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Mills River celebrates its declaration of independence

Lynn Higgins and her grandchildren Elizabeth, 6 (left), Austin, 2, and Celah Chambers, 9, enjoy the free food provided for Mills River's anniversary celebration. Lynn Higgins and her grandchildren Elizabeth, 6 (left), Austin, 2, and Celah Chambers, 9, enjoy the free food provided for Mills River's anniversary celebration.

MILLS RIVER — Residents of Mills River gathered in the Mills River Town Center Friday to celebrate the town's 10th birthday.

"It's a milestone that seemed unrealistic 10 years ago," Mills River Mayor Roger Snyder, who has helped guide Mills River as its only mayor. "Who would have ever thought there would be an incorporation process and that in just a few short years we would be celebrating our 10th anniversary? Look what we've accomplished, just in 10 short years. The Mills River residents have been absolutely wonderful."
Mills River, officially incorporated in June 2003, threw a party that included food, live entertainment, inflatables and more, all provided by local donors at no cost to the town.

Snyder said much of the reasoning behind choosing to incorporate came from the fear of being annexed by Asheville, Fletcher or Hendersonville.
Mills River residents "had a sense of community, they had an identity that was all their own, and they wanted to be able to protect that identity," Town Manager Jaime Laughter added. "They didn't want to be an afterthought of another community. What it means for them to be a town is that they are able to protect their heritage and what they value as a community as they move forward."
As much as protecting their heritage, however, incorporating was also about self-determination.
"I feel like with us being incorporated, we have a say in what's going on," said Rick Livingston, Mills River fire chief and Mills River native. "We can control our own destiny. Had we not incorporated I feel very certain that Asheville or Fletcher or Hendersonville would already have annexed the largest part of Mills River, and nobody from Mills River wanted to see that. Due to the fact that we incorporated, we can control all those issues, so it's a good thing."
Since becoming a town 10 years ago, Mills River has built its own park, library and town hall, and it is continuing to grow.
"We're growing leaps and bounds," Susan Adell, president of the Mills River Business Association, said. "We're excited because we've been a business association for one year and we already have 78 business members. I like to see the growth."
In addition to celebrating the progress Mills River has made over the past 10 years, the town's residents also celebrated the feeling of community that first prompted the incorporation process.
"I think it's just an event that everyone in Mills River can take great pride in," Livingston said. "We've been able to accomplish a lot in the Mills River community with very little financially, and I think everyone in Mills River has done a great job making that happen, getting the most bang for the buck. This is just a time when we can all come out and celebrate and reminisce at the same time."