Month: November 2007

Shrinking Catawba reveals surprises for watchful

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(BFP reader submitted photo)

JOE DEPRIEST

Anybody can see the Catawba River is in trouble.

All that land uncovered by retreating water is a constant reminder of just how much. It looks like you could play softball or miniature golf on wide open spaces that were once inundated. As I worry about the river, I’ve wondered if the land will be permanently damaged by prolonged exposure and if the river would look the same once the drought ends.

Two local river experts — Joe Stowe of Belmont and Jimmy Drumm of Mount Holly — recently told me the exposed land won’t be harmed in the long run.

Both have been keeping a close watch on the river they love. They’ve never seen the water as low and or been so amazed at the things they’ve found there.

Stowe, 66, who is chairman of the Lake Wylie Marine Commission, recently spotted a 3-foot-diameter red oak stump near his boat lift.

It was an opportunity for him to clear out a major chunk of debris. Sparks flew as Stowe’s chainsaw bit hard into the stump.

The thing didn’t want to come out of the spot where it had been sunk so long the wood had almost petrified.

The shrinking Catawba is full of surprises in these critical times.

The drought has changed the dynamics of wildlife along the river.

Stowe said more raccoons, squirrels and deer are watering in the river as small creeks and streams dry up in nearby forests.

He’s seen muskrats moving to the water as their dens are exposed in riprap along the shoreline.

The muskrats and raccoons are also dealing with a reduced food source.

Stowe said that in early summer, as the river banks first began retreating, mussels were exposed and died. The rotten mussels attracted flocks of buzzards, gulls and crows. That’s passed now, but Stowe said the mussel population took a big hit.

With boat traffic down, he said the river actually looks cleaner. He thinks people are taking better care of the ailing Catawba.

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Competitive fisherman Jimmy Drumm isn’t on the Catawba as often — only about twice a week instead of four or five because of the drought.All the boat landings have been closed except for the one at Nivens Creek in Lake Wylie, S.C.

Drumm, 60, has fished the river since age 3. He knows the Catawba’s stories and lore and respects it highly.

His current view of the river: There’s plenty of deep water and fish are still biting.

Just be careful when you get out there. And don’t even think about venturing north of the railroad trestle in Belmont. From that point about two miles or so upriver to the Mountain Island Dam, the going is extremely treacherous.

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(BFP reader submitted photo)

Drumm knows that for a fact. He tried it about 1 1/2 months ago.

“It was very, very slow going,” Drumm said. “I was amazed at the rock beds and the clusters of trash and roots and stumps. I’d never seen this stuff before.”

On the exposed ground, he saw bridge abutments washed away by the legendary flood of July 1916 — the same high water that destroyed the Mountain Island textile mill and village. Drumm spotted an old wooden device with metal hooks that may have been used at the mill to roll logs or cotton bales.

He also found an old wagon wheel hub and spokes. When he returned later to get the items, someone had already beaten him to them. Drumm has heard about folks hunting the exposed land for musket balls and arrowheads.

As the drought continues, the river reveals pieces of the region’s past.

Looking ahead

I hope the drought breaks soon, but forecasts don’t look good.

Stowe said if the river level drops another foot, some water intakes will become inoperable. Continued conservation is a must.

Meanwhile, Stowe and Drumm also are concerned about the river’s long-term future.

Managing sediment caused by development will continue to be a problem long after the drought.

Maybe our worries in this extraordinary dry season will stick in our minds. When the river rebounds, it still will be in trouble and need our help.

Keep Belmont Beautiful helps students learn about water conservation

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Keep Belmont Beautiful, an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful, has been using the proceeds from a Community Foundation Grant to help educate third graders in Belmont about environmental issues.

This grant, entitled Planting the Seeds of Learning, is being used to provide a monthly program to North Belmont and Belmont Central Elementary students.

