This past Saturday offered a great reminder of why we owe a debt of gratitude to the Springs-Close family for creating the Anne Springs Close Greenway. The greenway’s annual Earth Day celebration gives those who need it a chance to connect – or reconnect – with nature.
Walking the shaded trails or enjoying one of the lakes, the sound of birds and rustling leaves replaces the blare of traffic on one of the major roads nearby. The ASC Greenway insulates visitors from the sites and sounds of the residential growth and sprawl that threatens to transform Fort Mill, where the population has more than tripled in the past decade, into another indistinguishable suburb.
It seems the chief complaint of Fort Mill natives and long-time residents is over-development. Along with growing frustration about traffic snarls and schools that seem to reach capacity as quickly as they’re built, people fret when they see another set of woods cleared or a field paved over.
To say growth is occurring unchecked would be unfair; elected officials have used the few tools at their disposal to prevent some possible developments. Overlay districts limit where high-impact businesses, such as gas station/convenience stores, can be built, and just recently a request by a builder to create more housing units than zoning at the location allows was denied.
Can elected officials do more? That’s an argument for another day. In the meantime, they deserve a nod for demonstrating that constituents are being heard at a time when many were starting to wonder if local decision-makers have become tone deaf to concerns about growth.
Rapid development is not limited to Fort Mill Township. Western York County, which still seems to have vast acres of undeveloped land, is experiencing a boom in residential and commercial growth as well. There, however, an approach by a preservation group called York County Forever has quietly taken big chunks of property off the market. Last week, the organization dedicated a 282-acre parcel in Sharon acquired for less than $544,000. The land is in York County Councilman Joe Cox’s District 3, where most of the group’s activity has been concentrated. The group hasn’t conserved any land in council districts that cover Fort Mill or Tega Cay and Cox said that may be a reason why the council isn’t overly enthusiastic about providing money for more acquisitions.
Similarly, the Nation Ford Land Trust, which has been able to acquire and protect some property in the township during the years, could do more money. With the current political climate, the availability of tax dollars for anything other than providing core services has been scarce.
Which brings us back to the greenway.
Last week, the ASCG announced the launch of a $15 million capital campaign to build a welcome center and amphitheater and create an endowment to help sustain the 2,100-acre preserve. After taking into account seed money from the Springs Close family and large corporate donations, the campaign needs to raise $5 million to reach its goal. This is where you come in.
We’d like to ask everyone who appreciates the greenway to make a donation – and no contribution is too small. Even becoming a greenway member – which comes with an array of benefits – and making no additional donation will help, though we encourage everyone to do both. The greenway will update its website soon to allow online donations. Until then, checks can be mailed to: The Anne Springs Close Greenway, PO Box 1209 Fort Mill 29716. Write “capital campaign” in the memo section of the check.
Signing up to become a greenway member or an annual supporter can be done online. To join, or for more information, go to ascgreenway.org.
Although it’s not too late to save Fort Mill from over-development, recent trends do not portent a favorable outcome. We’ll continue to urge elected officials and residents to work toward solutions that preserve more of the green space that remains here. But one day, we might all wake up and realize that the Anne Springs Close Greenway is all the nature we have left.
The greenway has given us all so much and it wants to keep on giving. Now it’s time to give back.