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  full story
With planning, Macon can control urban sprawl

By Peg Jones
Special to The Macon Telegraph

W  hile in Macon recently visiting family, I was struck by the tremendous amount of growth throughout Macon and Bibb County. Evidence was everywhere - bulldozers moving earth and trees on vast tracts of land, creeks being culverted, new buildings being placed in the flood plain, yellow ribbons on trees and "Save Our City" signs in many neighborhoods. They are all related.


GUEST VIEW

If people care to recall, Macon and Bibb County were hit hard by tropical storm Alberto just a few years ago, with severe flooding and erosion. Supply of drinking water was cut off for several weeks, in the heat of the summer.

Unfortunately this can and will occur again, not just in Macon, but further downstream in the river basin, due to improper planning and development.

What is built in the Arkwright area and above will affect downtown Macon. A city and county should not only think of its own concerns but those of others who will be impacted further downstream, all the way to Darien.

For every tree cut down, every knoll filled in or creek culverted, every acre covered with impervious surface (homes, offices, roads, churches, etc.) of asphalt or concrete, there is the increase of impact.

Without trees and open space, the chance for rainwater to seep into the earth for drinking water is lessened. The earth will also not be allowed to cleanse pollutants from our waters. Culverts carrying nonpoint source pollution (drainage) from our roads and parking lots increase the velocity of water in our rivers, causing flooding for those downstream. Culverts also have great impact on the aquatic life that had been in the creek.

The silt from construction, if not prevented properly, will travel downstream, affecting drinking water supplies, generation of electricity, and the aquatic habitat in the river and esturaries on the coast (seafood).

Someone asked why swamps (wetlands) are important when they always flood.

This is why they are important - because they do flood, taking the brunt off of other areas. They also provide valuable wildlife habitat and purify the waters of toxins.

The trees the citizens are fighting to save throughout Macon are valuable for many reasons: they give the city a charm many other cities are fighting to put back by replacing the trees they have lost; trees keep the temperature during the summer down as much as possible; they provide habitat to the birds, which sing and need a resting place, often during migration. The more trees that are replaced by impervious surfaces, the faster the runoff and the more flooding there will be.

Those citizens who are working hard to save the trees from being lost to widening of the city's streets deserve a great deal of credit and respect.

They are looking ahead to what quality of life there will be for their children and grandchildren. All citizens should be aware that they, too, have a voice they can and should use.

Unless controlled now, sprawl will overtake Macon, as it has other cities across the country and the world, affecting all aspects of life.

With proper planning, you will be able to save the lovely Macon we all know and love, and which visitors like to remember and recommend.

Without proper planning, there will be the problems of congestion, and pollution of our air and water, so rampant in other areas. An effort should be made to incorporate the serious concerns of the people. Do you want trees and open spaces or simply buildings and asphalt?

I would like to invite those concerned, especially county and city officials, to attend the N.C. Watershed Coalition conference June 25 and 26 in Salisbury, N.C., which will address these issues.

One speaker, Bob Zimmerman of the Boston area, will explain how we all need to work together - utilities, municipalities, businesses, individual citizens and others - to manage and protect our valuable water supplies, not only for ourselves but for those downstream.

There will also be a session on hazard planning mitigation and sustainability. We need to be aware of what is causing flooding and how we can prevent it. EPA, River Network, American Rivers and Trout Unlimited will also be presenting.

Peg Jones is executive director of the NC Watershed Coalition, Inc., based in Franklin, N.C.


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