Getting to "Yes" can be difficult
Accepting a $20,000 trail preservation grant last week was not as easy as you might expect for Guilford County commissioners.
The Board of Commissioners accepted Rich Fork Preserve as the name for the planned 115-acre nature preserve in western High Point and the Hedgecock Farm at Rich Fork Preserve as the name for the 13 structures, including the family homestead, sponsors want to preserve on the property. The county spent $1 million in open space bond funds to form the preserve.
But most of the board’s discussion focused on a $20,000 donation for a naturally-surfaced hiking trail in the preserve. Lib Conner, who has been active in community affairs for decades, donated the money for the trail that would be named for her late husband Robert W. Conner, a High Point architect and environmentalist. If the Conner name is not used, the county must refund the gift, according to terms of the grant. The improved trail would be along the creek in the portion of the property behind Northwood Elementary School where Conner sometimes walked.
For Democratic Commissioner Carolyn Coleman, it could appear that the county accepted a donation for naming rights.
“We need a policy for this,” she said. “It could create a dangerous precedent.”
Democratic Commissioner Bruce Davis of High Point was involved in the Conner grant discussions.
“We had lots of discussion on this,” he said. “We did not put a price on this. It was fully vetted. The money was for preservation and not for a name.”
“I trust the committee on this,” said Republican Commissioner Bill Bencini of High Point.”
County Attorney Mark Payne agreed with Coleman that the county may need a naming policy. He called the gift a memorial.
“We have no guidelines for a memorial,” he said. “That is a gap for us.”
“We need to discuss this more,” said Chairwoman Linda Shaw, a Greensboro Republican.
The preserve, just north of the city’s upscale Emerywood neighborhood, offers hiking and walking possibilities as well as botany and natural history tours for students. The former George Hedgecock property at 407 W. Parris Ave., forms a large portion of the preserve. It features headwaters that flow into the Yadkin-Pee Dee river basin. The property, which abuts land belonging to the Hartley Drive Family YMCA, is a known habitat for deer and other animals.
Sponsors want to preserve the sheds and outbuildings on the site. A stewardship committee is looking at how the property will be used and is collecting ideas from the community. The group also is searching for preservation funding. A $8,500 grant from the Marion Stedman Covington Foundation will be used for an architectural assessment of the Hedgecock farm buildings in support of a National Register of Historic Places nomination and to help stabilize the structures. Active in the group are representatives from High Point University, the High Point Public Library and the High Point Museum.
Rich Fork Preserve
Name: Rich Fork Creek runs through the preserve property in west High Point.
Farmhouse: This 1890s Queen Anne-style Hedgecock farm house has many original interior finishes from the era.