Keep Hands Off Our Horse Country
With apologies to the folks at Mastercard, the Walthour-Moss Foundation is priceless.
William “Pappy” O. Moss and his wife, Ginnie, showed tremendous foresight in acquiring and subsequently donating the majority of the nearly 4,200 acres that now constitute the nature preserve located in the heart of Horse Country.
Thanks to the Mosses, the land is open to the public from sunup to sundown year-round, whether one wants to ride, drive, walk or run underneath a canopy of magnificent longleaf pines.
A recent carriage ride through the Foundation underscored for us the beauty and tranquillity that has drawn Moore Countians and day-trippers from points elsewhere for decades. There were no signs of civilization, and one could hear the wind rustling through the trees, plants and grasses.
We cannot imagine a four-lane highway running through — and ruining — the Foundation. But a proposed U.S. 1 bypass around Southern Pines and Aberdeen could do just that.
N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) officials have been adamant in saying that there is currently no line on a map through Horse Country or anywhere else in Moore County. Thankfully, that message has essentially fallen on deaf ears locally with equestrians and non-equestrians alike.
Foundation supporters are quick to note that NCDOT has never placed a proposed bypass anywhere else in the past, and has declined so far to rule it out this time.
We embrace the importance of developing a Comprehensive Transportation Plan for the county that reflects the priorities of residents and elected officials. But we abhor the feeling that no matter what those folks tell NCDOT, the department will do what it wants when push comes to shove.
The bottom line is that the majority of Moore Countians don’t trust NCDOT, and we believe that the department has done very little to allay their concerns.
Look no further than the crape myrtles, er, we mean guardrails, on U.S. 1 for these bureaucrats’ environmental sensitivity.
Treasure Is Threatened
Why can’t NCDOT tell us that they are taking Horse Country off the table as a potential site for the proposed bypass? We didn’t want it 50 years ago, 10 years ago, or five years ago. Why would we want it now?
An even better question is this: Do we even need it?
NCDOT has not done an origination and destination study along U.S. 1 between Morganton Road in Southern Pines and N.C. 5 in Aberdeen to determine how much of the traffic along that 3.8-mile stretch is local and how much travels through.
It seems to us that such a study should have been conducted before NCDOT and its local and regional partners held public workshops earlier this month. The workshops, called charrettes, focused on a consensus-building game called strings-and-ribbons.
Based on our interviews with workshop participants, most appreciated the opportunity to voice their opinion but felt that NCDOT would ultimately decide the bypass route no matter what they said. Basically, the charrettes were a charade.
We agree with the view recently put forth by Landon Russell, executive director of the Foundation. “I honestly can’t tell you what the answer is, but we need to find an alternative to the bypass that we can all live with,” Russell said.
Indeed. We need to protect what we have now so a line through Horse Country doesn’t get drawn on a map in the future.
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