Green park, or something for Camden

Published 11:39 am Monday, November 12, 2007

By Staff
(This editorial originally appeared in The Daily Advance of Elizabeth City.)
As Camden officials considered the future of their county a few years back, the prospects offered little potential for change in the continuing lack of infrastructure, crowded school facilities and commercial base to generate tax revenue.
That changed when the opportunity appeared to develop a mega-landfill north of South Mills. For some, it was a change for the worse, with images of mountainous, smelly garbage. For most, however, the vision was more about a modern waste-management operation pumping millions of dollars into the local economy. It was a real chance for the county to move beyond its frugal means toward a self-sufficient and viable local economy.
Like a gift swiped from beneath a Christmas tree, however, that vision died last summer when the Legislature passed the Waste Management Act of 2007, which effectively killed the landfill plan.
Since then, Camden officials have been resigned to fall back into the former mind-set of expecting little relief from the economic black hole the county seems to have fallen into. As it turns out, things can actually get worse.
Even that current black hole would be better than seeing the county converted into the site of an outlying landing field, to be used by the Navy’s loudest jets to practice maneuvers. Talk about an economy-killer. The county would be better off storing nuclear waste on the site — at least then someone would pay taxes on it.
Recommendations to drop an OLF on Camden have had one positive effect on the county — it completely mobilized and unified residents to fight the proposal. Almost to a citizen— there may be one or two misguided souls outside the fold — no one sees any benefit in the OLF. Frankly, because there is none. It would spell economic demise beyond the current dreadful picture.
That’s why we urge residents and officials in Camden and those in adjacent counties to continue to oppose the OLF. No good can come of it in this area.
But as important as the campaign to fight the OLF is, Camden remains caught in an economic spiral. It has few prospects without something dramatic appearing on the county’s horizon.
On that note, there’s some glimmer of potential in the concept offered recently by Sen. Marc Basnight, D-Dare. Basnight, is, of course, state Senate president pro tempore, whom Rep. Bill Owens, D-Pasquotank, credits with carrying a big stick in state government.
Basnight was opposed to the landfill for environmental reasons, and takes credit for seeing the project defeated despite Camden’s economic needs. Feeling a responsibility to the county, however, he has proposed creating a ‘‘green’’ park for the county. This park, he envisions, would be developed to attract eco-driven firms. These companies — examples would include those that use recycled materials to create new products — would be lured by the ecologically-designed and maintained setting where facilities are incorporated into a ‘‘green’’ environment.
The park would be a sort of ‘‘green’’ version — a smaller one no doubt — of the Research Triangle Park near the Durham, Raleigh, Chapel Hill area.
The park has considerable merit in concept. Given the opportunity to locate in a park environment shared by other green industries, it’s at least strongly plausible that these firms would be attracted to a setting where all infrastructure, utilities and services are ecologically designed and delivered.
Of course, there is a huge gap between concept and reality. And that gap, for Camden, is still what drives reality: a growing population and crowded schools.
Basnight’s influence, call it the ‘‘big stick’’ effect, needs to be put to use on the ‘‘green’’ park concept. It doesn’t serve Camden to wait out years of study and consultation, especially if the end product is a no-go. Camden needs something cooking on the stove now.
Whatever Basnight has in mind, it needs to be expedited in short order. And for Camden’s sake, the big stick-carrying senator should probably have a backup plan as well.