The Path of Least Resistance: A Planner’s Worst Enemy

The path of least resistance, or the easiest, cheapest, and most efficient way to solve a problem, is often sought and preferred by decision-makers. And considering the qualities of such a path and the nature of many problems, this is understandable. But often we settle for the path of least resistance when something far greater is achievable. Will this cost more time and money? Yeah.

If you had a chance to watch some of the 9/11 footage this past weekend, we can agree that the redevelopment of Ground Zero isn’t the result of some small vision. These decision-makers weren’t looking for the simple solution, but the right solution – something beautiful and timeless. On the campus of Appalachian State University we continue to witness the rise of multiple new buildings. Could they be built with fewer dollars? Surely, if LEED certification isn’t important, if character isn’t important, or if you want to place creativity on the sacrificial alter. These examples demonstrate a process counter to the “path of least resistance.” In my optimistic world – and some have called me overly-optimistic – it seems our primary constraint is not time and money, but creativity.

It’s in this vein of thought that I find myself particularly proud of Watauga County and the Watauga County Tourism Development Authority (TDA). Both of these government institutions have found a way – not the easiest or simplest – to further recreation development in Watauga County in a manner I think we’ll all be proud of. Because of contracts approved this week with Harmony Timberworks and Foscoe Construction, we can soon expect the built landscape at Rocky Knob Park and Watauga Gorge Park to be forever enhanced.

Earlier this year the Watauga County TDA adopted a facility design manual as part of the Boone Area Outdoor Recreation Plan. This manual provides architectural and construction details of how all future shelters, gateway entrances, park entrance signs, and kiosks will be developed. The idea: use architecture to galvanize all of our recreation facilities and establish a single recreation system throughout the county. And while these facilities could have called for “traditional” pressure-treated 6×6 posts with pre-fabricated rafters, this decaffeinated option was rejected. Instead, we’re going to build a host of distinct timber frame structures with “traditional” mortise & tenon, pegged joinery.

We can also thank our grant supporters, Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, Recreation Trails Program, and Communities Putting Prevention to Work, who’ve contributed a combined $605,000 toward these two parks, including the pending facility construction.

Here’s what we’re building:

Rocky Knob Park: Large Entrance Gateway, Trail Head Gateway, Large Picnic Pavilion.

Watauga Gorge Park: Small Shelter, Entrance Signage, Kiosk.

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One response to “The Path of Least Resistance: A Planner’s Worst Enemy

  1. Dave Robertson

    Eric, I’m really glad the TDA is pursuing your vision to have a distinctive design for signage, shelters, etc. This will begin to create a broader awareness of the incredible work being done by the TDA Board and staff to promote tourism and to develop new tourism resources to attract more visitors to the High Country. You and Wright are doing a fantastic job. Any progress on a possible beginners mountain biking and hiking trail around the Boone resevoir on Winklers Creek? I would also like to see an update on the Greenway extension from the Boone Sewer plant past the Ted Mackorell Soccer complex towards Todd. Thanks for all you do!

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