We have enormous potential to be a shining star.
By KELLEY EZELL Executive Director
As 2017 begins, I find myself looking back before I look forward.
I remember, as a teenager, driving down Rainbow Lake Road toward Highway 9 in Boiling Springs. The picture is still vivid. There was more illumination from the stars in the dark sky than from the few homes and businesses scattered across the landscape down that long stretch of road. The experience in that moment was so profound that I remember writing about its lingering impression on me.
As I take that same drive today, it amazes me how many people call this place home. You can’t see the stars for the lights that surround us. People from all over the country and even the world are drawn to Boiling Springs. The fabric of our community has changed over the years, and so have the expectations of those who live here.
The largest population groups in the United States are millennials and baby boomers. They are creating a demand for walkable, connected living, work and play space. All around South Carolina, communities are tapping into this demand, transforming car-dependent places through projects designed for a mix of uses. It isn’t about excluding one land use or another through zoning; it’s about attracting, engaging and rewarding developers as partners in building vibrant, healthy, prosperous communities.
That’s why I am advocating for changes in the way that we grow and develop our community. Over the past several years, I have taken advantage of opportunities to learn about various development projects around the Upstate and to understand what a healthy, thriving community looks like. One thing has become crystal clear: It doesn’t happen by itself. It takes careful thought, community collaboration and hard work, but I know we can do it. We have enormous potential to be a shining star.
Back in the day, I never imagined that I would become a leader in my hometown, but I am passionate about leading the efforts of the Upstate Family Resource Center to accomplish its core mission — to help families thrive by achieving a healthier and more prosperous community.
To that end, I invite your help to initiate thoughtful and informed conversations about how to encourage development and redevelopment projects that better support community health and prosperity. Let’s put our heads together and figure out a way to build more places where we can walk safely and conveniently to stay healthy and connected to the people and places that help us meet our daily needs — or those that we just happen to love! Let’s plan spaces to live, work, meet, learn, eat, shop and play all within walking distance. Let’s slow down and ask, what could be?
Boiling Springs doesn’t have that traditional “Main Street” like some of our neighboring communities. What ties us together? Great parks, amazing schools, nice neighborhoods, beautiful lakes, miles of sidewalks, terrific people and a wonderful history that includes our name sake, the Boiling Spring, all stellar aspects of our community that we take pride in. Yet, the most cohesive, resilient and healthy communities function as more than the sum of their parts; which begs the question, are we making the most of all that we have in Boiling Springs?
In my conversations outside this community, I find that we are most known for our fast-food restaurants and congested traffic. We are and can be so much more than this, and we do ourselves no favors by sticking our heads in the sand. Is our community managing growth to create a BETTER place for our children and grandchildren? Does our community’s appearance reflect a cohesive plan for growth or a hodgepodge of visual clutter? How can we minimize chaos amid increasing growth and development? How do we define “better place”? What are our aspirations as a community?
We have the talent, knowledge and resources to transform our suburban community into one that is second to none in the Upstate. All we need is the passion, determination and commitment to work together toward that goal.
I leave you with this challenge: Take time to be mindful of your neighborhood, our community, its parks and play areas, businesses and restaurants, roads and sidewalks. And be especially mindful of how these places connect and disconnect us. Then talk to your family, your friends, your neighbors. How do you answer these questions? What is your part? What can you do?
You have a voice. Speak up to help transform this wonderful community into an even greater place for our families, for Spartanburg County and for South Carolina. Oh, and stay tuned for more to come as we jump-start the conversation about how to create a healthier and more prosperous future for our community!
As published in Spartanburg Herald Journal, Sunday January 15, 2017