Floyd County: On or Off the Beaten Path?

This is a comment to yesterday’s post, Floyd Among the Giants. This seemed a discussion worthy of more.

This is a real conundrum. Of course we want to live in a place that is a nice, comfortable and attractive, and off the beaten path. We want the town and county to survive, even prosper, but it’s chief “product” perhaps is the lifestyle and setting that will be destroyed if enjoyed by too many living too close–or too many at once on a weekend or special event.

That rural places are being discovered is a certainty. That they are increasingly popular as home-building destinations is also certain if you look at what is happening to land prices in places where previously there was a “vacuum” of population.

Mabry hiking banjo fiddler guitar bluegrass quilt winery photography blacksburg writers FloydPerhaps the best we can do for in Floyd County in this netherworld between bucolic isolation and popular exploitation is to 1) decide what’s precious about the place, pace and pleasures we enjoy and 2) prepare to protect them by zoning, by conservation easement, by purchase by entities whose goal is preservation and not mere profit. We can exert our influence on our supervisors to listen to more than the cha-ching of the treasury at the prospect of dollars–regardless of impact on the “commons” of the county.

We MUST put values on our sense of place and common “ownership” of Floyd County that aren’t measured exclusively in revenue. And yet, money talks. Farming is no longer a livelihood. Farmers own the land and can’t pay taxes. And there go open spaces, watersheds, viewsheds, and fertile agricultural soils.

This problem is not going unnoticed, but I haven’t heard a great, unified solution to it. And Floyd is a divided community–about fifty percent would welcome commercial development of any kind if it meant greater convenience and more jobs, even minimum wage.

I do know that, since new residents ARE going to move here, I’d rather have people move here that KNOW what life is like in the winter during ice storms; what it is like when you want Chinese takeout or to see a movie; what it is like living an hour’s round trip from the nearest gallon of milk or expecting any of the other missing “necessities” of life in the towns from which they might hope to move. Most who would expect these things here are so NOT ready for Floyd.

While some bloggers actively promote development of the county and region, most I know are FAR more concerned with keeping the rate of growth very slow and in maintaining the kind of change compatible with the qualities that brought them here in the first place. Many who have moved here have already left and gone back to less isolated places, as I heard today at lunch in town.

Floyd is far from perfect. And I can’t think of any of its problems that will be solved by a massive influx of retirement relocation all at once, or by importing the city amenities–Starbucks, W-mart, and convenience-at-hand–that might come with in-migrants if they don’t plan to come to be adopted by the land and lifestyle rather than to remake it to suit their habits and preferences.

This is a matter actively discussed and of great concern: how to love Floyd County, hope for a prosperous future, have affordable land and jobs for the next generation, and not overwhelm the roads, the economy, the rural feel, and the quiet landscapes in the process.

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6 thoughts on “Floyd County: On or Off the Beaten Path?”

  1. I’m afraid you’re blowing smoke. Money talks and talks big in today’s superficial society. You won’t find a politician who will take a stand against increased revenue. You’ll have a heck of a time finding a person who’d opt for a half-hour trip to Starbucks vs just going next door. Unfortunately, the awareness of and preservation of both Nature and an ‘earlier form of living’ are things that you just can’t find. People living in today’s US society have become so superficial, so spoiled, that they are rapidly pushing our society to the edge of extinction. In my view, to achieve what you yearn for will only be possible after our current society has disappeared and something new, more primitive, has appeared. Of course, given the state of other societies on today’s planet, it wouldn’t surprise me if everyone is wiped out, leaving no one behind to watch nature rebuild.
    Very soon there will be no ‘off the beaten path.’ Anywhere.

  2. I’m not optimistic, but perhaps less pessimistic than Howard.

    I think we’re facing a meltdown of “business as usual” and as Kunstler says, must be “making other arrangements” for our way of life, no matter where we live, city or county.

    March-April Orion
    http://www.orionmagazine.org/

    And yet, there are pockets of closer-to-the-land idealism AND pragmatism and experience, and Floyd may be one of those–a place that can become a center from which our new arrangements begin to grow.

    But miles to go before we sleep, to be sure; and it won’t be an easy path.

  3. Fred, the problem is both universal and inevitable and — in both cases — economic.

    The growth in Floyd County slowed in recent months because the real estate bubble burst elsewhere. People couldn’t sell their property at inflated prices there and then buy here at bargain prices.

    And while the developer who wants to carve up the county into as many small lots as possible is a home-grown product who shares my last name but — thankfully — not my genes, we’re seeing an influx of newcomers with dollar signs in their eyes and the latest scheme to get rich quick.

    Sadly, our governmental leaders are, for the most part, in over their head. They lack the ability to make tough decisions or the knowledge to act responsibly.

    The time to make changes comes at the ballot box but, sadly, most of the challengers I’ve met and talked to so far offer more of the same, not change.

    We need fresh blood and a new spirit in government and a renewed sense of community among oldtimers and newcomers. But even that may not be enough when citizens vote their pocketbook first and heart second.

  4. fred- i DO hope that Floyd County is able to maintain what makes it so unique.

    i think there may be enough people of the same mindset to fight unwanted development and have a pretty big voice….hopefully enough to keep the wallyworlds and mickey d’s out. but the key would be uniting them when it comes time.

    even cities face the same fate. what used to make asheville, nc so great was all the little independent bookstores, coffeeshops, restaurants, etc…. it made for a wonderfully eclectic downtown. but now, with the influx of a more upscale and citified clientelle, all the small businesses and “moms and pops” places ARE being replaced with chains….Starbucks, barnes and nobles, etc.

    most of my favorite haunts are no longer there….the ones that got asheville noticed and brought life to the downtown.

  5. I have nothing profound to add to the thoughtful comments posted so far. I have lived in Los Angeles since 1968, and the most distressing change is the traffic. We used to take weekend outings to so many places that are now out of the question due to traffic. More and more freeways have been built, but they are a drop in the bucket.
    Keeping population growth under control is critical for Floyd County. I hope farmers selling conservation easements to the Nature Conservancy, or some such solution, will be of some help. And of course zoning for as large lots as possible helps.
    Sigh. Change is so painful.

  6. I AGREE WITH ALL THE COMMENTS POSTED SO FAR ABOUT FLOYD COUNTY: ON OR OFF THE BEATEN PATH. HERE IN GREENSBORO, NC I HAVE WATCHED GREENSBORO GROW AND GROW AND GROW, UNTIL I WONDER, WHERE THE HELL ARE WE GOING? TRAFFIC IS AWFUL, HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS ARE EVERYWHERE, GUILFORD COUNTY IS BEING SNAPPED UP FOR DEVELOPMENT SO FAST. COUNTIES AROUND US ARE FOLLOWING THE SAME PATH. I LOVE GREENSBORO NC, I AM A NATIVE, BUT I FEEL SO OVERPLEXED ABOUT IT’S GROWTH. SO, WHATEVER YOU ALL DO IN FLOYD COUNTY, PLEASE DON’T LET IT BECOME OVERDONE WITH SO MUCH. WE NEED TO SAVE OPEN SPACE, AND NATURAL SETTINGS AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, BEFORE WE WAKE UP ONE MORNING AND WE CAN STARE AT EACH OTHER FROM OUR BEDROOM WINDOW, FROM OVERDEVELOPMENT.

    MARK

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