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Bethany residents form community group

Betsy Johnson and her neighbor, Liz Johnson, love the rural character and wide open spaces of the Bethany community in northwestern York County.

But they don’t expect it to stay that way.

The two women, who are not related, share concerns about their community that include road problems, growth that will likely follow the construction of a new middle school and the environmental impact and the cleanup of a long-closed kyanite mine at Henry’s Knob off S.C. 55.

The two and others have formed the Bethany Community Association to help inform residents about issues in the community and to give them a voice.

“The people in this area don’t want anything to change, they want it to stay the same, but it’s not going to stay the same,” said Betsy Johnson, 75. “We need to be informed about what changes may be coming.”

The group organized late last year and has held a couple meetings. A third meeting is planned at 7 p.m. Jan. 27 at Oakdale Presbyterian Church, 12585 S.C. 55 West, Clover.

Guest speakers at the Jan. 27 meeting have been invited to talk about the Henry’s Knob cleanup and recreational programs and events at Kings Mountain National Park, she said.

Bethany is a large rural farming area west of Clover and north of York. McGill’s Store, at S.C. 161 and S.C. 55, and the Henry’s Knob site are well-known local landmarks.

Liz Johnson, a Clover school board member, said a new middle school on Barrett Road north of Clover, scheduled to open in the fall of 2016, will entice people to move to the area.

But Liz Johnson said many improvements are needed. Road and traffic problems, including a dangerous curve on Agony Acres Road that has been the site of several recent accidents, are among the concerns, she said.

She said another worry of many Bethany residents is the old mine at Henry’s Knob and the federal government effort to protect private wells from a plume of contaminated groundwater that has leaked from the site.

“We have a creek on our land that’s been contaminated because of the work on Henry’s Knob, the mining, and there’s no life, no tadpoles or any living things, no vegetation around that creek,” she said. “It’s still contaminated.”

Craig Zeller, who is coordinating Environmental Protection Agency-supervised cleanup at the 185-acre Henry’s Knob, is scheduled to speak to the group. Zeller met with concerned residents last year to update them on plans and hear concerns.

Liz Johnson said she believes residents of the community need to make their voices heard by local government leaders.

“The people right in this area really need to wake up,” she said. “We need improvement in this community, we really do.”

She also said the Bethany community needs some cultural attractions. “We want a healthy, interesting and safe environment for children who grow up here,” she said.

Betsy Johnson said her ancestors settled in the Bethany area about 1740. She left York County to attend college and lived in Florida for a while, but she moved back to Bethany in the late 1970s and has been there since.

“I love it. I think it’s beautiful,” she said. “I like the beauty of the land, the topography, the gardening possibilities. I love the mountains. I think this is a good, well-balanced climate.”

But Betsy Johnson said the area’s proximity to Charlotte and to Interstate 85 means it has the potential for explosive growth. “It’s not going to stay the same. It’s going to change.”

Most of the Bethany area is part of the sprawling York County Council District 3, the largest geographic council district and the most sparsely populated.

Betsy Johnson said the area enjoys wonderful nearby recreational opportunities at both Kings Mountain State Park off S.C. 161 and Kings Mountain National Military Park.

However, she said many people don’t use them.

Leah Taber, a ranger from Kings Mountain National Park, has been invited to speak to the group about programs and events there.

Betsy Johnson said the members need to gain a better understanding of the community’s problems and what can be done.

“What we really want to do is get information and be able to have a group that says we are the Bethany Community Association,” she said, “and we want some answers.”

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