The SC State House District 4 with 40,000+ citizens covers roughly 450 square miles (the required ten year redistricting eliminated a significant portion of the western area of Pickens country from the 4th district – an illogical redrawing in my estimation) and includes numerous small rural cities and municipalities including Pickens, Liberty, Norris, Easley, Dacusville, Pumpkintown, Aerial and Midway. Yet, no matter where we live, where we work, or what our socio-economic status is, one thing we all have in common is our ability to walk outside, find a piece of high ground, look north and observe the incredible beauty of the foothills, blue ridge mountains and Table Rock. We are incredibly blessed to view God’s masterpiece, drive to it in less than twenty minutes, hike the trails, smell and breath the mountain air, hunt fish and relax. Yet, in a matter of a few years all of this peace, serenity and beauty could be lost for eternity if decisive action is not taken.
Preserving, Protecting and Enhancing the Cherokee Foothills Scenic by-way (commonly referred to as Highway 11), and the surrounding foot-hills, mountains, forest, parks and corridors falls directly in-line with four of my five priorities if I am elected to serve district 4 in the SC State House.
Unfortunately, due to apathy, no leadership, and no strategic vision, the corridor is on the brink of environmental, historical, transportation and economic developmental disaster. Meeting the intent and desires of We the People of the 4th District on this important topic requires decisive and pro-active leadership, visionary planning and detailed coordination with multiple local, state and federal entities, including but not limited to: Pickens, Oconee and Greenville Counties, SC State House District 1 and 17, and multiple state agencies including SC Department of Transportation, SC Department of Natural Recourses, SC Department of Health and Environmental Controls, SC Forestry Department, SC Department of Archives and History, SC Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, and the US Department of Interior.
Fortunately, key members of the Pickens County Council, especially Alex Saitta, identified the dire need of action and appropriated funding for the Appalachian Council of Governments to conduct a detailed Highway 11 Corridor Study founded upon significant input from local citizenry in the area. In addition, they voted to enact a short yet important moratorium on any development along the most photographed place in the state of South Carolina. The most glaring shortfall of this study is that it only covers the Highway 11 corridor in Pickens County and ignores the key areas in Greenville and Oconee counties.
As a sitting member of the Pickens County Planning Commission, I have attended multiple community wide meetings on the topic, reviewed the study in several forms and discussed the issue with countless people in the area. The Pickens County Planning Commission only provides recommendations to the County Council and it is up to them to act upon the recommendations. But, as noted above this challenge is much much larger than anything the County can handle, pay for, plan for and execute.
As the State House Representative of the 4th District, I will gladly shoulder and lead the effort to Preserve, Protect and Enhance the corridor (both inside and outside the 4th district) that we all love and enjoy. While this task is enormous the desires of the citizens of the district demand action and I propose the following vision.
So what does success look like for this monumental effort? The year is 2055 and Cherokee Great Chief Corn Tassell (Cherokee chief who signed the Hopewell treaty in 1785), Andrew Pickens (county namesake, Revolutionary War hero, SC Statesmen and former resident at Tamassee knob), and Ambrose Gilstrap (my fathers-in-law’s great-great grandfather who was born, lived (fought in the Civil War) and now buried near present day Sunset), are all raised from the dead and dropped off at the Highway 11/Highway 25 interchange and directed to travel together to Walhalla. Over the course of four days they traverse the 48 miles along the scenic path, smell the fresh air, drink from natural springs, seek protection under massive canopies of natural trees, observe kill and eat native wildlife, interact with hospitable hikers, local farmers and business owners, smell and enjoy the beauty of the natural flora and fauna and all the while never seeing a high-rise hotel, hearing the cheers from a local amusement park, or having to traverse thru a poorly maintained trailer park or makeshift housing complex littered with trash. At the end of this journey the collectively declare how similar everything looks, smells and feels as it did when they were young men traversing the same beautiful land that God provided us to enjoy and preserve.
You may agree or disagree with some or many of the points above. But at least it is a vision and a plan. A conversation starter. And without question better than what we currently have in place – which is nothing. We cannot keep electing the same apathetic politicians over, and over and over again and expect a different outcome. The time to Preserve, Protect and Enhance the Cherokee Foothills Corridor is now. Or would you rather it look like Pigeon Forge? Or a 48 mile trash dump?