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Darts and laurels

Dart to the state billboard industry’s attempt to chop down more trees just so you can get a better view of all those wonderful roadside signs. Under current regulations, the industry already has the authority to dispatch crews onto state property (primarily highway rights of way) to clear trees and other vegetation that is within 250 feet of billboards. Now, the billboard battalions are lobbying for another 125 feet of clearcutting authority. Thus far, it looks like the only people supporting this measure are billboard owners and the N.C. Outdoor Advertising Association. Considering the pace of development in North Carolina, we need all the trees we can get. It’s not like there’s a great hue and cry among motorists complaining about oaks and pines blocking their view of advertisements for truck stops and outlet malls.
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Laurels to North Carolina’s growing list of wineries ó an agritourism business that not only pleases the palate but boasts annual sales of $48.2 million spread across 31 counties, including Rowan. A study recently commissioned by the N.C. Wine and Grape Council confirms that wineries can help bring more visitors into an area. Most winery patrons are taking a day trip, and the winery is their destination, not a spur-of-the-moment stop along the way. They also tend to have relatively high incomes and aren’t stingy when it comes to buying the vino; spending averages $176 per visiting group. It’ll be easier for Rowan to attract a larger share of this group, thanks to the County Commission’s recent decision to allow wineries and wine-tasting rooms to operate in agricultural zoned areas.
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Dart to an increase in accidents and fatalities along the Blue Ridge Parkway. After a 10-year low of 277 motor vehicle accidents on the parkway in 2006, the number jumped to 306 last year, and parkway officials are worried about an increase in accidents this year as the vacation season hits high gear over the July 4th weekend. They’re asking visitors to follow parkway “etiquette” ó which means obeying the speed limit (maximum of 45 mph, and lower in some areas) and pulling off onto overlooks to enjoy the spectacular views, rather than trying to drive and spectate at the same time. Cyclists, recreational vehicles and anyone driving slowly should move over for regular traffic. Those contemplating joining the 20 million or so visitors expected on the parkway this year take note: The parkway’s 469 miles offer a moving montage of spectacular mountain landscapes, but the journey can turn treacherous in an instant for drivers and riders whose attention strays. Like the parkway motto says, “Enjoy the view. Watch the road.”

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