Growing, Growing, Grown Watauga County in the 1990s

The 1990’s were the decade when residents of Watauga County got more. More students, more tourists, more residents. More buildings, more businesses. More roads, more traffic, more parking headaches. More Christmas trees. More jobs, more income. More of everything, it seemed; and also more of the thought that perhaps that the ‘more’ could turn into too much.


Growing, Growing, GrownGrowth was coming from all directions, as plans for expanding routes 321 and 421 were being both expounded and denounced, and the DOT brought up again the idea for a Boone Bypass along Highway 105.

The announcement of a projected asphalt plant brought an instant and successful fight from residents – forming Citizens Against Pollution – to stop it coming into their Roby Green Road neighborhood. That would later translate into a moratorium on certain polluting industries in Watauga County.

Growing, Growing, GrownEnvironmentalists as well as developers made huge inroads in the area, with a Save Howard’s Knob initiative that brought land-use planning to the fore. In Boone, the Greenway became a reality and popular recreational destination.

Some forms of growth were being welcomed by just about one and all, as Choose & Cut Christmas tree operations integrated agriculture and tourism in a unique partnership to boost the local economy.

The Christmas tree industry flourished, keeping mountain farming alive to complement the seasonal tourism. Appalachian State showed a new look, with the beginnings of a nearly billion dollar upgrade of renovations and new buildings, including the centerpiece Convocation Center.

Growing, Growing, Grown Watauga County in the 1990sASU also grew mightily in students, going from 11,650 in 1990 to over 12,500 in 1999. Downtown Boone grew into itself, with small, locally owned businesses filling up just about every available space, completing a decade of renaissance.

Medical facilities, non-profits, low-impact recreation, entrepreneurs, mountain biking, resort and second-home construction; name it and it grew.

Perhaps the best indicator of this decade of change was the response it generated and how it was handled; representatives from across the Watauga County spectrum; government, business, education, services, neighborhoods and communities met in a year-long effort to get a handle on what was happening and how to best manage it.

That entity, reporting its findings and recommendations in the last weeks of the year and the decade, was called the Watauga County Growth Commission.

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