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The rewards of rural life

A concerned citizen speaks to the Stokes County commissioners.

Though I certainly enjoyed my 17 years in San Francisco, rural life is far from boring. One of the good things about backroads places such as Stokes County is that the American system of government operates at a small scale. People know each other. It’s easy to get involved. A few people can make a big difference.

In my political activities against fracking, I’ve gotten to know a good many people. Often the same people who show up to work for one urgent cause will show up to work for another urgent cause. In Stokes County, the newest urgent cause is preserving an enormously valuable 19th-century resort and keeping it in the hands of the public. The resort, Vade Mecum, belongs to the state of North Carolina at present and has been operated at a loss by N.C. State University. A few weeks ago, N.C. State informed Stokes County that they’re closing Vade Mecum, which had been used mostly as a seasonal camp for young people. Very quickly, the county’s leadership — both elected and unelected — have gone to work to come up with a plan that would get Vade Mecum and its pristine 900 acres into county hands and keep it open. Tourism is increasingly important to this county, and Vade Mecum adjoins Hanging Rock State Park, which is the most visited state park in North Carolina. So Vade Mecum and its land could become an important part of Stokes County’s tourism master plan.

The room was packed at a meeting Monday of the county commissioners. A retired farmer, in a 30-minute presentation to the commissioners that was simply the most entertaining and most effective presentation I have ever seen, outlined to the commissioners a plan for preserving Vade Mecum that was developed by a group of concerned citizens. The commissioners seemed to like the plan and have promised to act soon on preserving Vade Mecum.

Though dramas like this certainly happen at the state and national level, here at the county level everyone is up close to the action. There is a real sense of working together. I like it. And at this stage of my life, I’d rather live here than even in a place like Paris.

The main lodge at Vade Mecum

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