The Oxford Eagle
Over the past decade, the number of housing developments has grown significantly on Old Taylor Road. However, some believe that the desire for expansion has outweighed the need for environmental preservation.
With natural trails, tree-covered hillsides, and a convenient distance from the Ole Miss campus, it is no wonder why this area is known for its real estate potential.
Old Taylor now holds more than 20 different housing developments, with two more currently under construction. But for as much as it offers, some wonder if the community realizes what these developments are taking away.
Anne Fisher-Wirth, director of environmental studies at Ole Miss, believes there have been significant changes due to construction compared to previous years.
“Yes,” said Fisher-Wirth, “I certainly have seen a decline in environmental health over the past years. Our city-wide percentage of tree canopy has fallen markedly. Erosion has also been a big problem in construction sites, as root systems that hold soil in place are dug up for building purposes.”
Though the Domain, a new residential development on Old Taylor, is currently under construction, the Oxford Planning Commission has denied requests for further expansion. However, some community members still feel there are issues that should be addressed regarding current developments and their residents.
Linda Davis, a 22-year resident of the Old Taylor area, spoke about the issues she has with changes in past years.
“Nobody takes care of it anymore,” said Davis. “There’s trash all on the side of the roads. The students will throw their cans and bottles everywhere. It’s just too many people coming in, and they don’t know what they’re doing and what they’re changing.”
Much of what was once natural landscape has become a prosperous mine for development companies.
“More and more land that was covered with trees or grasses is not covered with concrete parking lots, buildings,” she said, “meaning that water cannot sink back into the earth. Furthermore, with runaway growth comes increased pollution from cars, increased trash, and increased crowding.”
Along with issues on the main road, avid users of the Thacker Mountain Trails, officially known as the South Campus Rail Trail, the popular bike and walking path that borders Old Taylor Road, have noticed changes in both the scenery and environmental health of the area.
Brandon Harvey, an Ole Miss student and athlete for the UM Cross Country team, spends almost every day running and training at the trails. Though he hasn’t seen any major decline, he does notice one problem in particular.
“There haven’t been really any damages,” said Harvey, “but there is definitely trash. It’s something that didn’t really used to be here, so trash is the biggest thing probably.”
Along with Harvey, Gregory Love, an associate professor of political science at Ole Miss, shares his experience with the trails.
Love, a long-time cyclist, has spent much of his life outdoors, from rock-climbing to mountaineering and skiing. Valuing the opportunity to get outside and “away from the concrete” through the use of the trails, Love voiced concerns about the changes he has seen.
“I’ve lived here for seven years,” said Love, “and we’ve seen a lot of big developments go in, most notably and infamously is Faulkner Flats, which greatly changed the environment when you’re out there walking along the trail lines, which a lot of people do . . .several hundred a day do.”
Although most development companies are held responsible for increased damage, some of these companies have been critiqued more than others for their affect on the local environment.
Critics of Faulkner Flats, as well as several other RC units bordering the trails along Old Taylor Road, believe that construction and run-off from the properties has damaged the natural ecosystem, resulting in flooding, tree loss and erosion.
Despite some negative opinions surrounding the housing development, Angela White, the property manager at Faulkner Flats, believes that although there was some initial damage during construction, Heritage Properties does “give back” to the community.
“I know that Heritage does donate,” said White, “and they have planted trees in the area to help the problem.”
Although some actions are being taken to preserve the environment on Old Taylor Road, the call to action for the community is still present.
Love, along with many other supporters of the trails, encourages people to visit the support page on Facebook “Friends of Thacker Mountain Trails” to gain more insight into what this area offers.
“For us, people interested in that area and who use the trails and want to keep it a nice place in Oxford,” said Love, “the starting point is to go on Facebook and like our page . . . because it’s a great way to find out more information. What we’re really interested in is just having people use them and enjoy them.”
One of these supporters, Laura Sheppardson, a professor at Ole Miss, believes the desire for expansion overshadows the need for preservation.
“My issue,” said Sheppardson, “is that you essentially got an accidental, natural park there. You didn’t have to pay for it, you didn’t have to develop it, and its sitting right there . . . This is incredible. So, I would just encourage them to think of this when you’re thinking of public need and expansion.”
I’m a Senior at Ole Miss, a Journalism major, and transfer student from Texas State University. Hotty Toddy!