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Mountain Man vs. the Building Inspector

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by tulianr, Mar 29, 2013.

  1. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    County Shuts Rustic Preserve; Self-Sufficiency Doesn't Meet Code

    BOONE, N.C.—Eustace Conway says he has stared down a grizzly bear, wrestled a thrashing buck and ridden a horse from coast to coast. But he may have met his match in the Watauga County planning department.

    Mr. Conway, 51 years old, is best known as "The Last American Man," the title character of a 2002 biography and National Book Award finalist by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of "Eat, Pray, Love." He has lived in the wilderness since the early 1980s.

    He traps, shoots and grows much of his own food, makes pants out of buckskin and stitches his own wounds. He bathes in the cold creek that rolls through his 1,000-acre Turtle Island preserve in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. And he teaches others how to live off the land.

    Last fall, a team of health, construction and fire officials showed up for an unannounced inspection of the preserve, acting on an anonymous tip. Escorted by two sheriffs' deputies, they executed what Mr. Conway describes as a "SWAT-team raid"—peering into outhouses, stomping around log cabins, and climbing hand-hewn ladders.

    Their findings are compiled in a 78-page report with a bullet-point list of violations. Mr. Conway's sawdust urinal and outhouses? Unpermitted, according to the officials. The wood he used to erect two dozen buildings? Built with lumber that isn't "grade-marked," meaning it doesn't specify the mill where it was produced.

    The open-air kitchen, with its crates of potatoes and stacks of pots? "Not protected from insects and animals," according to the report. "It is, in fact, outdoors."

    The health department has shut down Turtle Island (which isn't an actual island) to outsiders who flock to Mr. Conway for lessons on how to rough it. He says on his website he teaches people how to "break rocks to make stone tools, bend bark to fashion baskets, and spin sticks to create fire," as well as "wash the dust off by standing in the rain, watching the deer come closer, listening to the wren's call."

    Visitors include scouts, school groups and interns who stay for 14 months. Costs range from $65 for a two-hour, horse-drawn carriage tour with Mr. Conway to $1,400 for a two-week camp for teens. Turtle Island operates as a not-for-profit educational organization. Mr. Conway has run programs there for more than 20 years.

    The county says Mr. Conway must rebuild or tear down his cabins, barn, kitchen, blacksmith shop and sawmill, and create a septic system before hosting any more classes and camps.

    "These buildings aren't fit for public use," says Joseph A. Furman, county planning director.

    Mr. Conway says primitive facilities are precisely the point.

    "Modern inspectors know how to measure a board, but not how to build a building," he says as he tours one of the structures deemed fit for condemnation. The lumber's not stamped with a grade because he produced it himself at his own sawmill, from trees felled nearby, he says.

    He likens his construction techniques—such as interlocking corner notches and cantilevered roofs—to those of frontiersman Daniel Boone, namesake of the county seat.

    "Codes don't apply to what we're doing," he says.

    Mr. Conway has attracted supporters, including Don Carrington, vice president of the John Locke Foundation, a libertarian-leaning Raleigh, N.C.-based think tank. "Why can't you do what you want on your own land?" he asks. "Shouldn't you be able to have guests come in, and say here's where you go to the bathroom, here's where you eat, and if you don't want to do that, don't come?"

    State building officials say they would like to help Mr. Conway and are considering changes. Local officials say their hands are tied because the codes are written by the state. They also say even amending building codes wouldn't address fire and health issues at Turtle Island.

    Mr. Furman, the county official, says it is simple. The cabin built and slept in by campers last summer needs a bathroom, fire sprinklers and smoke detectors. "Does anyone sleep there? Then it has to meet the residential code," he says.

    Mr. Conway can't sell his $10 Turtle Island T-shirts, either, unless the common area where they are on display has a restroom. As for the old trucks used on the property, parked by a maintenance shed? "That could be considered an automobile garage, but let's not go there," Mr. Furman says.

    Watauga County Commissioner Perry Yates said the problem isn't Mr. Conway's primitive methods but rather his less primitive ones, like using an oven range in the outdoor kitchen. "If we are going to teach 1776, let's teach it the way it really was," Mr. Yates says.

    "There needs to be give and take on both sides," he says. "We need to respect our ancestors' way of life, but we also need to do it in a sanitary manner."

    Last year, Mr. Conway was featured on the History Channel's "Mountain Men," a reality TV show about what it is like to "shed the complications of modern society." He and two other men, in Montana and Alaska, are depicted facing hungry animals, bad weather and contentious assistants. The second season started filming last month at Turtle Island.

    Mr. Conway questions why the local government is acting now. "Maybe we were oblivious, but we had no reason to think about it," Mr. Furman says. "We're liable for it now that we know."

    Mr. Conway says his property is safe because visitors spend most of their time outdoors. "People say, 'think outside the box,' and I say, 'just think outside,' " he says. "I mean, really, go outside! Think!"

    Retired history teacher David Gould took nearly 2,000 ninth-graders over the years on retreats to Turtle Island from Durham Academy, a prep school. "Most of these kids come from privileged backgrounds and have virtually no knowledge of the out-of-doors," he says. They learn how to trek through the woods in the dark, use a hunting knife and make their own meals. "The girls in particular come back way more self-confident and empowered," he says.

    More than 11,000 people have signed a petition from the change.org website asking the N.C. Building Code Council to exempt primitive structures like those at Turtle Island. Mr. Conway is answering supporters by email. "I write something on a piece of paper, then I tell it to someone and then they email it," he says. The computer in the camp office is solar powered, as the camp doesn't have electricity.

    "I believe our founding fathers would do anything to come back and get in on this one," he said in the email.

