Growth vs. rural a delicate balance

Published 11:23 am Thursday, February 11, 2021

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There’s always talk from elected leaders about keeping the rural atmosphere in Davie County.

After all, it’s what keeps many of us here, and it’s what attracts so many to seek refuge in our borders. We still have some of those open spaces, but they’re dwindling quickly.

The problem is that those same elected leaders all but fall over themselves every time some big project comes along. Those projects help keep our taxes low, they say. And the developers always – always – underestimate the impact these developments will have on county services. Remember when the developers of Oak Valley told county commissioners the project wouldn’t affect the school system because the houses would be priced higher, and purchased by those in their later years without school-age children? Commissioners believed them. We all know how that one turned out.

It’s almost as if that if we remain rural, taxes will go up. If we allow development after development – residential and commercial/industrial – there’s no question that it will be more difficult to maintain the rural atmosphere many of us enjoy now. Do these developments pay enough taxes to keep our tax rate stable?

The short answer is no. We’ve succumbed to the practice of giving tax breaks to the businesses. And residential developments rarely if ever pay for themselves.

I’m not saying any of these things are bad. People need jobs, and if incentives are what brings those jobs here, so be it. People need places to live, as well. Those housing starts we see all over the county are happening for a reason. Houses are being built here because they sell so quickly.

It’s a delicate balance between growth and maintaining a rural atmosphere. We’ve done a good job of promoting that rural atmosphere, but lack somewhat in protecting the same.

One way governments – and private individuals and groups – are helping is with public parks.

The new Davie County Community Park is a great place to go for exercise for the young and old. But rural it’s not.

Then there’s the new Park at Lake Louise, a bit more rural, but beautiful with it’s miles of walking/biking paths. Sure, there are plenty of houses and even an adjacent golf course, but the hills and curves, the lake and yes, the golf course, make the walk much more enjoyable.

Even more rural is the Farmington Community Center, home of a new disk golf course and home to the most rural public hiking/biking trails in the county.

Mocksville has Rich Park, an oasis in the middle of town with all types of recreational activities and trails.

Cooleemee has the Bullhole park, a remarkable spot on the South Yadkin River that had to close last summer because it became so popular.

And now Bermuda Run is getting in on the action, planning a trail system that will include views of the Yadkin River and long-standing lakes and ponds. Rural? No. Accessible to folks who want and need exercise? Yes.

The only thing that could be better is if these trails could somehow be connected. But that’s a pipe dream. Too many property owners would balk at the idea.

Gone are the days of my youth, when I would spend hours on end exploring through the woods. It didn’t matter that we didn’t even own an acre, while exploring, the woods were mine.

Gone are the days when every family dreams of a home and yard. The home dream is still there, but many would rather leave the yard work to someone else. But they still want and need to get outside and exercise, so those parks are a great way to bridge the gap between rural and urban.

These parks may be our last hope of maintaining any sense of our historically rural atmosphere.

So get out there and enjoy them.

– Mike Barnhardt