LANSING-If you’re driving through the town’s main drag, you might not think that much has changed in downtown Lansing in the past 30 years.
The number of buildings in downtown has virtually remained unchanged. Familiar faces still greet newcomers to each street corner before leaving town for more remote destinations in the county.
All in all, Lansing probably comes across as a pretty sleepy little down that is just a bump in the road on the way to more happening tourist hubs like West Jefferson, Boone or even Blowing Rock.
Then again, you’re probably not looking close enough.
Although the Virginia Creeper rolled up its tracks years ago and the 1938 WPA Lansing School House is packed with children only around Halloween with the community’s annual haunted house ghoul fest, the community is quietly making a name for itself again.
Music and traditional craft festivals that celebrate the area’s rich mountain culture are once again drawing tourists into the town.
There is also the Lansing Creeper Trail Park, which is slowly becoming the town’s prized turn around story.
At one time, the park, which is settled along the banks of Big Horse Creek behind the town’s fire department, was just a quaint gathering spot that was better known for its fishing and deep swimming hole.
But thanks to the dedicated work of town officials who have scrimped and saved to find funds to foot the bill of expansion, as well as resourceful contractors who’ve made the most of the scarcely available public monies, the park is primed to explode as one of the region’s premier recreational offerings.
Unbeknownst to probably everyone else in the High Country, the town’s park has recently surpassed the county’s maintained park in Jefferson as the largest of its kind in Ashe County.
Altogether, the town is comprised of more than 70 acres of flat farmland and rolling ridge line.
And Lansing Mayor Dylan Lightfoot will be one of the first to tell you, that is no small feat.
In the beginning, however, it wasn’t in the town’s master plans to undertake such drastic plans for the area. It was more of a case of controlling what is going on in your own backyard.
Several years ago, a large portion of the land that connects to the park that stretches back toward the bridge at R and L grocery became available for sale.
After catching wind that a commercial developer might be eyeing the property as a recreational vehicle park, the town decided to stake its claim in the land and the future of the town’s appearance and appeal.
With the help of some grants, the town soon added three parcels of land to the park.
With perhaps the thoughts of Manifest Destiny ringing in their minds, the town capitalized on the investment of the land and pushed their boundaries, as well as comfort zones at the time, to the limit.
The addition of so much flat land has allowed the community to add a massive walking trail to the mix and plans are in the works for hiking and biking trails and even a disc golf course.
“I can’t believe the paths are not choked with people right now,” said Lightfoot as he gazed across the newly acquired land and the transformations taking place before his eyes. “People use to come here and walk on the gravel (path) before we even had it paved.”
Although it is about championing the town’s success and future by bringing people into the small community of 150, its also about maintaining that small town feel that has kept the people who make the town what it is around for so long.
“The goal for town is to preserve its character as it grows; I think we’ve done that,” said Lightfoot.
Reach Jesse Campbell at 336-846-7164.