Polk to apply for scenic byway 

Published 8:39 pm Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Commissioners change potential route to Highway 108 

COLUMBUS—The Polk County Board of Commissioners approved applying for a scenic byway, but the decision was not exactly what the subcommittee proposed.  

Commissioners met Monday and following an almost hour and a half public hearing, approved applying for a scenic byway, but changed the route to Highway 108 between Columbus and Tryon.  

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Commissioners first heard from residents on the proposed scenic byway, which included Old Howard Gap Road, Howard Gap Road and Erskine Road, as well as parts of Highway 108 in the Lynn area. The committee has pledges of more than $5,400, which was more than enough to pay for the two phases of applications.  

Commissioners heard from 15 residents during the public hearing, with all but one being in favor of the committee’s recommendation.  

Dorothy Easley

Commissioner Paul Beiler said the committee has done a tremendous job, with mind- boggling research. He also said from his research, the scenic byway designation would increase traffic.  

“What concerns me is that we would add traffic onto 108,” Beiler said.  

Byway committee chair Dorothy Easley said she thinks the benefits of having three cars per hour versus one car per hour outweighs the detriments.  

Beiler also asked if the designation of a scenic byway would protect the road from being widened in the future.  

Easley said nothing does, not even an historic designation, but it does serve as a strong deterrent for road projects.  

Some of the comments in favor of the committee’s proposal came from Helen Blomeley, who said in 1966 she and her husband moved here after he graduated from medical school because they wanted a small town with a small church and a small school and lots of greenery.  

“I would like to see the byway approved,” Blomeley said. “I would like us to protect what we have as much as is possible in today’s world.”  

Helen Blomeley

Jamie Dunn said she’s lived here over 25 years and she and her family are 100 percent in agreement with the scenic byway.  

“I don’t want to see anything happen on Highway 108,” Dunn said. “I would like to keep the countryside, the countryside. We don’t want any highway widening or artificial light. I think it’s great the way it is.”  

Olivia Whiteside said the route is gorgeous and she feels like the scenic byway is a win-win for all of the county, Tryon and Lynn.  

Andy Haynes said he’s lived here 72 years and a debt of gratitude is owed to the committee for all their work. He said the proposal is consistent and keeps the rural character of the community. Haynes said just because that route is designated, it does not mean there cannot be other scenic byways designated later.  

“We have to start somewhere,” Haynes said.  

Commissioner Chair Tommy Melton said although he supports what the committee is trying to do, there are some things proposed that he cannot support.  

He mentioned at the last meeting resident Clint Blanton mentioning that he would like to see a scenic byway run the complete length of Highway 108 from the Rutherford County line. Melton mentioned the importance of Harmon Field being included in the scenic byway.  

“I don’t see any benefit to go down Old Howard Gap or Erskine Roads,” Melton said. “Going by Harmon Field Road makes more sense. Harmon Field to me is something we need to treasure.” 

Melton said if the county is going to go forward with the scenic byway, he wants it to go from the Columbus Town Limits to Harmon Field Road and connect with the U.S. 176 scenic byway to Saluda.  

North Carolina Department of Transportation Scenic Byway Coordinator Kyle Cooper was in attendance and said the state will look at the potential route and then make a recommendation. 

Kyle Cooper

Commissioners unanimously approved applying for the designation and selected the low bid contractor at $2,000 for one phase and $2,500 for another phase of the application.