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I was born and raised in the Upstate and except for attending school and working one year in Washington, D.C., I have lived here my whole life.
This truly is one of the most special places on the planet—a region with spectacular natural resources and a thriving and diverse economic base.
During the last 25 years, I have watched the changes in the Upstate with a mixture of pride and dread. I have been proud to see our region wean itself from almost total dependence on the textile industry, now in serious decline, and attract such corporate luminaries as BMW, Michelin and Fujifilm. I have been proud to see our region’s population become more diverse and to see more and better economic opportunities for minorities. I have been proud to see our major cities, mostly shuttered and abandoned in the 1960s, rebounding with vigor and becoming magnets for businesses and downtown residents.
But outside the cities, which comprise only about fifteen per cent of the Upstate’s total land area, the news is not good. Low-density residential subdivisions, grotesque commercial strip development, and massive seas of asphalt are consuming our region, fueled by an ever-expanding infrastructure of roads and water and sewer lines.
Indeed, every day in the Upstate, 65 acres of open space—forests, natural areas, wildlife habitat, pastures, farmland, and green fields—are devoured by the voracious growth machine. It is a staggering rate—about five times the rate of our region’s population growth, the equivalent of a brand new version of Greenville’s Haywood Mall every 30 hours. There is not much we can or should do about population growth in the Upstate, but there is a lot we can do about the inordinate consumption of land and the loss of important natural areas and historic sites. And there is a lot we can do about the quality of development itself.
This is what Upstate Forever is all about: the where and how issues—where our region should be growing and how land should be developed. I founded the organization in 1998 because of the urgent need for a voice in our region for a better and different way to grow—a way that conserves both land and tax dollars.
Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” The Upstate is now at the fork in the road to its destiny. We do have a choice. We can become another Atlanta or we can become something different—a region that prospers both economically and environmentally.
Please join us. As a nonprofit organization, Upstate Forever cannot do its work without the support of our members. Help us make a difference. Help us keep the Upstate as one of the best places in the world. Forever.
Brad Wyche founded Upstate Forever in 1998 and continues to serve as a senior advisor.