Building new memories

Billy Smithwick knows the beauty of the Cashie River and the power of spending time outdoors”he set out to share that gift by creating a treehouse village in Bertie County.

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
Two of the Cashie Treehouse Village treehouse are expected to open this fall in Windsor

The sounds of nature echoing in the night, the sparkle of the stars above, and the reflection of the moon on the river bring residents back to their childhood memories of sleeping in a backyard treehouse.The Cashie Treehouse Village in the town of Windsor allows visitors to “be a kid again, sleep in a tree” as the Village’s saying goes. Made of cyprus wood and perched 13-and-a-half feet off the swamp floor, the treehouses are a project that began out of a desire from community members to create something unique that would utilize the beautiful Cashie River which provides a backdrop to the town.”The model behind the concepts are old fish camps. As a kid, you’d travel a mile down the river and see a little house on the side of the river where people would cookout and have a fish fry,” said Billy Smithwick, a member of the Interested Citizens for the Development of Windsor Committee.Windsor was founded as a port on the Cashie River in the mid-1700s. The River, which rises and falls in Bertie County, flows into the Roanoke River and the Albemarle Sound. For a community which thrived in the agricultural and timber industry due to the use of the port, it’s only fitting the town celebrates its connection to the river.”We purchased five acres of land to build a village in trees,” he added.A total of seven treehouses will be constructed over the next three years. The first two treehouses are nearing completion and set to open this fall. Treehouses are 14 feet by 14 feet with a 5-foot porch and set 40 to 50 feet off the river. Two different versions of the treehouses are complete — one with a full size tree in the middle of the house and the other built between two grown trees.”These are very rustic, outdoor accommodations,” said Smithwick. “The houses use solar power and have screened in doors. The sleeping platform fits a queen-sized air mattress and the treehouses can easily accommodate eight people.”The treehouses were crafted to be accessible to everyone and meet OSHA regulations. A 430-foot long platform was built between the treehouses, so any rising of the river wouldn’t carry them away. They were built at an estimated cost of $200,000 including funds from grants, the Town of Windsor, and the DIY Network which featured the treehouse construction on a television program this summer.”The treehouses provide a unique feeling and brings people closer to nature,” said Smithwick. “Sitting on the porch they can listen to the crickets, bullfrogs, and birds. It’s definitely a unique experience for people.”Rental fees are estimated to range between $50-$55 a night, and the Town of Windsor will post updates to their social media pages to announce when reservations will begin. Construction will begin in January 2017 for two more treehouses, and in January 2018 the final three will be built for a total of seven in the village.”We want this to be an economic boost for the community and a benefit to the town. Those visiting will pick up supplies at the local stores, eat a dinner at one of the local restaurants, and ultimately bring more activities to our downtown,” said Smithwick.Visitors can find their way to the Livermon Park and Mini-Zoo where the buffalo, llamas, and alpacas graze, stop by the historic 1840 Freeman Hotel, or grab a bite to eat in Windsor, all while enjoying a night among the trees on the scenic river in Eastern Carolina.