials received updates about Southern Wesleyan and its academic programs and heard about how their support of state tuition grants helps the dream of a college education become a reality for in-state students who choose to study at a private institution.

Southern Wesleyan University president Dr. Todd Voss thanked those in public service for making a positive impact in the lives of students. He presented updates on inventive learning opportunities and improvements being made to the Central campus. He also spoke about the university’s commitment to holding its tuition at the same level for the coming academic year.

Ted Gentry of Wyche Law Firm shared noted Christian author C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on democracy and praised Southern Wesleyan for

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Luzinov awarded Kentwool Distinguished Professorship

By Paul Alongi
Clemson University

CLEMSON — Igor Luzinov of Clemson University Monday became the first recipient of the Kentwool Distinguished Professorship in Natural Fibers, an honor named for a 176-year-old textile company that remains committed to innovation and excellence in natural fibers, specifically wool.

A $250,000 gift from Kentwool in 2009 enabled Clemson to receive a matching gift from the lottery-funded SmartState program creating the endowment that made the professorship possible. Kentwool is headquartered in downtown Greenville and has a 135,000-square-foot yarn production plant in Pickens County.

Kim Kent, the CEO of Kentwool, said the idea for the professorship started with her late husband, Mark, who died in 2017 at 55 years old. He was

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‘A New History’

By Ron Barnett

Staff Reporter

PICKENS — For the past 16 years, the imposing red brick building at 208 Garvin St. in downtown Pickens has stood empty, a desolate reminder of a painful episode that still bears scars — the collapse of Carolina Investors.

It was here that some 12,000 people lost an estimated $278 million when the once-trusted Pickens-based financial institution went under amid a cloud of scandal and broken promises.

Visions of angry investors mobbing outside the building in March

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Easley mayor won’t seek re-election

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

EASLEY — Mayor Larry Bagwell’s third term as Easley’s mayor will be his last.

Bagwell announced toward the end of his State of the City address Thursday afternoon at South & West that he will not seek re-election.

“As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end,” he said. “I will not seek re-election in November. People have been asking if I was running, and I felt this was the proper time and venue to make my announcement.”

Bagwell was first elected to Easley City Council in 1979.

“I’ve been blessed to be a part of this community,” Bagwell said. “I’ve served on city council for 28 years and completed my 12th year as mayor. Easley has grown and changed over that time, and I have been proud to represent my community.

“Thank you for all the support you have provided to me and the city during this time,” he continued. “God bless you and God bless all of you. It’s been a great 40 years.”

Easley City Councilman Chris Mann announced his candidacy for mayor a short time later.

The past year was a positive one for the city of Easley, Bagwell said.

“Through good stewardship of the money, the city was able to have a fund balance of over half a million dollars,” he said. “We did put

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Pickens Bi-lo to close in March


By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

PICKENS — The Pickens Bi-lo is one of four stores in the Upstate set to close.

In addition to the Pickens location, Bi-lo parent company Southeastern Grocers will close stores in Spartanburg, Greenville and Greer, according to Joe Caldwell, senior manager of corporate communications.

The four stores were underperforming, he said in a news release.

“We realize that the closure of an underperforming store in your community can be challenging,” Caldwell. “We do not take these decisions lightly, and only make this tough choice after careful consideration of its impact on our associates and our customers has been made.”

Store employees were the first to know about the stores’ closures and “have

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County council recognizes YAMs

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter

PICKENS — Pickens County Council unanimously passed a resolution recently recognizing the success of the Young Appalachian Musicians program and its parent organization, Preserving Our Southern Appalachian Music as “cultural ambassadors for our community.”

Attendees at the February council meeting had a chance to see some of the talented musicians firsthand, as the Sweet Potato Pie Kids performed before the start of the meeting.

Last month, the program held its 10th annual Winter Bluegrass Jubilee, an all-day bluegrass concert fundraiser.

Council chairman Roy Costner read the resolution aloud after the vote.

“As county council, we recognize Southern Appalachian music as being such an integral part of our heritage and our culture,” Costner said.

According to the resolution, the Young Appalachian Musicians program provides school-age youth “musical instruction and encourages appreciation for the heritage of our traditional Southern Appalachian music.”

Under the leadership of director Betty McDaniel, the YAM program has grown to include more than 300 third- through eighth-grade students enrolled in afterschool programs at 12 schools in Pickens County, the resolution said.

The resolution recognizes the “hard work and continued success” of the students, volunteers and organizers of the YAM program, POSAM and the jubilee.

The program’s growth and continued success “brings honor to our county, as well as recognition of shared cultural musical heritage,” the resolution said.

Knowing that there more than 300 students currently enrolled in the program, Costner said he asked McDaniel how many students have come through the program since its launch.

“She said ‘More than you can shake a stick at,’” he said. “It’s literally been hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of kids that are exposed to this program. It is absolutely phenomenal. We are so thankful to Betty, the board of directors and all those kids who participate.”


Trash Bash at West End

The 18th annual Pickens County Traveling Trash Bash, an environmental education program that reaches every third-grader in the county, is only possible through generous support from county council. Pictured at West End Elementary School, from left, are employees from Pickens County Solid Waste, county administrator Gerald Wilson and county Councilman Chris Bowers.


Growing outreach helps homeless stay warm

By Jason Evans
Staff Reporter


local effort to help the homeless stay warm in the winter is expanding to include more cities.

I Am Not Lost – Upstate S.C. began after Tammy Ferguson met Marline Sexton at a craft fair.

The two women both crocheted and had heard about efforts in Northern cities to provide homeless people with ways to keep warm, by placing homemade scarves in trees for them to pick up.

“We hit it off,” Ferguson said.

Sexton had the idea to try the outreach here in the Upstate, and

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Desserts are classics for a good reason

By Olivia Fowler

For the Courier

 All this week’s featured desserts have a custard element. One of my all-time favorites is the creme brulee. When you get this dessert in a restaurant, the chef uses a small torch to create the burnt sugar crust on top. Our recipe relies on the oven broiler for the same effect.

The English trifle offers opportunities for variation. I use a homemade angel food or pound cake, but any of these options are delicious. Other fruits may also be used. It’s up to the cook.

Probably the simplest of the desserts and a real star at our

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