The release of a “gem”

Published 9:56 am Monday, October 10, 2022

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It has been said over the years that change is inevitable. Some changes are good and well, some are quite the opposite. 


The proposed widening of Highway 9 in Mill Spring is calling for change. The residents of that area feel it is neither a necessary, nor a positive change. They have joined forces and made known that they are not in favor of the proposed plans.

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The proposed subdivision in Landrum is another shift calling for change. Again, we have seen a vast majority of the residents that this addition would impact speak out against it. 


The proposed Rails to Trails is another change knocking on our door. While there are many who feel this is a good plan, I feel they are not considering the negative impacts this and other projects could have on their neighbors and what our towns will look like when all is said and done. Years ago this was a more local issue than it is presently. The Rails to Trails proposal then was to go from Landrum to Saluda. Many of the landowners attended Commissioner and Town Council meetings voicing their opposition. The same will happen now when given the opportunity to speak.


I am one of the people not in favor of the currently proposed Rails to Trails. In the 1980s the US Congress made the procedure of railbanking legal, but in my opinion, being legal does not make it right.  Why would I feel this way? In the 1800s a Right of Way was secured by railroad representatives for the purpose of building a railroad. The Right of Way that was secured was set for 999 years.  


Railbanking also adds additional legal tasks for the current landowners and is very much a burden to navigate. Will people surrounding this project be effectively taxed out of their homes because of the increase in value? This has occurred in surrounding cities and it is not something to be proud of. In the case of my property, I own the land to the center of the railroad. I am fine with this right of way for the railroad, because I bought the property knowing this. What happens if this property is railbanked? The owner of the right of way is allowed to sell the right of way to anyone wanting to purchase. So now we have a new owner of the right of way and how it is utilized will vastly change. Instead of four to five trains a day using this right of way it will transition to an open invitation to local folks as well as out of towners to bike, walk, and/or run.  


While exercise is of extreme importance, are we not already provided with ample options for the population to do so?  Harmon Field and Brookwood Park both have walking paths and our towns have nice sidewalks. Bikers can legally ride on the roadways. The hiking trails that are provided and maintained by Polk or out at FENCE are too an option to get out in nature. Should we invite the Rails to Trails to our area so said bikers, walkers, and runners will in many cases be in peoples’ literal backyards, in close proximity to their doors? You can envision the possibilities of why the landowners are against this proposal. Is an amenity for one to enjoy worth the wreckage it could potentially leave behind for others? When you are presented with all the good something, such as the Rails to Trails, will do for a community, inevitably there are others who seem to be unconsidered collateral damage.


Do we really know what will happen if the above proposals are successful? The first thing that comes to mind is congestion.  This area is a wonderful place to live. One of the reasons for that is we can mostly move about without being snarled in traffic; although, as of late we have seen an increase in that area as well. Another thing to consider is crime. The organizations backing the Rails to Trails have previously responded to those questioning crime rates rising by suggesting how many people would be around, keeping crime minimized. If we did not invite said people into others’ backyards there would be less fear of crime to begin with. Safety is yet another concern, both for the folks who would be active on the trails as well as those who would be living just off of them.  


Do we have the manpower to react to incidents effectively?  Remember the old saying “It only takes one bad apple to ruin the bushel.”


We have a “gem” in our area and the push for progress in the name of growth is diminishing what I personally find the most endearing about where we live. Why are we trying to imitate the larger cities that surround us when we have the capacity to maintain our unique charm?  


Ellis Fincher, Jr.