October’s program was on water conservation, and children learned tips for conserving water, current levels of rainfall, and the mandated water restrictions by the City of Belmont. They all received a 30-minute program on water conservation tips and were given copies of water conservation tips to take home and a word search and coloring section on water conservation. All third grade classes were given presentations by Carolyn Sly on how to construct a compost pile, each class room receiving all of the equipment to build it.

Keep Belmont Beautiful educates and involves the community in litter and waste reduction, recycling, beautification and natural resources conservation.

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(KBB photo – Carolyn Sly in Classroom)
 

Can Walk Score Improve the Value of Your Home?

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We previously reported that Belmont has the best “Walk Score” in Gaston County, (10/29/07), here is another take on the impact of sidewalks and walkable community values from Realty Times:

Just imagine, your real estate agent is showing you a print out from the Multiple Listing Service of a home you might want to buy. On the sheet is something you’ve never seen before.

“Our hope would be that eventually it’s something that is in the MLS, where it says ‘Two bedroom, two bathroom, 1,000 square feet, Walk Score of: 80,'” says Matt Lerner, co-developer of a website called Walk Score.

While the MLS doesn’t yet offer this feature, creating a Walk Score for a particular property is a concept that Lerner and a couple of other technology colleagues (Jesse Kocher and Mike Mathieu) developed after realizing that how walkable an area is, rates high for consumers.

“We got interested in the benefits of walkable neighborhoods partially due to a nonprofit in Seattle called the Sightline Institute which had done so much writing on all the benefits of walking,” says Lerner.

Lerner says some of the benefits were obvious, such as walking is good exercise and helps to reduce environmental pollution.

“But then there were some non-obvious benefits, such as walking is really good for communities because you’re out in your neighborhood, you’re talking to people, you’re meeting people. Walkable neighborhoods are also good for local businesses because, rather than driving to one place, you can stop and walk around and look at all the little stores. So it’s a good way to support local businesses and local culture too,” says Lerner.

So the developers set out to create a website that measures the walking score for home locations. Walk Score.com launched in the summer and in just four weeks got one million visitors wanting to know a property’s Walk Score. Using Google Maps and business listings, the site computes a Walk Score for any address in the United States and Canada. It bases the points assigned on the distance to local amenities and then averages the score. Then for the fun of it, visitors can compare their scores to that of famous locations and people such as Bill Gate’s house, Fenway Park or Jennifer Anniston and Brad Pitt’s (pre-divorce) home.

Lerner says that since the site launched they have received lots of emails from users saying that walkability is the number one priority they focus on when buying a house.

“I know in Seattle, for example, a lot of people work at Microsoft, which is in Redmond, so they commute to work but, for where they live, especially if they have kids or a family, having things they can walk to is really important and then for younger folks being able to walk to a bar or a coffee shop is important. Walk Score is a really simple way to see what’s in the neighborhood near the property you’re looking at,” says Lerner.

However, Walk Score doesn’t take into account things such as lakes or other roadblocks that might force someone to take a different route to get to the destination.

“What Walk Score does is fairly simple. We measure whether you can get to the types of businesses that consumers want and then we base a score on that,” says Lerner.

Lerner says creative real estate agents and homeowners are using it to help sell homes.

“One of the really fun things on the Internet has been that people are comparing their scores and bragging about them. A big, new condo in Seattle put up a huge Walk Score banner on the front that said Walk Score 100 and they used that banner as a marketing tool because they think that, for urban condos, walkability is one of the selling points,” says Lerner.

Buyers are using Walk Score to help determine which house better suits their needs.

“We’re seeing people actually comparing different properties and if a place gets a low Walk Score, someone can say, ‘Oh, wow I didn’t realize I couldn’t actually walk to the grocery store if I bought this house but if I buy this other one, I can walk to all these amenities,'” says Lerner.

Lerner says real estate agents see Walk Score as another way to help sell a property and, “in a down-real-estate market you need all the selling points you can get.”

