This blog post first appeared on our old website on August 1st, 2012. Yes, almost two years ago. I think you might enjoy it. I’ve fixed what links I could. Some are no longer available.
At the end of my last post, I asked you to think about what Pike County would look like in 25 years. If you’re like most folks down here, you hope it will stay the same. It won’t. Again, if you’re like most folks, you’re afraid it will look like Clayton County or Henry County. Just another sea of suburban sprawl. That’s a distinct possibility. After all, that is the accepted dynamic around Atlanta. That’s just the way it is.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. I want you to dream about this a bit. And to point you in the right direction, I’m going to share my dream. Now, keep in mind, this isn’t a Democratic vision. And this blog is about the Democratic Party of Pike County. What I want you to see is that it is politics that gets people elected to make a vision come true. And getting Democrats elected is the business of this blog. Let’s get busy.
Imagine if Pike County was a place that our kids didn’t want to leave. Imagine it was a place where our kids didn’t have to leave to find a job. How do we bring that about? What would we want to bring about? What is possible? Where do you even start thinking about something this big?
I needed a starting point. I started with the land. What does Pike County have going for it? It has a lot of land. A lot of undeveloped land. I call that “developer bait”. But I don’t want urban sprawl. You might. And developers definitely do. (Don’t kid yourself, they’re already at work.) If you have a lot of land you can grow trees or you can grow crops. That’s something to explore. Timber and agriculture are already big businesses in Georgia. But my friends at the UGA Experiment Station tell me there really isn’t enough water in Pike to farm using current practices. (Note: Our proximity to the Experiment Station is an asset for the county.) So, we have land but we need water if we want to farm using current practices. (Yes, I said it twice to get your attention.)
Water. Well…it just so happens that we have a river running along one side of our county — the Flint River. If we dam up the Flint, we will have water to farm, a reservoir for drinking water and hey! we could have the next Lake Allatoona or Lake Lanier and that would bring all sorts of jobs to Pike County. Not to mention, everybody likes the idea of living on a lake. Problem solved. My work is done.
Not so fast. If you had clicked on the link provided about the Flint River, you would have read this:
“In the 1970s, a plan by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build a dam at Sprewell Bluff in Upson County was defeated by the Governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, whose hometown of Plains, coincidentally, is located near the Flint River.”
Now, I’m sure there are plenty of people and business concerns out there that would still love to see the Flint dammed up. But let’s think about the possibilities for a moment. Assuming that you didn’t want to get in a huge political fight, you might want to leave well enough alone and work with what you have.
“The unimpeded nature of the river above Lake Blackshear is rare among U.S. rivers. It is one of only 40 rivers in the nation to flow over 200 miles (320 km) unimpeded.”
“Rare”. Hmmm. Usually, something that is “rare” is worth some money. But to whom? Have you ever seen how much money fly fishermen spend? Just to get you thinking…
“Shoal bass can be caught all year long on the Flint, though winter may find them in deeper water and a bit less aggressive. My favorite time on the Flint is spring through fall. Beginning in late March or early April (as soon as the spring rains subside a bit), you will find the big fish in the shoals.”
Evidently, the shoal bass is a special breed of fish. It even has it’s own Wikipedia entry. This part caught my attention.
“The shoal bass is becoming increasingly uncommon in the Apalachicola and Chipola Rivers because so few shoals exist and competition with non-native spotted bass has increased. It is also known in the Chattahoochee river drainage; and is most plentiful in the relatively undammed Flint River of Georgia, as well as lakes such as Blackshear and West Point. Shoal bass are closely associated with rock shoals and are uncommon in other habitat due to its unique spawning requirements.”
“Shoal bass are also popular targets for fly fishers, who find them easy to access in their preferred river environments. The practice of fly fishing for shoal bass is becoming more widespread.”
Now, don’t get lost in the weeds here. We’re looking for ways to generate jobs and a good lifestyle here in Pike County. But it just so happens we have a rare commodity — a wild and untamed river full of rare fish. If you wanted to wrap that up in a political message…do you think the good ol’ boys down here would rather commute to Atlanta for a job or would they rather make money as a fishing guide on the Flint? Or (for the more ambitious) would they rather run a roadside fruit stand or open up an Orvis store on the banks of the beautiful Flint River — shoal bass capital of the world? (If you’ve never heard of Orvis you should click on the link and check it out. There are evidently a lot of people in this world that will pay $750 for a fancy fishing pole.)
Okay, now that you have the general idea, let’s move on quicker and you can start filling in the blanks for yourself.
The Tour de Pike. Have you ever seen how many people ride in that? And how much money they spend on bikes — not to mention that crazy clothing they wear? So, suppose they could ride through our beautiful, pastoral countryside every day instead of just once a year?
“Although only 50 miles from Atlanta, Pike County is a world apart from the hustle of the big city, which is exactly why it’s such a great cycling destination. Life in Pike County moves at a slower, more enjoyable pace, and its small towns are quiet and friendly. This ride starts in the small town of Concord, goes south to Molena, then loops through Zebulon, Williamson, and Gay before concluding back in Concord. Pike County is one of Georgia’s smaller counties but is rich in history, Southern culture, and charm. The land is located in the Piedmont section of Georgia with gently rolling hills with abundant woodlands, farms, fields, wildlife, and wildflowers.”
That sounds pretty nice doesn’t it? And we want to keep it that way, right? But we need good jobs down here. We need to attract commerce. Why can’t we build a bicycle trail in Pike County? No sharing the road with cars — which annoys the locals and the visitors. We could build a dedicated trail. It’s been done before.
One more thing. Slow Exposures will be coming to Pike County again, soon. You may not have been but I have. It’s amazing to meet people from all over the county at this small, little-known affair. Last year I sat with one couple from California and another from New York. Right there in little ol’ Concord. They’d come clear across the county for a photography art exhibit. In Concord! Who’da thunk it? Well, the truth is that we have people in Pike County that did think of these things. And they could think ever bigger.
One of the things that bothered me when I was reading about Slow Exposures last year was this:
“Where to Stay — Although Pike County does not have any lodging available, there are lots of choices, from bed and breakfasts to chain hotels, in neighboring counties.”
That’s a lot of money leaving the county, right there. All because we don’t have any hotels in the county. And it’s pretty easy to understand why we don’t have any hotels, we just don’t have enough visitors — often enough — that need to spend the night. But here we have people that can afford to fly all the way across the country to buy art and they don’t have a place to stay. So they spend that money elsewhere. Probably on dinner too. And I’m assuming they aren’t eating at McDonald’s so we’re losing a lot of money there also.
We could change that. We could start with fishermen and bike riders. We could become Atlanta’s green space. A pastoral playground for the 5 million people that live around Atlanta. And all that is required is that we keep Pike County like we want it — green, rural and peaceful.
Or we can let it all get plowed under and turned into cookie-cutter houses and strip malls.
This has gone on longer than I’d planned so let me keep you hanging until the next post, where I’ll tie some of these ideas together. The way to enact my vision — or yours — is through politics. You elect people that share a common vision. Or you can elect stooges for developers. One or the other will hold the reins of power. I assure you the land developers are engaged with your government, working to enact their vision of Pike County. The question is, are you?
We’ll show you how to get involved. We’re the Democratic Party of Pike County. Come join us.
Don Brown — Chairman
The Democratic Party of Pike County
August 1, 2012