By: Shar Porier.
The Banks County News
July 24, 2002
Keeping Banks beautiful
while planning for growth
When I first bought property here in Banks County 13 years ago, I figured Id have a good 15 years before suburbia would manage to migrate this far north.
The land was beautiful. Rolling hills, lots of hardwoods and pines. A spring bringing fresh, clean water out of the ground from some deep pool. A creek as one boundary and the Hudson River as another.
The land backed up on acreage owned by a lumber company. It seemed the perfect setting for a home. It seemed like a bit of Eden.
Then the lumber company brought in dozers and log-haulers and began to clear cut the beautiful forest. My beautiful forest. The one I had walked from end-to-end. Where I had discovered the trail of the big buck and even saw him on several occasions. He was so beautiful, so majestic. Bambi in the flesh.
There was so much wildlife in those thousands of acres, I came to feel like their protector. The bright pink mountain laurel cascading down hillsides. The unique wildflowers, some of which I still have not been able to identify. The spiral webs of spiders glistening in the early morning dew. The spring lizards and chameleons that Id find looking under rocks in streams. There was something everywhere to catch my attention and my devotion.
But, my protector status was merely an illusion. In reality, I could do nothing to protect the woodlands and the myriad of creatures that made it their home.
As the huge trees crashed to the ground, my heart sank, not just because the forest was gone and raw clay sparsely dotted with unwanted trees replaced it, but because I had lost something I had mistakenly taken as mine.
The land surrounding me is not mine. I cannot control what happens to it.
As good fortune would have it, the land was taken over by the department of natural resources and became the Wilson Shoals Wildlife Management Area.
I was relieved. The huge expanse would one day be again alive with beautiful flora and fauna.
Unfortunately, it would also be alive with hunters and hikers and ATVers.
It wasnt long before the DNR put in a shooting range.
I have nothing against the range, only the noise. The range is frequented by many weekend warriors out to hone their sharp-shooting skills. It sounds like a small arms battle most of the time.
But, I told myself, if they were there where it was safe, at least they werent doing it somewhere else where people could get shot by an errant bullet.
Besides, it sure must make the ammo dealers lots of bucks. Guess thats good for the county.
Still, it is not the peaceful setting that I had so longed for when I moved here.
It taught me a lesson, though. Just because you have a bit of Eden one day, doesnt mean youll have it the next.
With all the talk of comprehensive planning and economic development, it made me recall those early days.
My experience also lets me understand how many of the newcomers to the county feel about the beauty that is found in Banks County. One day they have a view of a beautiful rolling pasture, the next theres a subdivision going up or an asphalt plant. Its upsetting.
But, it would be more upsetting to have rampant development, unplanned and helter-skelter throughout the county.
There needs to be some planning, some order to the surging wave of development that will reach us one day in the not so distant future.
Our development authority board members know this. Our planning commission knows this. Our board of commissioners know this.
They and many others know we need the money light industry and green industry can bring. Like it or not, its money we need to better our infrastructure without the burden being on the backs of all us taxpayers. We can bring in industry that wont tax our system services, but help improve them.
And lets face it, we need jobs in this county, good-paying jobs that will keep our people here. We need housing, affordable housing, to keep our people here.
While some might think the businesses at Banks Crossing will continue to provide for all the countys needs through sales tax, in reality it wont and it cant.
Our input to the countys leaders should be objective, knowledgeable, and with the countys benefit at heart - not our own impossible desires.
Banks County can be a leader in wise economic planning. There will be some tough decisions ahead. We can face them together.
In the meantime, we can keep asking questions and making our thoughts known. Just let them be productive and insightful.
We can keep Banks beautiful and grow at the same time. All it takes is patient preparation and dogged determination.
I think we can handle that.
Shar Porier is a reporter for The Banks County News.
By: Rochelle Beckstein
The Banks County News
July 24, 2002
A new breed of reality TV
New reality TV shows are cropping up every week. As reruns dominate summer prime time, networks are trying to woo viewers away from their rivals by flooding the market with their brand of reality TV. And it pays high dollars to find a reality TV show that America wants to watch. Reality TV lacks the pricey celebrity salaries of Kelsey Grammer and Lisa Kudrow, yet, if you produce a hit like Survivor, advertisers will clamor for commercial time.
In the wake of September 11, network watchers predicted that reality TV had hit its apex and it was on the way out. They seemed to be right as Survivors ratings plummeted and more and more people tuned in to see their old Friends. Sitcoms offered America an escape into a time before the tragedy. For thirty minutes Americans could forget we were at war while we laughed with Will and Grace and Drew Carrey.
It seemed that reality TV was deadthe primetime war had lost another combatant. Yet summer primetime is a whole other ballgame. No one really vies for summer viewers. Does that bother anyone else? Networks love you in February and May, but once the ratings are in on their season finale, they dont know you until September rolls around. What is the answer to summer reruns, i.e. summer boredom? For some networks it is reality TV. To escape the heat outside and to put chores like mopping the floor off for another hour, America seeks an escape and at this point, well settle for just about anything. Some reality shows like Big Brother and the Mole have escaped rigor mortis because there is nothing else on. Its like the old joke-whats worse than having four channels and nothing interesting on? Having 150 channels and nothing interesting on.
While I dont see Big Brother or the Mole as being competition for the top ratings spot when the regular fodder returns in September, Fox has come up with a new principle that just might give Yes, Dear and other sitcoms a run for their moneyAmerican Idol.
The show offers its viewers an escape from reality and its producers the benefits of reality TVfewer costs. America can tune in as star-hopefuls compete for the chance to become the next singing sensation. Its a chance to watch as people who have enough gumption to pursue their dream do just that. And some of those who are succeeding are actually nice guys (or girls as the case may be). Its clear who you root for and who you root against. You dont vote people off the show; you vote contestants onto the show for another week. And when the votes are tallied, there are no cheers from the eight who will go onto the next round, there are only tears for the two who will be going home. There is no animosity and no alliances among them. They are just 10 people out of the original thousands who tried out in cities across our country. Ten people who want to make their dream come true, but they arent willing to step on someone else in order to get there. The ultimate prize is a record contract. The ironic part of the entire contest is that the show has become such a hit that more than one of them will get record deals. The PR alone will sell records.
But those arent the only reasons America is in love with American Idol. The main reason the show has all of the ratings this summer is because America gets to watch the best of the best. In a different time, American Idol would garner some faithful viewers, maybe those who have singing ambitions themselves, but it wouldnt be a hit. Think of Star Search (different show, same premise) which was only mediocre in the 80s and 90s. In war times with the lives of thousands already expended to fight terrorism, this reality show has what America is fighting for-Americans from the big cities to the little towns with families and friends and hopes and dreams and the freedom to pursue those hopes and dreams. It is an hour or so when we can reaffirm part of why it is important for America to stand for freedom and justice. An hour or so when we can watch that freedom in action.
Rochelle Beckstine is a columnist for MainStreet Newspapers.