I interrupt my Mountains-to-Sea travelogue to wonder about all the empty land I saw on my walk.
When I turn onto NC 65 from Walnut Cove and head toward Stokesdale, I’m walking in an area with a lot of undeveloped land.
Wait a minute – why doesn’t the MST go through here? Why am I walking on the road? The quick answer is that all this land is privately owned.
What are these owners doing with their land?
The first section I come to had been cleared and it looks terrible. See the picture above.
It’s a flat mess of stumps and downed saplings. Maybe the owners had hoped to develop it and put up houses. And now the parcel is for sale. If no one wants to buy the land, it’s worthless or maybe it’s priceless.
Other areas are just tired, rough woods, full of small skinny trees. A collection of old farm equipment takes up an empty lot.
The land may have been logged in the past but the area has not been replanted. In between, there are a few neat houses with large lawns.
Why not give the MST a right of way or create a conservation easement or even better, just donate the land to the state?
Right now, as I see it from the ground, much of this land is full of garbage and old, abandoned barns about to fall down. A countless number of posted and private signs have been nailed to trees. It’s not used for farming, grazing, living on or playing.
No one is rushing to buy this acreage and build a house on it. And I don’t think you need to blame the economy. This is not an area that would attract vacationers or second-home owners. It’s not in the mountains and it’s too far from Greensboro.
I can picture the older generation having lived off this land and now they want to pass it on. They will need to divide it up, making it even less attractive to potential buyers.
Some people have tied up their land in so many legal wrangles that it would make a real estate lawyer cross eyed. And if you ask the children who may not be living in the area, they probably would say that they don’t want it. What are they going to do with it?
Even if they don’t want to let go of the land, the landowners could get together and build a trail, like the Sauratown trail. The Sauratown Trail between Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock is on private land but it’s open to hikers and maintained by the Sauratown Trail Association.
Duke Power created a boat access from some of their land but most of it is still posted “Private” in English and Spanish.
I pass several housing developments that are not very developed – lots of flat, cleared land in between.
And a “Under Contract” sign that had been thrown to the ground, maybe after the land deal didn’t go through.
But giving away land is not that simple.
Some children may want to sell it, others to hold on to it and maybe others would consider giving it away.
Why not contact Conservation Trust for North Carolina and let them help you figure it out?
It may be time to reread A Thousand Acres.