Nothing exists in a vacuum. And a road is much more than just a road—it is part of a landscape that provides a sense of place. A road in the Village of Flat Rock is part of a cultural landscape that spans generations, a part of the people who have traversed and shaped the land and who were shaped by it.
The roads, paths, and bridges around us are more than the pavement, gravel, or wood that they are made of—they are our connection to the natural world of woodlands and the created world of historic buildings in our village. They provide the different ways we move through our community, not on sterile, straight lines slashed through the dirt but on organic, curving pathways that follow old turnpike beds and Native American trails, pathways that sweep with the bends and turns of the earth below. These roads have the scale and flow that match the land around them. Make them bigger, wider, faster, straighter and much more is affected than just the road—it affects our entire sense of place.
Covering the grassy shoulders of a rural road with concrete to create a curb-and-gutter system puts the stamp of urban/suburban architecture on that road forever. It also changes the natural flow of water, which now has to be funneled into grates and pipes. Rain water can no longer spread naturally over the road to the other side to be absorbed over a large area of ground. With curb-and-gutter, that water will be channeled, collecting debris and trash on the road and creating the potential of downstream flooding and erosion.
Adding concrete medians creates a faster traffic flow and puts an unsightly artificial structure in the middle of the road. Medians also collect debris and, because cars come so close, they develop cracks and crevices over time, contributing to an overall look of decay.
Like adding medians, widening a road increases traffic speed without increasing safety. Widening can result in trees being cut down and, depending on the surrounding slopes, may require retaining walls be built, creating a walled feeling as you travel down the road.
These are just a few of the ways that changing our roads can alter our perception of our village. Landscapes provide the broader context within which we live our lives. And cultural landscapes reflect the history that has gone on before. So, no, a road is not just a road.