Population Growth and Open Space Protection in Western North Carolina

Kimberly Rhodes


Buncombe, Henderson, and Haywood counties in Western North Carolina are set to experience a tremendous amount of population growth in the coming years, ultimately increasing development pressure and potentially altering the scenic quality of the area. This is especially troubling because of the importance of and the value open space has in each county’s economy. The main question this research aimed to answer is what policy changes will be necessary to address the projected future growth and its consequences for open space? In answering this question, a variety of data was compiled and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) was used to analyze land use and population growth trends. The roles of location preferences and different population profiles, as well as protection of open space through public policy changes were examined. The expected growth creates the opportunity to assess each county’s guiding documents for land use and sustainable growth management strategies and consider Smart Growth as an option for open space preservation efforts. Results demonstrate the significance of location preferences, population growth, and policy on land use, suggesting the necessity of a strong sustainable growth management plan to protect open space in Western North Carolina.



Western North Carolina; Population Growth; Open Space Protection; GIS

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