The man most directly involved in the effort, Luther Anderson, says more specifically that it has been 45 years and seven months.
His meticulous attention to the lapsed time indicate his drive and regular interest in the 1960s project that became an industry for the state.
It was Anderson who was celebrated Friday at the ribbon cutting for the new state facility located across the street from Family Central. It will serve as a center for forestry management in this area; a place to help landowners and farmers determine how the thousands of acres of trees in Ashe can be managed for good economic and environmental benefit.
It will be a place to help serve in the education of forest needs and practices in general. It will be a central point for fire fighting equipment to protect the valuable forest resources.
All of this seems to be a no-brainer for a county so invested in forest products over the last century and a half and now arguably the birthplace of the state’s Christmas tree industry.
It was Anderson, who introduces himself with energy and a smile, as Junior Anderson, who led the charge for developing the Christmas tree industry.
He was asked by the Forest Service in the mid 1960s to help develop what became Christmas tree farming in the region. He and a bunch of high school kids planted and tended the first Fraser fir trees in the state and showed farmers how to produce and market Christmas trees.
Ultimately – after 10 years — the efforts were turned over to the NC Agriculture Extension Service, and Tree farming became what it has today, employing hundreds of people fulltime in the county plus numerous part-time growers who supplement income.
All of these people spend money right here in Ashe, buying groceries, clothing, fuel, vehicles, building homes and living lives supporting their communities. But more than that, these families and farms produce wealth for the state.
What better place would there be to focus attention on the importance of forest products?
A very practical state Sen. Steve Goss says that a big part of his interest in helping get the Forest Service center here was fire protection. Equipment will be housed on the Ashe sight to help in forest fire suppression. The mountains are unique to other parts of the state Goss said. It is difficult to get in and out of remote farming communities to fight a forest fire. To this point, fire-fighting equipment may have come from Caldwell County to a remote place in Ashe to protect valuable woodlands. Waiting several hours can make a big difference, Goss said.
It was Goss and state Rep. Cullie Tarleton, who have been credited with keeping the push for the facility before the governor’s office and the General Assembly.
Both men were on hand Friday to note the ways in which Anderson kept the fire lit under them to make the new Forest Service center a reality.
Pats on the back also went to Ashe County commissioners, who saw the importance of helping make the project work and found county property to put the building on.
County Manager Dan McMillan also points to Anderson also as a driving force and regular visitor to his office to see how the construction of the facility was going.
So it kind of seems fitting that Ashe would be a center for a Forest Service and that the facility would be named for L.F. Anderson Jr. That would be Junior Anderson for us fortunate folks who live in Ashe.