Friends and neighbors gathered last Thursday at Little River Vineyard to celebrate the kick-off of the 73 Bypass historic preservation effort.
The Sandhills Area Land Trust Consultant Jesse 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. This project is part of the Sandhills Area Land Trust’s (SALT) effort to preserve the history and natural resources along scenic by-ways in North Carolina.
The kick-off event at Little River Vineyard served two purposes, according to Wimberley. The first purpose was to introduce or re-introduce neighbors to each other; people who live and own land along Highway 73. The second purpose was to connect landowners with information and representatives from agencies that could aid landowners in making natural resources on their land profitable.
“I thought the event was wonderful,” said Wimberley. “It gave people the opportunity to form or renew connections. We are connected along the road by more than asphalt.”
When Wimberley addressed the crowd — who enjoyed tasting a variety of wines produced by Little River Vineyards and eating dinner prepared by Ellerbe Springs Catering — he spoke of a term many had not heard before: View-shed.
“As people travel along the road, they have a very positive experience,” said Wimberley. “It makes you feel better. It induces you to feel like you want to see more. You want to explore. It makes the whole experience pleasurable.”
Wimberley hopes to help landowners expand the View-shed by implementing strategies to increase land value and to entice businesses to locate on Highway 73.
“It will have an accumulative effect if we set up the climate for business growth,” said Wimberley.
Chris and Amy Yaklin have property on Highway 73. Chris Yaklin is the President of the Richmond County Farm Bureau.
“I was invited to attend the meeting at first as a representative for Farm Service Agency during the planning stages to offer information about the services our agency might be able to provide landowners in the area, and then I received an invitation because I am a landowner on Highway 73,” said Amy Yaklin, executive director of the Farm Service Agency.
“It was a pleasant evening to chat with my neighbors and I enjoyed being able to tell them about what I do on a professional level. I knew about of a third of those attending because they are my neighbors or I work with them regularly since our agencies are located in the same building and we work with a lot of the same producers on one level or another. But it was very nice to meet some folks I had never had the pleasure of speaking with before,” she said.
People present included folks that do not live in Richmond County.
“It was nice to see how so many groups and people could come together for the good of one area,” said Yaklin. “From the mayor of Mount Gilead, to a landowner who now resides in Maryland, to a representative from Rankin Museum, to those of us to choose to live and/or farm on Hwy 73. It is a beautiful area, which should be recognized for its scenic beauty and the ability to produce bumper crops.
“I learned that others are also concerned for this stretch of highway that it might remain beautiful and might even be preserved through easements or land use measures. I think this meeting was a great reminder for all who attended that we are entrusted with this great resource of land in a beautiful place and we should always be mindful to take good care of it and what it gives back to us so that it will be there for future generations,” Yaklin said.
As Wimberley moves forward with this project, he is in partnership with several agencies, including the Richmond County Cooperative Extension, because as the title suggests, cooperation between agencies and people is a driving force behind this project.
“We were very happy with the turnout Thursday,” said Burns. “It was a perfect evening, a great venue, and people seemed to be having a wonderful time. The fact that this initiative seeks to use existing county programs — the Voluntary Agricultural District Program, Present Use Value, and cost share opportunities through the Forestry Service, NRCS, Soil and Water and FSA — means that people can begin to move this project forward immediately, without having to wait for a new initiative to ramp up.
“From the rapport of the folks at the gathering there is obviously a great sense of community already existing around the Highway 73 area. This project will build on that sense of community and share it with others who are seeking to experience something new and different off the beaten path. Ultimately, the Scenic By-way project seeks to promote a beautiful and little known part of Richmond County, protecting what makes it special and yet bringing economic benefits to those who are fortunate enough to live and own businesses there,” Burns said.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.