When I decided to move barns a year and a half ago a big part of that decision was trail access. I picked my current barn because it's right across the way from the Croatan forest. Once Razz was moved in I found out about another small trail access, the sand pits. I call it small...it's between 40 and 50 acres...that is very small compaired to the thousands of acres in the national forest. However, when riding in the sand pits it really doesn't seem that small. There are several different paths to choose from and if you don't know the way around in there it would be incredibly easy to get turned around or lost.
One of my first blog entries was titled A Trip to the Sand Pits and it documented my first ride through the pits without any other riders. At the time I didn't realize I was only riding half of the woods. Later on I would discover the second half, and grow to love this little patch of trees just as much as it's larger, federally protected neighbor.
One morning not long after moving Razz, I was doing my normal thing, drinking coffee and getting ready for work with the local news on tv. In passing through the room I glanced at the tv screen and thought to myself "that looks just like the front section of the sand pits". So I stopped and paid attention to the story, and ended up finding out the small town the sand pits are in was going to have a city council meeting on annexing the woods, raising local taxes to install infrastructure, and building approximately 300 homes in there. I posted about that as well.
To say the least, I was shocked. After discussing this with the barn owner I found out that not only were the woods in the development plan. The fields behind the barn were included in phase two of the project. Yes, the huge bean and corn fields I talk about riding in. The other side of the bridge pictured in my first sand pits post rests on this phase two property. Meaning we won't even have access to the Croatan anymore without a) riding in someone's backyard (assuming they don't fence their yards) b) heading over on the main road which has almost no shoulder and tons of traffic or c) riding through the large turnout pastures and dealing with loose horses etc.
Obviously where there's a will, there's a way, and we'd find a way to make this work. But loosing the sand pits is a huge blow to us riders. I never heard any more news about the development until late summer of last year. The project was approved, the same developer of the apartments next to the sand pits would be in charge of new housing construction. When the rental apartments were built, an adjoining development of nice duplexes were also put up. The duplexes were purchased, not rented, and they had two units left to sell. As soon as those sold construction would begin on the houses. The duplexes had been built a few years prior and I kept my fingers crossed that those last two would just continue to sit empty.
Then around October (??) we started seeing bright orange ribbons tied to certain trees in the sand pits. Other trees had been blazed with purple paint, including some trees around the bean field. I have no idea what each marking indicated. But I did know it was most definitely related to construction. These were the first actual signs of the project and things really began to sink in.
Since the new year I've been riding almost exclusively in the arena and had no idea what was going on in the woods. The other trail riders had told me the land was beginning to be cleared. They'd heard heavy equipment on the back side of the sand pits, and out next to the main road everyone could see a small area where the equipment was being parked. This weekend I rode in to get a first hand look. The front part of the sand pits was more or less undisturbed. The second half was a different story:
After seeing this I wanted to vomit.
This post comes on the heels of Sarah's post about road construction through a peice of her farm. The hills of SW VA are absolutely gorgeous. I've driven a handful of people through that part of the country for their first time and they always, always comment on just how beautiful it is. It is a real shame that things like this happen, and I hope the best possible outcome for Sarah, but such is the way of "progress". If there are tax dollars to be made, the natural world will always loose out.
So here we are. The sand pits are officially being bulldozed.