Fresh Eyes: On conflict and open spaces

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John Youngby John Young

Thanks for your fine article on the Richardson-Taylor Preserve [“Citizen Green: Open space program leaves a lasting legacy”]. It was wonderful to see that hiking trail, that should become part of the statewide Mountain-to-Sea Trail, used by you and your young daughter. Your comments about the nature preserve being there for the long-term protection of the forest, the streams, the wetlands, and to provide protection for one of city’s water reservoirs and for wildlife was excellent

The Richardson-Taylor Preserve that has 443 acres is one that reflects the help and generosity of everyone involved in the project:

1. The Richardson family, as you stated in your article, sold 250 acres to Guilford County at well below the appraised value. The Morton family, of Grandfather Mountain fame, also sold 193 acres for this project at below the appraised land value to the state who wanted to use this nature preserve as part of the Mountains-to-Sea trail connector from Haw River State Park to the Greensboro watershed trails. (Guilford County citizens helped create what became the Guilford County Open Space Committee, and one of their first preservation efforts was to recommend and work for the creation of the Haw River State Park as well as work later for its expansion.)

2. If memory serves, not only was the state of North Carolina involved by fully purchasing the Morton/Taylor property, but Guilford County Open Space staff head Alex Ashton was able to locate additional state funds to purchase some of the Richardson property. This and other nature preserves were purchased with voter-approved bonds, but also landowners on several occasions sold their land to Guilford County at a reduced price in order to permanently preserve their land. The McKee-Huger Preserve was given to the county with no compensation. And several of the nature preserves were purchased with Clean Water Management Trust funds and other preservation funds in order to make taxpayers’ money go further than just the original bonds.

3. The Guilford County Open Space Committee was only a citizen’s committee. Members of the open space committee were approved by the parks and recreation commission and all recommendations (especially all recommendations about land acquisitions) by the open space committee had to be approved by the parks and recreation commission and most importantly the board of county commissioners.

4. Many, many volunteers helped to create the Bill Craft Trail along the Richardson-Taylor Preserve walkways and foot bridges and that major effort saved significant money for both Guilford County and the state of North Carolina.

So rather than contention and conflict, the Richardson-Taylor Preserve is an example of the Guilford County Commission, the open space committee, the state of North Carolina, the property owner and engaged volunteers working together to create this wonderful nature preserve in Summerfield. Perhaps one day we can return to that spirit of cooperation.

John Young is a former chairman of the Guilford County Open Space Committee.