North Carolina mountain man Eustace Conway has canoed 1,000-miles down the Mississippi River, hiked the entire Appalachian Trial, and ridden across the continental United States on horseback in 103 days. Now he must face a new type of challenge: building codes for his Blue Ridge outdoor education and retreat center, Turtle Island.
Conway, who appears on the History Channel’s reality program “Mountain Men,” had a surprise visit from Watauga County officials last fall to his Turtle Island preserve. The investigation found multiple building, health, and fire infractions at Conway’s retreat, though the outdoorsman told the Wall Street Journal that such codes do not apply to what they are doing at Turtle Island, where school groups, scouts, and families have gone for more than 25 years to “rough-it” in the woods.
The preserve has been shut down indefinitely, and Conway has been ordered to modernize or demolish the compound’s buildings. The battle isn’t over yet, though — Turtle Island has many supporters, and there is a petition on Change.org urging the North Carolina Building Codes Council to alter state code and exempt Turtle Island. So far the petition has 13,000 signatures and counting.