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Aug 31, 2007

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John D. Young

No doubt the North Carolina Department of Environmental Natural Resources somewhat dropped the ball on properly pursuing this essential tract of property for the Haw River State Park. The main property owners did have a lot of developers knocking on their door. Bluegreen came into the picture and made a good offer. The State did move far too slow.

But now the State is fully aware at the 11th hour that they must have this property if the fledgling Haw River State Park actually develops into a fine, wonderful park for the entire state. The long term plans for this park is to purchase many other significant tracts and try and purchase land so that the park has connection land and trails from Hwy 220 to Hwy 29. Over the next 20 years the State could spend well over 30 million dollars (maybe over 70 million) in land purchases to protect the Haw River and expand the park.

If this directly adjoining huge tract is developed it will "drive a spike right into the heart of the new Haw River State Park." If the rezoning is turned down then the key property owners will be paid their fair market price as significantly determined by Bluegreen's current offer. Lewis Ledford, Director of the N.C. Depart. of Environmental and Natural Resources said in his letter to David McNeill on August 22nd -- "Bottom-line, we remain interested in acquiring the property and have the funding in place to be able to close in a timely manner."

Bluegreen and its key attorney will continue to make the claim that other land is available, and that is true, but this other land is in the long run also needed for the expansion of the Haw River State Park. The State wants to spend many, many millions of dollars providing Guilford and Rockingham Counties with an amazing park that will protect and preserve that area of the state and provide a beautiful scenic place to explore, hike, camp, learn and visit.

We are not anti-development. Bluegreen may be a fine company but we simply cannot turn down this wonderful offer and gift from the State. They want to put a major State Park in our back yard and preserve the Haw River. If this property is developed the resources of the State Parks folks will be directed and diverted elsewhere. The current fledgling HRSP will dry on the vine because it did not get broad community support like the new State Park on the Mayo River that is welcomed and praised by everyone.

Also funds for the expansion of the Haw River State Park are of little drain on the State's budget. Money for the huge land acquisition needed for the long term development of the HRSP will come from the Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, supported by a portion of the state's tax on real estate deed transfers. Other funding comes for the Clean Water Management Trust Fund and the Natural Heritage Trust Funds.

So which do we choose -- A Wonderful, continually expanding Haw River State Park that will provide untold benefits for our community and preserve our Haw River corridor or a gated, golf course community that will destroy the fledgling HRSP and drive Park funds elsewhere.

Cunningham

Is this the (former?) Episcopal Conference Center site?

Billy The Blogging Poet

And for those of you rich bastards who are hoping to build you new McMansions along the fairways: This is the only place in Guilford and Rockingham Counties where the poisonous Cottonmouth Water Moccasin, Copperhead and Canebrake Rattlesnakes can all be found. I hope they bite you.

Billy The Blogging Poet

Cunningham,
The center of the park is to be located at the Episcopal Conference Center site but the park needs to be expanded to include other properties including a beautiful piece of property called, Camp Gilrock, a very under used campground belonging to the United Methodist Churches.

Gilrock already has several camping areas, hiking trails, at least 3 lakes, cabins, wilderness areas, travel trailer areas, several well built shelters and more.

John D. Young

Right Billy! Camp Gilrock may make a great addition to the HRSP some day. Many significant and beautiful tracts still exist in this area of Guilford County, overlapping into Rockingham County. The Episcopal Summit Center in Brown Summit just off Hwy 150 was purchased as one of several initial tracts to start the Haw River State Park. But much additional land is need to both expand the park and provide protection for this area of the Haw River. The long term dream is for thousands of acres to be included in the park to preserve the natural beauty of this almost last undeveloped part of our county and for it to be a central link of the Mountain to Sea Trail.

I understand that young Canebrake Rattlesnakes love to rest in the bottom of the pin cups on golf course greens watched and protected at a distance by the large adults. So if the HRSP's long range growth is killed and replaced with McMansions and a golf course I suggest those golfers look closely before they pick up their ball from the cup and treat the young Canebrakes with proper respect.

Ed Cone

Has there ever been a confirmed sighting of a cottonmouth in Guilford County? I grew up hearing stories, but herpetologists say otherwise.

Not sure it's especially productive to demonize anyone who might want to live in a nice house on a golf course -- the problem is that this golf course is where we need a park instead.

Billy The Blogging Poet

Ed, I've seen the map you point to but to the dozens of former Boy Scouts from Troop 271 and several others who grew up camping in that area the snakes we saw behaved and looked very much like Cottonmouths right down to the white insides of their mouths.

And I dare you to swim in the main lake at Camp Gilrock as that's why they built the swimming pool there.

Granted that was 40 years ago for me but when I was growing up we caught and ate Rattlesnakes in several locations in Guilford County with the experts telling us all along that none could be found here. Now, all these years later turns out we were right.

As to demonizing those who would buy big houses on a golf course... When that golf course is where MY park should be then in my book that buyer become a demon.

John D. Young

We (me, wife and son) lived for 16 years along the banks of the Haw River in Summerfield and saw a lot of Copperheads, water snakes, black snakes, King Snakes but I never was lucky enough to see a rattlesnake along the Haw River. I did run across the granddaddy of all Copperheads near the banks of the Haw River. Absolutely majestic as the last sunlight of the day hit his huge copper head. He was about to feast on a small rabbit and I interrupted his hunt by accidentally spooking his meal. I also understand that according to the experts no cottonmouths exist this far west in NC. But a lot of old timers claim they were around.

When we first moved to an old wilderness cabin in 1985 we pretended the surrounding 1000 acres were a continuation of our 45 acres. Then around 1996 Greensboro National surrounded our property and changed our connection with the wilderness. The city moved to the country. We moved back to the city. We did sale 22 of our acres to the Haw River State Park. We were very glad to help preserve a little patch of paradise we were lucky enough to enjoy and love for 16 years. One of our neighbors, 2 miles away, was 85 and he collected 5 huge burlap sacks of Native American arrowheads as well as a lot of pottery that he gathered when he plowed and planted corn along the Haw River. It is a magic area, rich with the history of those who really loved the land, long ago.

WE are lucky that the State wants to give Guilford County the treasure of a expanding State Park in our back yard and preserve some of this beautiful land along the Haw River. I hope we fully support their efforts and understand its significance to our children, and grand children. Other land can work well for Bluegreen's development. I hope that 50 years from now a lot of folks will say -- Thanks for preserving this land back in 2007 with this wonderful State Park!!

Roger Davis

I very much appreciate all the efforts to establish a state park, in Guilford County. My wife and I travel in a 5th wheel about 6 months each and visit many state parks all across the USA. N. C. needs full service campgrounds
so others can enjoy our beautiful state.

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