By Bonnie Hauser

Rural Neighbors Question Mountain to Sea Trail

By Bonnie Hauser Posted August 17, 2012 at 3:14 pm

Neighbors in rural Bingham Township are asking tough questions about the Mountain to Sea Trail (MST).  Sounds NIMBY?  Maybe. Until you take a closer look.

Last week, 200 residents showed up at a county Open House – mostly to express concerns about the county’s plan for the Mountain-to-Sea Trail (MST). Until then, information was not forthcoming about plans for the trail.  Bingham homeowners found survey markings and hikers on or near their land and have been asking questions for over a year.

Let’s not forget that this is the community that stopped OWASA from logging the reservoir, UNC from building an airport, and the county from siting a waste facility. We’re still dealing with sewage sludge and a mismatch of services designed for urban neighbors, and many are still holding a grudge over the loss of the thousands of acres of farmland for Cane Creek Reservoir. Bingham has no schools, parks or other amenities that might serve our families.  Residents live on high alert, and when we see surveyors or officials in the woods, we know something’s up – and it’s probably not good.

Honestly,  most of the trail looks promising with segments that run short distances to connect public green spaces including the Eno River State Park, Occanecchi Speedway/Ayr Mount and the Town of Hillsborough.  The hosting communities are dense and welcome the trail as a neighbor – as a preferred alternative to more houses.

The Bingham situation is different. There are no public green spaces in this largely rural community marked with beautiful farms that are centuries old. Homes are remotely placed and neighbors meet up for walks in the woods or at the local dump. Community watch groups are active and, at the suggestion of the sheriff, everyone is on the lookout for unfamiliar cars or other suspicious activity.

So when the neighbors found surveyors on or near their land, they started asking questions. The answers did little to ease growing suspicion, especially among neighbors who live near Cane Creek Reservoir. Since OWASA’s gates are locked, neighbors are particularly concerned that users will access to the trail through private communities – communities that already deal with littering from trespassers who illegally access OWASA’s land.

If OWASA’s land at Cane Creek Reservoir were turned into a public parkland, with controlled access through OWASA’s gates, attitudes might change. That’s how it works at Eno River State Park, Ayr Mount, and other green spaces along the trail.  Don’t Bingham residents deserve the same safety features in their community?

One more point:  OWASA land is beautiful – but it’s a long distance to the nearest towns (HIllsborough and Saxapahaw). In fact, Bingham communities are expected to host the longest section of the MST- all of it impacting private property owners. So Bingham neighbors are being asked to host long-distance hikers without first discussing green spaces that serve the local community.  

Clearly, the discussion of the MST is premature. If Bingham neighbors sound NIMBY, maybe they have a point.

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