Whether we like it or not, tourism sustains a quality of life for all Western North Carolina residents. This tourism naturally comes from living in area with a bounty of visual beauty that people come to see and experience. Fall is just one great example of this visual beauty and is also one example of the economic lifeblood that tourism provides for WNC residents as people visit and spend money to see the fall leaves change.
This makes me wonder: What happens when our beautiful fall colors provided by the hardwood trees are increasingly overtaken and killed off by kudzu? Fall is the perfect time to see our region’s future, given the exponential growth of kudzu. And what that future looks like is vast expanses of gray, dying kudzu leaves, which is not a pretty sight and hence not a pretty sight for the future of our tourism-based economy.
However, when I mention kudzu to people who live here and people who represent us, I often get a shrug of the shoulders as if it doesn’t matter or that a solution is not possible. Or, even worse from our elected officials, a lack of understanding of how important it is what an area looks like and its crucial connection to tourists wanting to visit an area.
I would like to think that, as kudzu continues to spread exponentially with no action and overtakes views on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Smoky Mountains and Clingmans Dome and other major tourist sights, people will take action. If this is true, then why are we waiting?
Where are the elected representatives discussing and teaming up with conservation groups, universities, residents and the government to come up with solutions? I don’t see that happening, and I refuse to believe that there are no answers from a country that could engineer a successful coronavirus vaccine in under a year but can’t invent a kudzu herbicide or some other solution for the visual blight of kudzu.
In closing, I don’t think there will be many people in the future coming to see kudzu leaves change to gray in WNC or drive the future renamed “Kudzu Parkway,” and that spells trouble for the residents of WNC with no action.
— Tim Holloran