Friday, January 11, 2008

The More Things Change....

Change, it seems, is inevitable. I grew up in a little community dominated by pastures. For my entire life, there was a barn over on East Cherokee Drive that looked a little shaky. Even so, this barn withstood a tornado and years of age. After I went off to Georgia Tech, it started to lean further and further, but I always said that nothing could knock it over. Apparently, I was wrong. Shortly after I moved out of state, it fell over.

The collapse of this rickety old structure symbolizes for me the change which is besieging my home county. Even when I was living only a 45 miles away in Atlanta, each of my visits home showed me farms turned into tract houses, forests turned into shopping centers, and hills turned into buildable lots.

Historic Gresham's Mill on Sixes Road

A rural stretch of East Cherokee Drive in Hickory Flat

And while it's true that not all change is bad, some of it makes me sick. At some level I wonder how many resources we will waste on the sprawl which will become untenable without cheap oil. Perhaps another factor in my feeling of distaste comes from seeing so much of what I knew disappear.

The Appalachian mountains are a backdrop for sprawl east of Canton

New tract housing in South Canton

Shopping and Parking just off of Interstate 575

But, as I said, not all change is bad. The city of Woodstock, about ten miles south of Canton, for many years was the second largest city in Cherokee County. With increasing suburbanization Woodstock's proximity to Atlanta caused it to surpass Canton in population. But even in the midst of the sprawlscape, a ray of hope can be seen. Centered on the old Woodstock train station on Main Street, is a new new-urbanist development. Hedgewood Properties is developing a mix of lofts, offices, and shops. The development will complement Woodstock's Main Street businesses and is adjacent to a proposed commuter rail station on the Atlanta-Marietta-Canton line. While the state has yet to fund even the first leg of Georgia's commuter rail program, this development makes the Canton line's construction even more likely.

Historic Main Street in Woodstock

The central park in Downtown Woodstock

The old Woodstock railroad station and Hedgewood redevelopment

Main Street, old and new

At any rate, on the eve of my return to Maryland, I have mixed feelings about the change that my four months of absence has wrought on Cherokee County. On the one hand, I am hopeful because of the downtown redevelopments under construction in Canton and Woodstock. And I am also disappointed in the continued reliance on sprawl to increase the tax base of the local governments here. I also wonder what my hometown will look like when I next return.

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