One characteristic of a sustainable landscape is the way that landscape maintains the integrity and functionality of its location. But, landscapes aren't just as we see them now; they also have historic significance tied to their functionality over time. As we impact and shape the spaces surrounding us today, we are contributing to and creating their history.
In every region, there are many patterns of history overlaying the land. In Western North Carolina, for example, there's everything from the settlements of the Cherokee to the battlegrounds and routes of military campaigns, the agrarian lands of fertile farmsteads to the downtown streetscapes of local towns, and the expansive grounds of the Biltmore Estate to the bends and views of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Even neighborhoods and personal home sites are all examples of layers within the rich strata of a regional historic landscape. The significance of each historic layer is derived from the people who shaped the land over time, and the culture and identity of places continue to influence inhabitants of the region. We continuously draw on these historic landscapes in our "backyard" as resources to relate to our region, our homes and our identities.
Preservation of historic and culturally significant landscapes is a critical component of sustainability. This preservation can be executed in several ways and on a variety of scales. Supporting the numerous organizations dedicated to the "preservation, restoration and enhancement of local historic sites is one way to get involved. Volunteering time as an interpretive guide is another great way to pass along the knowledge of these unique places and cultural resources. Purchasing produce and products from local farms, which may be historic or "century farms," are sustainable investments, and these purchases are helpful in preserving the quickly depleting cultural land patterns of our regional farmlands.
There are also many untold histories waiting to be discovered in your literal backyard. Whether you want to reveal the story of your 1920s neighborhood or establish an outdoor atmosphere awaiting a new story written by you, there are resources to help reveal the cultural potential of your environment. The National Register of Historic Places offers opportunities to designate your home or neighborhood on state or national registers as properties or districts of historical significance. But even if your...