Maybe there’s a better way

Published 11:05 pm Thursday, February 13, 2014

What’s underneath the kudzu may be much uglier to look at the than kudzu itself.

A man once told me that kudzu was a blessing because it covered so much trash and debris left by irresponsible people, businesses, etc.

The comment stuck with me, though it made me a bit angry at the time. The man was in essence telling me that trying to eliminate or control kudzu is a waste of time, but the comment stayed with me because it is true.

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Kudzu does cover up a lot of trash left on abandoned properties. For many of us who have spent the past three or four years getting rid of kudzu, the problems facing us now are bigger and worse than the kudzu was before.

Now we are looking at eroded stream banks, old trash dumps-legal and illegal, piles of cinderblocks where houses stood in the past, sink holes, eroded ditches; got the picture?

Why did we start worrying about the kudzu? It was spreading to our neighborhoods, and into our forests and to places where we did not want it to go, smothering all other vegetation in its path.

Sky Conard of the Green River Watershed Alliance recently has brought public attention to the problem of sedimentation buildup at Lake Adger, so much sediment that it is affecting the public marina area, the Green River entrance and the tributaries.

Sedimentation is now affecting something we really care about, just like the kudzu creeping into our residential areas. I think kudzu came here on a boat from China around 1917, about the same number of years that it has taken the Green River’s sedimentation to clog up the lake. The people who perpetuated the problem are long gone.

There was an article in the Tryon Daily Bulletin on Feb. 7 titled “Polk applies for class IV for Green River watershed.” While reading the article I noticed a huge contradiction, which I bet most of you missed. Several supporters of the less restrictive class IV classification said that the government should not restrict what a person can do on his or her land. One man spoke of his family’s ownership of land on the river for the past 100-plus years, “People that have lived there know how to take care of their land. They know how to take care of the property.”

The damage we are now facing took place over the past 90 years, when those well-meaning people owned the land. Do you see the contradiction?

All landowners make mistakes. Us little guys bulldoze a driveway or make a little pond, and often cause erosion to set in. In time Mother Nature heals the wound, and we don’t make the same mistake again. We keep the land for 50 years, being good stewards, and then we either die or move to a nursing home. Our children may choose to live on the land or sell it.

That’s when the new owner begins to make those same land use mistakes we made, except that now the bulldozers are bigger, the  large tracts of land are converted to huge residential developments with level yards magically created out of steep mountain slopes. Oh, what a beautiful view way up on top of the mountain, where the sediment floating downstream is way out of sight.

Maybe the answer to our ordinance problems would be to activate them only when property changes hands, sort of like the rent control rule in New York: rents can be raised only for new tenants. The new tenant, as with the new buyer / property owner, agrees to abide by new ordinance rules to restrict mountaintop excavation, earthmoving and development. Maybe there is a way to respect our longterm landowners and protect our environment at the same time.