Pinehurst's Treasured Village Green Again Faces a Threat
Pinehurst is holding three public meetings to sell citizens on its proposed plan to modify the heart of Old Town.
It expands the Given Library/Tufts Archives site, relocates a sand parking lot, eliminates other parking sites, offers modest street improvements, eliminates the Memorial Garden, and creates a lawned Tufts Memorial Park. There’s good and bad news in these ideas. They prompt the serious question, “Does Pinehurst require or deserve the best part of a million-dollar face lift?”
It may help to put it all in a historic perspective
Pinehurst founder James Walker Tufts was a wealthy New Englander who for myriad reasons decided to create a health community south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Once he acquired his land, he hired the distinguished architectural firm of Frederick Law Olmsted to lay out the village he envisioned. Having grown up amid the quaint village traditions of Massachusetts, Tufts specified that Olmsted’s plan include a typical New England-style “Village Green.”
Ironically, Olmsted’s design would prove more appropriate for the 21st century. It was impractical for the 19th and early 20th centuries because it assumed a grassy green might prosper in an inhospitable environment for grass cultivation.
Pinehurst had poor, sandy soil, and lacked irrigation. A staff needed to care for a lawned expanse wasn’t available in the hottest weather because early operations did not include serving summer guests. Hotel personnel entrained north to work in a sister hotel. Grass was soon forsaken, and more environmentally suitable longleaf pines planted.
Tufts’ original concept of a large lawned expanse is now practical because, in the 116 years since drawn, we’ve learned how to make lawns thrive here, thanks in great measure to a half-century of golf course grass experimentation.
Since Pinehurst’s beginning, three significant factors impacted the development of the Village Green: adding The Village Chapel, and building the Given Memorial Library and Tufts Archives, and population increases. Growth was greatly exacerbated when the Tuftses sold their holdings to Diamondhead Corporation. Neither Tufts nor Olmsted could have imagined the once-halcyon resort’s invasion by thousands of automobiles.
The good news is that the proposed plan adds 40 parking spaces to the downtown area. Merchants I’ve spoken to welcome more parking. The bad news is that the plan specifies chemical polymers mixed with the native soil and stone to create hard surfaces for the relocated parking lot.
That unnatural paving, which may require annual chemical treatments, may offend the National Park Service, which has taken exception to several of Pinehurst’s recent actions that impact negatively upon its National Historic Landmark status. It may also violate venerable deed restrictions which clearly stipulate “unpaved parking.”
The establishment of a green park honoring the founder and his heirs is consistent with Olmsted’s plan and deserves applause from the Park Service.
But when Pinehurst’s government recently approved an expanded Village Chapel’s physical plant and parking areas for a new learning center, it seriously diminished and damaged Olmsted’s original Village Green landscape concept. That decision offended Tufts’ intentions that a large Village Green be provided and protected for the benefit of all the citizenry (not merely church members).
Pinehurst’s latest scheme proposes that nearly an acre be given to the Given Library/Tufts Archives for an expansion at a time when new electronic reading devices threaten to actually reduce library usage.
An alternative approach would be a library expansion that is upward and not outward. That wouldn’t eat up more precious green. A change in zoning could accommodate a second floor (with elevator access), albeit at greater cost and significant inconvenience.
Curiously, Pinehurst asks citizens’ input on these plans, after which it proposes to “visit with the National Park Service.” But surely if citizen input were important, why had these radical plans been presented to the National Park Service, before public meetings were held?
Pinehurst has had a tenuous relationship with the National Park Service, which has repeatedly warned that its precious federal landmark is at risk. (The mayor has publicly stated that losing the landmark status was a chance worth taking.)
My prognosis: Pinehurst’s continued reduction in the size of Village Green space available to public use ain’t gonna please the National Park Service.
Paul R. Dunn lives in Pinehurst. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. com.
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