    Ah, Wilderness! Mountain Man vs. the Building Inspector - WSJ.com
    kellory and chelloveck like this.
  2. Yard Dart

    Yard Dart Vigilant Monkey..... Moderator Site Supporter++

    Just a great story of a man living his dream, making a living the way that he deem's, enjoying the life as an outdoorsman living in a free country- Getting trampled by a government run amok!!
    I for one pray he prevails and some common sense is found by someone in the gov that can make this go away!!
    KAS and tulianr like this.
  3. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Question #1: WHO OWNS THE PROPERTY?

    Case closed.

    As for the rest, if this guy had any sense, he should have not made this into a "not for profit" business. Now, he's liable in many ways, since the people of America are the enemy to the corporate government who must be licensed and regulated, especially when doing business. The people are not free and sovereign like some may believe.(Trading With The Enemy Act 1917, as amended by FDR in 1933 Proclamations 2038, 2039, 2040 March 6-9, 1933.)
    PlumbNutz likes this.
  4. Gunny Highway

    Gunny Highway Hard Work and Sacrifice blessed by God's Grace Site Supporter

    I think he could just scream 1st Amendment violation right ? As in, this is how I worship my God....they would have to let him be...just sayin...

    Brokor I am pretty sure its his property ( after watching the show Mountain Men on History - he's one of three guys featured on 1st season) but this is the same guy whose monumental lack of forethought in not paying his taxes led to all of that unnecessary drama ( and the accompanying opening of the eye of Big Brother ) by his failure to do so.

    I think he brought this on himself - not that I agree with the concept of taxes as such but if you want the government to not take offense or be all that aware of your existence - then you pay em to avoid scrutiny.

    Nanny State is gonna crush this guy using any and all means at their disposal and make an example out of him to others
    PlumbNutz likes this.
  5. enloopious

    enloopious Rocket Surgeon

    Poor guy doesn't understand how these things work. Too bad because that kind of ignorance is going to make him lose his income. Claiming the first amendment is like hoping for big bro to not hit you with the stick. Take your rights, don't beg for them.

    Problem #1 he filed for government supervision with his "not for profit license". A license is a permission slip to do something that is otherwise perfectly legal to do.

    Problem #2 He is public. He advertises publicly that he wants people from the public to come to his place for a fee. The public has been usurped by the government and falls under their jurisdiction.

    Problem #3 He takes money for the tours. He is just poking the bear with a stick if he thinks he can do anything publicly for money and they wont come down on him. They LOVE that kind of thing.

    Solution #1 He should pull or let his license expire and refuse to renew it.

    Solution #2 He should post signs every where that he is private and not public with the appropriate legal disclaimers.

    Solution #3 He should accept all money either in gold or silver coin or with the receipts specifically stating that "all money is redeemed in lawful money under 12 U.S.C. sec 411"
    PlumbNutz and Brokor like this.
  6. NotSoSneaky

    NotSoSneaky former supporter

    The more I learn about Government, the more I want to hit the reset button and burn it all down. maddd

    There I said it. [OO]

    Geez and I was concerned about what I was gonna say in the "What would you grab?" thread. [eek3]
    Yard Dart likes this.
  7. CATO

    CATO Monkey+++

    I read this a couple weeks ago in print and it pissed me off. Eustance needs to see this is a fight he can't win and pack his crap up and move to Alaska and just disappear.
  8. Motomom34

    Motomom34 Moderator Moderator Site Supporter++

    It is your property,
    you own it, it is yours,
    you live in a free country but.... just make sure you follow the rule, regulations and codes.

    & never go on TV or Youtube
  9. Illini Warrior

    Illini Warrior Monkey+

    sorry guys, but after watching him on the TV program, he got what he deserves .... he's pulling all kinds of BS stunts. playing games and cons .... he screwed over that kid, that worked his butt off for free, with the rifle zeroing stunt .... he out & out endangered himself, his friend, a pair of horses and the general public by riding into a freaking city on horse back ....

    biggest con of all .... he isn't a backwoods ole country boy .... he's supposedly has 2-3 college degrees
  10. BTPost

    BTPost Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    Just because one has, any number, of College Degrees, does NOT, make, or Not Make, a Backwoods Old Country Boy.... In my mind, they are Mutually Exclusive designations, that are earned, or not earned, by the Study of separate disciplines. Ones Education does NOT define, where one comes from.... One classic example, is in the RedNeck Rocketeers, of Huntsville, Alabama fame. Those boys are definitely good Old Country Boys, and they have some very High Priced Education, in some highly competitive Fields.
    tulianr likes this.
  11. NWPilgrim

    NWPilgrim Monkey++

    If you want to be left alone then don't go public. If you go public then be prepared to play by public rules.

    I wonder why he could not set this up as a educational camp site? The USFS and BLM have plenty if primitive campsites with no water or sewer.

    In the short term put out porta-pots. Hopefully the NC regulators see the positive value in what he does and works out an agreeable solution.

    Agree his rifle sighting trick test was lame. Any two shooters will have different sighting on the same rifle. You don't have someone sight in a rifle and then expect to hit bullseye with your first shot. Do it yourself. If he wanted to test him he should have let the kid do the shooting.

    The TV show makes it out like he is scraping by on living off the land. Charging $1500/person for two weeks is good money.
    BTPost likes this.
  12. -06

    -06 Monkey+++

    His butt is in a sling till he upgrades his public usage property. Either that or go contribution only. Not sure that would get him off the hook.
  13. Illini Warrior

    Illini Warrior Monkey+

    yes .... totally agree .... but you didn't read my posting .... he's playing stupid about his various situations when he obviously is totally capable of comprehending ..... his con does play when you know the facts
    tulianr likes this.
  14. PlumbNutz

    PlumbNutz Pissed off citizen

    This idiot threw himself under the bus by his own actions and is now crying he got run over.[violin]
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