Henderson County to vote on motion rejecting land purchase for Saluda gun range Wednesday

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, May 15, 2018

SALUDA — For now, those worried about the future of Saluda’s blueberry bushes, mountain slopes, hawks and 100-plus-year-old trees appear to be able to breathe a sigh of relief.

The Henderson County commissioners will vote on a motion Wednesday to reject the purchase of property on Macedonia Road, which was slated to be used for a new law enforcement training facility.

“I move the board instruct staff to not complete the purchase of the Macedonia Road site,” is the suggested motion for item F on the Henderson County meeting agenda that day.

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With a new sheriff on the horizon, Henderson County commissioners are rethinking the proposed law enforcement training center in Saluda.

Lowell Griffin won the primary vote for Henderson County sheriff on May 8 and is running unopposed for the November election.

“What I want to do is take a step back, erase the board and identify the objectives we want for the training center,” Griffin said. “I don’t think [Macedonia Road is] an appropriate venue for the range.”

Upon the suggestion of incumbent Henderson County Sheriff Charles McDonald, the Henderson County Board of Commissioners had purchased a contract on 99 acres, located at 2328 Macedonia Road. While citizens hotly protested the proposed location, the board was conducting environmental and other studies to ascertain if the site would be suitable for the proposed training center and shooting range.

On May 9, Henderson County Manager Steve Wyatt sent a letter to the commissioners recommending that, “. . . further work on the project be suspended until the incoming sheriff assesses and determines the overall needs of the department.”

Wyatt said he spoke with each of the commissioners individually, and believes they are in support of suspending further work on the training center until after the new sheriff takes office.

“It is on the consent agenda,” Wyatt said.

Wyatt pointed out that, since Griffin will not take office until December, it may be a year or more until the county can take another look at the training center. He said the county staff and commissioners are committed to upholding the duties and responsibilities of the sheriff’s office to protect and serve the citizens.

Wyatt added that the new sheriff will no doubt have new priorities and bring strategies perhaps different from his predecessors.

Though the Saluda citizens who have led the fight through the “Save Saluda” effort are breathing a little easier, they say it is not over yet.

Save Saluda leaders Cathy Jackson, Susan and Tom McHugh, Judge Zorro Guice and others are encouraging citizens to turn out for Wednesday’s meeting.

“As a team, we have carried the ball down the field and are sitting on the 1-yard line,” Guice said. “Let’s carry it across the goal line.”

Susan McHugh pointed out that the property is still under contract until they commissioners vote “no.”

“Only with the talent and commitment of our neighborhood, and that of our entire Saluda community, were we able to achieve and end outcome that will ultimately mean better Henderson and Polk counties for all citizens,” she said.

McHugh said though the new sheriff has, “battles to fight,” she believes his leadership will be a breath of fresh air for law enforcement and the citizens of Henderson County.

“He is definitely going to be a collaborator, a communicator and a good decision maker,” she said.

Though the group is not sure about the next step for the property, McHugh said her husband, Tom, along with others, are working with federal and state wildlife officials to assess environmental aspects and determine if there are any endangered plant or animal species on the property.

According to molecular biologist Dr. Alex Harvey who lives near the site, there are 100-plus-year-old trees and a stand of healthy hemlocks on the property. He said though they have not yet found anything on the endangered list, the abundance of water and food attracts tremendous amount of wildlife and creates an abundant habitat for the fauna as well.

Though they have delayed the proposed law enforcement training center for now, the members of Save Saluda are concerned about future attempts to purchase or develop the property, and want to explore other options to see what might be the next step.