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Letter to the Editor

County Council candidate clarifies claims in local media report

web posted May 23, 2008
Dear Editor,

My name is Rodney Ashcraft and I would like to introduce myself as a candidate in the current primary race for the county council seat district two.  The primary election is going to be held on the 10th of June and it is an important race in that the incumbent and myself, are both running as republicans.  This race will decide who runs as a republican in the general election in November.

While this is important information, I would like to discuss another subject and clarify my position on it.  The Edgefield Advertiser recently wrote an article that greatly concerned me.  It was not really how the article was written that is a problem but rather how it was presented.  The article was named “Picturesque Trees Might Get the Axe.”  This lovely row of trees that the paper refers to is called “Avenue of a Hundred Trees.”  In this article the subject of their possible destruction was reported.  This article still brings forth a lot of controversy for many people and rightfully so. These trees have a long history in our area and would greatly be missed by all of us if such a tragic decision were to be made.

As the article is written my name is mentioned in the last half.  It turned out that the Advertiser was also reporting on what I had told the County Council in November of 2007.  My report to the council regarding the Vision 20/20 meetings included information about the widening of Highway 25, which is a state project.  It had come to my attention before this article came out that the road would be diverted to the West of this whole area.  Doing a little Internet research I was able to acquire a phone number through which I made contact with Tom Elrod.  Being the project manager Mr. Elrod was able to fully brief me on the project.

According to Mr. Elrod this would be a three-part project.  The first part includes engineering plans, which would include an environmental study.  The second part includes the acquisition of property, and finally the third, which consists of the actual construction.  The environmental impact study will include the full 7 mile stretch of road from the existing four lane road closer to I-20 all of the way to Highway 19 in Trenton.  The Advertiser mentions, “The project would widen 7.1 miles of Highway 25, from S.C. Highway 19 to where it already is four lanes at the Industrial Park.”  However, this stretch of road is actually only about 2.1 miles long and isn’t scheduled for the first part of construction.  The Augusta Chronicle article named “Famous trees unlikely to be cut,” said “What the state does plan to do is widen U.S. 25 for about four miles, but because it is receiving federal money, Mr. Elrod said, it has to study the environmental impact all the way to Trenton.”

This is correct in that per my conversation with Mr. Elrod on the 15th of May, the years 2007, 2008, and 2009 will be used to draw engineering plans. 2010 and 2011 will be used to acquire the right of way.  The actual construction is slated for 2012.  This will consist of the four-mile stretch that the Chronicle refers to from the four-lane road closer to I-20 toward the industrial park.  By the end of construction he said that a new environmental plan would possibly have to be drawn up for the little more than two-mile section from the industrial park to Highway 19 in Trenton.

I will be paying close attention to this as I feel like a lot of people who are concerned about our trees.  I did find it alarming that my name was included under this headline especially since my intention in going to the council was to inform the council and Edgefield County Citizens that the state may wish to widen highway 25 at the row of trees.  My function was that of a messenger and not one of a planner.  I hope that this will bring about a better understanding of the project as well as my position on our valuable natural resources.

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