The Bethel Community of Haywood County in Western North Carolina seems to have it all, but maybe that’s the problem.
The Blue Ridge Parkway curves gracefully along the area’s high southern border, while Highways 215 and 276 form the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway. From almost any direction, you can spot Cold Mountain, the peak made famous by Charles Frazier’s novel and subsequent movie.
Tourists and residents hike and camp in two wilderness areas within Pisgah National Forest, while others fish for trout in the upper reaches of the Pigeon River. The Pigeon also provides water for the Town of Canton and for Evergreen Packaging, the county’s largest employer. The river's bottomlands contain some of North Carolina's most unique alluvial soils, where farmers grow excellent tasting tomatoes, peppers, and other crops. These great resources also attract development, and Haywood County has already lost eighty percent of its prime farmland. However, in a telephone opinion survey conducted by Mars Hill College, Duke University, and the American Farmland Trust, ninety-four percent of local residents stated that they would like Bethel to continue to be a rural agricultural community.
A Brief Guide for Landowners, Businesses, Elected Officials, Visitors, and…Everyone
Rural Preservation - Protecting the Best of Bethel
There is no magic solution for saving Bethel—or any other rural community in North Carolina or elsewhere in America. However, every single person can do something to help, from simple decisions about what food to put on the table to more complex decisions about what to do with the family farm.