My Turn, Marjorie Ritchie: Defend the beauty of North Carolina

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 31, 2021

By Marjorie Ritchie

Long before I fell in love with my North Carolina-born husband, I fell in love with the beauty and variety of the landscape of North Carolina. 

As a young girl growing up in a small Georgia town, my parents chose the mountains of North Carolina, like many Georgians did, as one of our favorite vacation destinations. 

During my childhood, North Carolina was promoted as the “Variety Vacationland,” a phrase created for a state-wide tourism campaign begun in the 1930s and lasting through the 1970s. In the 1930s, North Carolina was looking for a way to boost tourism after coming out of the Great Depression. Wealthy vacationers passed through North Carolina on their way to states such as Florida, and this tourism campaign was an attempt to attract these vacationers to choose North Carolina as a vacation destination. Later, the phrase “From Murphy to Manteo” became another way of saying from the “mountains to the coast.” Along the 547-mile journey from Murphy to Manteo, North Carolina is indelibly formed by a landscape so attractive and diverse that it would rival any other state, especially those bordering her to the north and south.

If you ask any Georgia resident why he or she might desire to move to North Carolina, one of the top three answers would be because of “the natural beauty of the state.” Other answers might be because of job opportunities or excellent state universities. In a 2021 survey, North Carolina ranked sixth as one of the most beautiful states in the USA.

Today, many native North Carolinians take for granted the immense loveliness of their state: the pristine mountain lakes, the low-lying ridges of the Uwharries, and the charm of the coast. Maybe there has not been a real menace to the natural beauty of North Carolina in their lifetime. However, with the push of solar developers to place North Carolina among the top three states with the most industrial-scale solar farms, there is a very credible threat to North Carolina and her landscape: a silent threat to ravage the beauty of farmland, to decimate forests and to encroach upon the delicate habitats of her native wildlife. Solar energy is not an inherently unfavorable thing, but why should natural habitats with oxygen-producing trees be destroyed for the so-called reason of saving the planet. To save the planet, but to destroy its landscapes is absurdity.

Today, my husband and I reside in his native state not far from his birthplace, and my Georgia family has visited several times. They awakened early to enjoy sunrises over the farm field, and they stayed up late to marvel at the constellations in the summer sky. They savored the exhilarating drive up and down the hills of Saint Stephens Church Road where the fields were golden and the muscadines were abundantly ripe. They lingered longer on our North Carolina porch when it came time to say “goodbye.” As they drove away, I knew they will return sooner than later to spend time in this beautiful “land of the longleaf pine.”  

Years from now, will North Carolina be a top vacation destination or a desirable state where people choose to retire? If the loveliness of her landscape is forever changed by black seas of solar panels, what will be the fate of this “blest land,” this Old North State?  

On Nov. 15, I hope that the Rowan County Board of Commissioners will vote to deny the installation of a 560-acre solar industrial complex in Gold Hill. Please listen to your Gold Hill constituents who love the “dear land” of North Carolina.  We will not let the beauty of North Carolina go without a fight.

Marjorie Ritchie lives in Gold Hill.