Bethel Rural Community Organization
The hamlet of Bethel is the location of the oldest human settlement (8,000 BC) and the oldest white settlement (1785) in Haywood County, North Carolina, dating prior to 1808 when Haywood County was established. The Blue Ridge Parkway, Pisgah National Forest, Mount Pisgah, Black Balsam, Cold Mountain, thirteen miles of pristine streams and farmland rich alluvial soilsprovide significant natural features of the nearby backdrop to enhance the landscape of Bethel Community.
The 501(c)3, non-profit, Bethel Rural Community Organization, is a core organization in the community and has a mission to locate and coordinate local and regional resources to perform programs and projects that enhance the quality of rural life in Bethel Community. The group is dedicated to preserving the rural and historic nature of the area.
New members and volunteers are always welcome to join the organization which meets the second Tuesday of alternating months, beginning in January. Dinner before the meetings begins at 6:30pm, and the meeting starts at 7pm at BRCO’s home base, Bethel Presbyterian Church. Frequent informative programs provide members and visitors with pertinent information on a variety of topics. Contact information regarding BRCO and its programs is available on the web site.
Awards and Recognition
Bethel Rural Community Organization has been recognized by Western North Carolina Communities as one of the top six Communities of Promise for BRCO’s impressive programs in the community for five years in a row. The organization was awarded as one of two Communities of Distinctionin 2007.
BRCO’s Farmland Preservation Committee has been the recipient of a number of grants. The committee has utilized these government and private resources to promote enhanced voluntary agricultural district programs and provide grants to assist with conservation easement.To date, the Farmland Preservation Committee has enrolled over 1,100 acres into the Enhanced Voluntary Agricultural District program. A state leader in farmland preservation efforts, the committee has held county-wide seminars on land conservation and sustainability projects.
In addition to land conservation activities, the committee initiated efforts,and was instrumental in establishing, two significant programs in the area: the WNC Livestock Center and the Buy Haywood program that promotes consumption and distribution of local farm products.
BRCO’s Historic Preservation Committee collects and documents local history. For several years the committee held the highly-praised Cold Mountain Heritage Tour. In addition to a Cold Mountain Heritage Tour CD as well as art prints made available of historic sites in Bethel, the committee has a DVD and six books for which the group has received two awards, The Barringer Award of Excellence and the Paul Green Multi-Media Award, from the North Carolina Society of Historians.
Blue Ridge National Heritage Area (BRNHA) has twice recognized the group with grant funding and with the selection of BRCO’s home base, Bethel Presbyterian Church, as recipient of a BRNHA regional site marker in Haywood County.
Preservation NC responded to a nomination written by BRCO’s HP Committee to recognize one of the sites on the Cold Mountain Heritage Tour, Francis Mill, with the Gertrude S. Carraway Award.