High school plans in motion

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New Gaston school site has not yet been identified, but it would be in east end of county

Can’t wait for this site to be identified and the choice of name, colors, mascots, and whether a soccer field will be a part of the the campus plans.

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It is too bad that the county school board and the “educated” planners do not consider more urban models of school designs. These models would build on smaller land in a vertical format. The Belmont vision of “Town Center” could be accomplished, better park and community facilities such as baseball, softball, soccer, football, and cross country courses could be assembled in a workable plan that can be used year around. Of course, the school won’t be in Belmont and the new UDO of Gaston County doesn’t really address school construction issues, but it is worth a plug to keep up discussion.

Our coffee-klatch speculation is that the site will be on the McAdenville side of Lowell north of the interstate.  There is a 260+ acre piece of property that is owned by Belmont Land & Investment. It is adjacent to Lowell Elementary school and could made accessible from either exit #22 or #23 of I-85. But again, we just speculate…

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Mark your calendars

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The Community Foundation of Gaston County will hold the 6th Annual Run for the Money on Saturday, April 19, 2008.

More than 105 non-profit community groups will benefit from the contributions to the Community Foundation which has distributed $5.1 million to organizations since it begin in 2003.

Organizations must be certified charitable organizations, school-based programs, or faith-based groups, to be able to participate in the events. 

In February 2008, donation forms will be available from the Community Foundation. People wishing to donate funds for specific groups need only to designate which organization they wish their funds to support. The Community Foundation provides a formula match up to $10,000. In May, the organizations receive matching funds from the foundation.

Check out the Community Foundation of Gaston County website for more details.  

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Bullets hit Nichols Food Store in Belmont

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Ok, so the Topix folks and the Gazette broke this story yesterday. However, on Sunday morning one of our editors was purchasing papers about 9:00 AM and overheard the police and Nichol’s staff talking about the shooting. Kinda sounded like Alice’s Restaurant type of discussion. You know, “…27 8×10 color glossies, with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each on …”, etc.

Since it happened in the walking neighborhood of our fair town, it is news, just like the vandalism that occurred this fall over in Hawthorne.

Seems that our Po-lice have themselves a real-lyfe inve-stig-a-shun a goin’. It appears that the fancy crime scene van finally got to have some work rather than bein’ parked in the shiny lot over on Chronicle Street.

Good luck officers. You broke the summer vandalism thingy. You can do this one too!

Seriously though,

We are happy that nobody was injured, and we are sorry for the Nichols folks for the damage. May the shooters were angry that they were closed for the night… who knows?

Program on Montcross project Dec. 13

The Belmont Chamber and Belmont Abbey College are hosting a program on the 1,100-acre Montcross development project on Dec. 13.

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(Montcross Development – Wilkinson Boulevard Side)

The program, which includes networking and refreshments, is from 5:30 until 7:30 p.m. on the Belmont Abbey campus.

Project designer Bill Monroe, president of Charlotte-based WGM Designs, Inc, will speak about the project and answer questions. Networking will start at 5:30 p.m. in the Haid Ballroom with the Montcross presentation starting at 6:30 p.m. in the adjoining Haid Theatre.

Montcross is a commercial and residential project stretching along Interstate 85 from the Catawba River to the South Fork. The plan touches four towns: Belmont, Mount Holly, Cramerton and McAdenville.

A Wal-Mart Supercenter opened on the property last year. Opening in December are Lowes Home Improvements, BB&T and Hampton Inn.

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As more property is developed over the next 20 to 30 years, it is estimated that 10,000 people may be employed in the project, which has been called the next Ballantyne.

Montcross is a partnership involving land owned by the Southern Benedictine Society of North Carolina (founders of Belmont Abbey College), Pharr Yarns, Parkdale Mills and R.L. Stowe Mills.

There is no charge for the program, but registration is requested by email to info@belmontchamber.com or by calling 704-825-5307.

Observer article by Joe DePriest