More like a river, this fast-flowing stream splits the Caldwell County hills with beauty and power, attracting admirers who fish, swim or paddle its waters or simply soak in the landscape.
Many who enjoy its pleasures have waited for more than a year to learn about the creek's future. They may not have to wait much longer.
In response to development pressures, county leaders are working toward enacting the county's tightest development standards to protect the recreational and environmental refuge.
After about 40 meetings, a Caldwell County-appointed committee recently finished crafting a development plan for the area, and county commissioners held a public hearing to get input. Then the commissioners sent the document back to planners to make changes based on the comments.
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Monday night, the commissioners will decide whether to adopt the plan or make more changes.
The draft would require average lot sizes of up to 6 acres; undisturbed buffers along the creek and its tributaries to protect the water from pollution; building heights below mountain ridge lines to preserve scenic views; and low-glare lights to keep night skies naturally dark.
A five-member committee appointed by the commissioners would review development applications for the area.
Those familiar with the draft plan say it will go a long way toward protecting the creek from the development pressures that moved commissioners to enact a one-year building moratorium in the creek corridor in June 2007. But some say it doesn't go far enough.
Although they want Wilson Creek to stay natural and pristine, some land owners hesitate to give government more control over their land.
Commissioners say they hope to strike a balance between the two, doing what's best for the creek and the people who love it.
“We're trying not to favor either side,” said Herb Greene, outgoing commissioners' chairman. He didn't seek re-election and will end his term in December. If the commissioners decide Monday that significantly more changes should be made to the plan, he said they may leave it for the newly elected board to take up.
Based on feedback at the public hearing, commissioners asked planners to allow property owners to rebuild structures as they now are if they were to be destroyed by flooding or other disasters, but only if the rebuilding meets health and safety codes.
They also had the length of the creek district shortened by about a mile to exempt an RV resort for which they approved a rezoning in April to replace campers with high-end cabins.
The change would make the district about 11 miles long, running from the Avery County line to the U.S. Forest Service line on Brown Mountain Beach Road, with a quarter-mile on each side of the creek.
Wilson Creek plan committee members Ed Spivey and Janet Wilson said they'd like protections to stretch all the way to Adako Road, closer to where the creek spills into the Johns River, as the committee recommended.
That would also be in keeping with the creek's National Wild and Scenic River boundaries. But they said the plan is a work of compromise.
“I feel like it's fair to property owners, which I am one of, while still providing protection for Wilson Creek and the area,” said Spivey, a home builder who owns a cabin here and has fished and hunted along the creek since he was a boy.
The family of Libby Killian's husband, Phillip, has lived next to the creek for five generations. She said she appreciates the county's attempt to save the stream from harm, but what she prizes most is her right, and that of other property owners, to do what they wish with their land.
If her children, for instance, wanted someday to start a business on the Killian property, she'd like them to have that chance without zoning obstacles.
“I think everybody wants to protect the creek,” she said, “but I kind of want government to leave us alone.
“I feel like they have the best intentions, but I'm against it. Mortimer (an area community) turned 100 years old last year, and we've kept the creek relatively clean for 100 years,” Killian said. “I'd like to live the rest of my days on Wilson Creek, and my grandkids be gathered around me.”