Deep dives in Jackson County

Jackson County is currently constructing a 30,000 square-foot aquatic facility at the recreation center on Tilley Creek Road in Cullowhee. The facility will provide service to county residents who currently must travel long distances to swim. Construction is expected to be complete by spring 2024 at a cost of $22 million. 

When completed, the recreation center will feature two pools, multiple party rooms and an outdoor patio. There will be an additional lobby area, men’s and women’s locker rooms and improvements to the parking lots.  

Jackson County Parks and Recreation director Rusty Ellis said the facility will impact the community in meaningful ways. 

“Jackson County residents will now have their own indoor aquatics facility and won’t have to travel to Waynesville or Franklin,” he said. 

The aquatic center will house two pools. One, a six-lane 25-yard competition pool will feature diving boards and a climbing wall. A leisure pool will be built adjacent, with a zero-depth splash pad and vortex therapy pool. 

 Sara Long, local resident and frequent visitor to the recreation center said the new facility will have a positive impact on the community.  

 “It will provide the kids of the community with professional swimming instruction which ultimately will save lives, and the senior community with the health benefits of swimming and water aerobics,” Long wrote in an email.  

 In November 2020, Jackson County residents approved a bond referendum for $20 million to fund construction of the facility. Construction began shortly after. 

“I would like to commend Rusty Ellis for his outstanding leadership for seeing this enormous project through all of the problems to see it finally nearly completed. I’m not sure it would have ever been completed without his professionalism and dedication,” wrote Long. 

 “I am thrilled that Jackson County approved allocating funds for this project and kept the site at the Cullowhee Recreation Center,” Long said. “It has been amazing watching this facility being built.” 

 Ellis hopes the changes in parking will ease traffic during critical hours of the day. “I believe the new traffic flow will help during high volume program days and nights. The front parking lot will be [designated] for indoor activities and the back parking will be used for outdoor programs…”  

 Ellis looks forward to an opening celebration next spring. 

 The Jackson County Recreation Center is open to all. Membership and pricing are available online. 

 To learn more, visit