Survey results clearly indicate that the community of the Upper Pigeon River Valley is very firmly supportive of the rural character of the area in general and of farmers in particular. Certainly, a number of residents recognize that some growth is inevitable, and not necessarily undesirable. But the vast majority of respondents stated their desire to maintain those qualities that have encouraged them to call the community home – “scenic,” “relaxed,” “peaceful,” “close-knit,” to name but a few of those qualities expressed in the interviews.
In response to the question, “Would you like to see Bethel continue to be a rural agricultural community?,” 93.8% said yes.
When asked, “Do you think it is important for the issue of development and rural character to be addressed?,” 93.7% agreed that it is.
To the question, “Do you think it is important to help farmers protect their land from development if they wish to do so?,” 98.5% responded that they do indeed.
And when asked, “Would you support some type of public funding to help Bethel remain a rural community?,” nearly two out of three said yes.
Respondents were also given the opportunity to further elaborate on their views on life in the community and on the potential paths to its future.
When asked, “What do you enjoy about a community like Bethel?,” one respondent declared that it’s “God’s country.”
“Primarily, it’s not Asheville,” said another.
And to the question, “Is there anything else you’d like to say about the future of rural communities in Haywood County?,” quite a number reiterated a “stay rural” theme. “That’s what makes Haywood County Haywood County,” said one resident, “and it’s such a nice place to live.”
Precautionary notes were sounded” “I used to like it because it was a good country community, but it’s growing fast; the more people, the less I like it.”
And: “They’re tearing down our mountains. There should be a law against building on mountains. Destroying our forest, destroying our beauty …”
But others spoke of a need for balance: “There is a need to keep parts of the community rural; but people need businesses and homes. So that means there is going to be a need for development, and growth is inevitable. Farmers have the right to their land, but don’t be opposed to other development; we should find a happy medium.”
Almost without exception, though, those who responded to the survey underscored in some manner the rural character of the area as a defining feature of a distinguished community