A bunch of hills

Published 11:52 pm Thursday, July 17, 2014

To the Editor:

“There was just a bunch of hills” is how Mark Bellissimo described the area where 1.6 million cubic yards of earth were moved to accommodate the first of the riding arenas and stables at the newly opened Tryon Resort Complex “and see what it looks like now.”

The pride at this accomplishment was obvious and the video presentation, personal accounts and comments from members of the standing room only crowd at the July 7 Board of Commissioners meeting showed support and enthusiasm for the project and expressed the expectation for new opportunities and prosperity now that that bunch of hills is no longer in the way.

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I am sure this was not a planned or pre-meditated remark. It sort of slipped in, and I doubt that many people even heard it, but I think it conveys the general and accepted human mindset that the environment is to be used as we see fit.

To me, it showed a kind of insensitivity not only toward the natural world but also toward the people that had made this place their home for generations trivializing what had been there. It also proved once again that money, determination and sheer willpower combined with efficiency and speed can move mountains almost overnight.

A quote by Yan Jiehe, the founder of Pacific Construction Group, China’s largest privately owned builder, says it rather succinctly “Creation is destruction.”

I do not mean to diminish the accomplishment that radically transformed the landscape to accommodate the creation of a grand vision.

The accolades are deserved. Even in Polk County, we subscribe to the accepted credo that there is no stopping progress – it is do or die.

The economic engine has been revved up and the belief is that the resulting benefits will spread throughout the region.

Hopefully it will not be a steamroller flattening Polk County, its inhabitants, beauty, culture and way of life.

Mr. Bellissimo and Mr. Smith, by their own account, were drawn to this area by the beauty of the environment and the people they encountered.

They have promised to set the bar high, to be cognizant of the impact such a huge undertaking has on all aspects of life for the citizens of Polk County and its natural environment.

Polk County’s vision statement reads: “Polk County’s rural atmosphere and serene natural beauty will be vigorously protected,” it continues “visionary and pragmatic county and municipal governments will work together in a cooperative manner as they continue to enhance the quality of life for all Polk County citizens.”

The challenge to hold to that vision arises when development pressures further accelerate. Tryon Resorts is being promoted as a world class community catapulting Polk County from a rural backwater to the limelight of the world stage, but it is just one of several major developments already approved.

To preserve Polk County’s unique character presents challenges that our present regulations and land use planning will be hard pressed to address.

If we want to stand out as a community that values and respects the great diversity of the land, its history and its people, there never will be a better time for pro-active planning than right now.

And working together, we have a chance to hold true to our vision, to have development that is sustainable and beneficial without the destruction claimed to be implicit in creation.


– Christel Walter, 

Mill Spring