“Enough talking:” the early days of Upstate Forever

May 3rd, 2023
By Brad Wyche

UF's first headquarters in Brad's homeI spent over two years agonizing and soul-searching on whether I should leave the law business and start Upstate Forever. I never doubted the urgent need for the organization, which would focus on the immense challenges associated with rapid growth and development in our region — protecting green space, managing land use, and improving water quality. 

But how many people in the Upstate would agree with me? Would I be able to attract enough financial support to hire staff and be successful?

This process included endless conversations with my patient wife Diane. When I asked her to talk about it one more time, she said firmly, “No, Brad. I think we’ve done enough talking. You should do it. Everything will be fine.”

That was the push I needed, and I decided to go for it. I figured worst case, I could always return to being a lawyer.

I’ll never forget September 1, 1998. That was the first day of my new life as the Executive Director of Upstate Forever when I made the short walk from the bedroom to the office at my home. 

UF's first Board of Directors in 1999, left to right: Dave Hargett, Mark Taylor, Carlton Owen, Joan Peters, and Brad Wyche

One of my first tasks was to write and send out Upstate Forever’s first newsletter to explain the mission and ask for support. I mailed hundreds to friends, family, former clients, and even a few strangers. It included a “ten point plan for sensible growth” which still provides the foundation for much of the work we do. 

"I knew that an organization [like Upstate Forever] was desperately needed to protect the Upstate and to keep it from becoming 'Any Place, USA.'

"I decided that I wanted to try to give something back to this area because it has been very good to me and my family and it is one of the most beautiful places in the country. It’s worth fighting for."

– Excerpt from the first-ever issue of the Upstate Advocate newsletter, written in Spring 1999

Three days later, I opened our box at the post office, and it was chock full of envelopes with checks. At that moment, I knew for sure that Upstate Forever would be a success. Diane was right — everything would be fine.

UF's first Annual Meeting, October 2000More good things soon started to happen. Generous grants allowed me to hire staff, open our Spartanburg office, and undertake important regional projects. We started closing conservation easements, and more and more people were becoming members.

Now, on this 25th anniversary, I rejoice in the progress and accomplishments of Upstate Forever. I’m honored, humbled and deeply grateful for all of the support we’ve received from so many—our board, advisory council, staff, members, volunteers, companies, foundations, and government agencies. 

Thank you for making it possible to do our work in striving to keep the Upstate as the best region in the world… forever.

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