• 50°

Buice column: Tanglewood gets welcome reprieve

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

Well, so much for the 50,000-square-foot agricultural multi-use event center proposed to be built at Tanglewood Park.

It went away quietly and quickly following nearly two months of strong opposition being voiced by the local community.

Forsyth County Manager Dudley Watts told Clemmons residents, who filled the Red Barn at Tanglewood in late July for a public input session and stated how much they didn’t want the project in their backyard, that “we will not put it here if you don’t want it here.”

And after getting the survey results back a few weeks ago, which showed more than 80% being against the event center being located at Tanglewood, Watts announced in a board of commissioners meeting that the county was no longer considering the park as a potential site.

That prompted a “WE WON’ on the Save Tanglewood Park’s Facebook page after the announcement.

Give Watts credit for not dragging things out after the survey validated the community’s vocal opposition. He admitted that there was some misinformation and that he could have done a better job of selling it.

I believe he and the board of commissioners sincerely believed Tanglewood would be the best location for the event center, since the popular park was already “an event center,” even without adding a massive 50,000-square-foot building.

And what was it really supposed to be? Of course, the proposed $5 million project was part of a $15 million County Parks and Recreation Bond passed by voters in 2016 to be placed in an existing park to be determined. Depending on whom you talked with, it seemed to start out as an equestrian center but was described on handouts distributed by the county as an “agricultural multi-use event center,” which created many questions on the multitude of possible uses.

Then there was the issue of no one in Clemmons knowing about the project coming to Tanglewood until it was on the verge of going before the commissioners and getting into the design phase.

In November 2020, county officials proposed a site at Tanglewood for the facility, but for whatever reason, it didn’t get much publicity, and there was no further news or chatter until a newspaper report in July put it on the radar.

Now, it’s officially going to be gone to another county park where it can truly become an anchor. Obviously, most everyone loves Tanglewood Park just the way it is.

Oh, speaking of events, all the decorations for the Festival of Lights are now being put in place.

Life moves on.

• • • • •

Believe it or not, Clemmons isn’t growing quite like it used to.

The latest Census number for the village in 2020 came in at 21,163, which was significant in surpassing the 20,000 mark but “only” a 13.6% increase since the 2010 population of 18,627.

Then go back to the massive leap after Clemmons was incorporated in 1986 with a Census number of 6,020 in 1990 compared to 13,827 at the turn of the century in 2020 — a jump of an incredible 129.7%.

Wow.

It makes me think back to a statement made by Ron Willard, the first “interim mayor” of Clemmons who spoke of breaking ground “in a cornfield” just off Peace Haven Road for the new YMCA in Clemmons the early 1900s.

In fact, the Y was a dream of Jerry Long, who was president of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco in the late 1980s and worked there with Willard at the time. Although consultants hired by the Y felt like it wouldn’t succeed, Long and Willard thought they knew the Clemmons market better than those making the recommendation.

And they were right.

The Y, which was eventually named for Long, grew quickly — just like the Village — and became a city itself with some 15,000 members at last count, becoming the largest in the YMCA of Northwest North Carolina family by also drawing from the surrounding areas.

It wasn’t a surprise that the last decade of the ’90s was the fastest-growing period coming from the small base just a few years into incorporation while being a trendy pick as a top suburb of Winston-Salem with the right mix of lifestyle and opportunities for those looking to relocate in western Forsyth County.

From 2000 to 2010, Clemmons grew at a 34.7% rate, which is still strong percentage growth but no match for the late 1990s.

Naturally, things have continued to decline with the actual growth rate as the village is running out of places to build — although it’s hard to tell with the horrendous traffic during peak times on Lewisville-Clemmons Road, U.S. 158 and Middlebrook Drive, just to name a few.

Just for the record, Winston-Salem’s population in the 2020 Census stood at 249,545 while Kernersville’s number of 26,449 ranked second in the county just ahead of Clemmons.

Lewisville placed fourth with 13,381 residents, but its growth rate lagged at just under 6%. However, that’s probably just fine with town leaders who take pride in Lewisville being the ultimate bedroom community.