For many years, tourism and agriculture have been North Carolina’s biggest industries, fueling growth and cultural vitality along industry corridors. One such corridor is U.S. Highway 73, a scenic by-way that Sandhills Area Land Trust Outreach Coordinator Jesse Wimberley said is beneficial to Richmond County, but is under-used.
After garnering support from the Richmond County Board of Commissioners, Wimberley has teamed up with Richmond County Cooperative Extension Agent Paige Burns and Richmond County Planning and Zoning Director of GIS James Armstrong to strengthen the relationship between the landowners along U.S. Highway 73 and the organizations that offer programs to foster economic goals and culturally historic goals.
The project won’t cost anything, according to Wimberley.
Wimberley talked about programs already in place and available to anyone along the scenic by-way with more than 25 acres, such as the Present Use Value program that helps landowners reduce tax liability and recognize the value of what is currently on their land in natural resources.
Wimberley said that often, “working land” has a net benefit for counties because they produce commodities, and those benefits outweigh the costs development and infrastructure place on a county.
The scenic by-way has benefited, according to Wimberley, from years of tourism coming to Moore County. Funds have trickled into the surrounding area from tourism and cultural draws have grown out of the influx. Wimberley said people don’t realize the amount of things that can be done in a trip down U.S. Highway 73.
“You could start with David’s Produce, get a snack, then head over the Ellerbe’s Rankin Museum,” said Wimberley. “From there, you can stop at the Little River Winery to taste wine, then go to the Town Creek Indian Mound to see something that’s been part of the region’s history for a long time, then end up having dinner in Mt. Gilead at Lefler’s Place for some of the oldest barbecue in North Carolina and then go dancing in Mt. Gilead to local music. I’m the kind of person who would go out and do it.”
Wimberley stresses that the scenic by-way has much natural and cultural value, and that is the premise of the preservation project. The project has much potential to incorporate technology to help understand who the landowners along the corridor are and how they can be integrated into the preservation project.
“At this point, my involvement will be to provide mapping resources to the project, including an online mapping application,” said Armstrong. “This effort may include identification of the view-shed along the route, key points of interests and a visual tie in to other parts of the scenic bypass. Paige, Jesse and I did discuss some ‘out of the box’ ideas about providing some interactivity on the map from the standpoint of the end users. These ideas also brought into discussion on doing some form of mobile mapping application that could be use by folks with smartphones. At this point, this has been just discussion, but as we move forward, these discussions could materialize into something creative and innovating. It sounds like a fun project.”
In order to launch the project, Wimberley is planning a kick-off celebration, but the location and other details are still in the works. The goal will be to invite landowners from along U.S. Highway 73 in order to introduce them to program coordinators and providers to network and build the potential of the scenic by-way. By understanding the current culture of the corridor, historical aspects can be preserved now and in the future. The kick-off celebration will likely take place in September.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.