Wild Plum Lane: the forgotten road

By ELIOT DUKE
Of the Record staff
Posted 7/23/21

SANFORD — Wilma Johnson stood before the Harnett County Board of Commissioners feeling afraid and abandoned.

Johnson joined other residents of Wild Plum Lane on Monday night who showed up at …

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Wild Plum Lane: the forgotten road

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SANFORD — Wilma Johnson stood before the Harnett County Board of Commissioners feeling afraid and abandoned.

Johnson joined other residents of Wild Plum Lane on Monday night who showed up at the commissioner’s monthly meeting to express their concerns over a nearly mile long path through the sand hills of western Harnett County.

Wild Plum Lane would never be mistaken for any town’s Main Street. The sand-packed road branched off Walter Waddell Lane meanders up and down and side to side for less than a mile back to a small collection of houses tucked away from the world.

While the privacy provided its share of perks over the years, Wild Plum Lane’s state of disrepair is leaving residents worried about whether its seclusion could become dangerous.

“The road out there is horrendous,” Johnson, who lives at 507 Wild Plum Lane, said. “We have no access to get back there. We had to make a side road to try and get back to where we live. The main road there is a dirt road. We can’t even use it.”

Asphalt ends where Walter Waddell Lane begins, leaving the only way into Johnson’s home susceptible to flooding whenever a heavy rain comes through the area. The sand density fluctuates by the step and one wrong move easily could leave a vehicle stuck in its tracks. Sizable holes in the road quickly fill up with rain, creating hazardous conditions for anything not 4-wheel drive.

“We pay taxes,” said Johnson. “I don’t understand why we can’t get help back there. Everybody else back there has no choice about paying taxes. I don’t understand why we can’t get a decent road back there.”

Johnson spent the past eight months searching for answers. She said the Department of Transportation told her it couldn’t do anything about a private road, which apparently Wild Plum Lane is, unless it was brought up to a certain standard. Cost associated with the repairs were estimated at approximately $10,000.

“All of us back there are elderly people,” Johnson said. “Where are we going to get this kind of money from? We don’t even know who owns the land of the road coming back through there. I’ve made all kinds of calls and everybody is telling me the same thing: by being a private road the Department of Transportation is not responsible. I don’t know what else to do beside come here and speak because we need help back there.”

Geneva Booker lives a stone’s throw from Johnson and told commissioners she worries emergency vehicles may not be able to reach the area due to the road’s condition. Booker said a police cruiser previously got stuck in the sand and she isn’t so sure a fire truck would even make it down the narrow trail.

“We really are in dire need of a road,” Booker said. “In any emergency situation, we are hurting. We are just at you guy’s mercy. We need somebody that can help us. We’re elderly. We get an income once a month. We can’t afford $10,000. We don’t have that kind of money in order for the county to maintain the road. If our houses were to catch on fire back there, they would burn to the ground.”

Booker pleaded with commissioners to help identify the road’s owner so some kind of solution could be found. She asked that someone from the county visit the area and see what residents are facing.

“We need the matter looked into further,” said Booker. “Any information you guys can give us would be greatly appreciated. We really need somebody to come out and see what we’re talking about as opposed to us telling you guys. It’s hard for you to visualize the condition unless you actually see it. Somebody has to see what we’re talking about. Hopefully something can be done.”

Johnson said an ambulance tried to access the area on April 24 and had to turn around. Triple A (AAA) told her the road is too hazardous to travel and she let people know not to visit anymore out of fear of getting stuck in the sand.

“All of my life I’ve worked, now you’re telling me I’m living back here with no assets to get to me,” Johnson said. “I’ve worked all of my life and I’ve never depended on public aid, county aid or any aid. I feel like if I call an ambulance I just might as well try to get out there myself. Somebody needs to come back there and look at the condition of the road. None of you guys would live back there with that road being in that shape. I don’t see how a fire truck could get back there. A helicopter is the only thing I could see getting back there. Anybody coming back there at night using GPS is going to get stuck and won’t be able to get out.”

Edna Carter’s 86-year-old mother lives at 521 Wild Plum Lane and she told commissioners the road has been an issue for decades.

“If we had to have an emergency vehicle pick her up chances are they might not make it,” said Carter. “We want you all to know that we’re working on this and we’ve been working on this for 40 or 50 years and we’re not going to stop no matter who is in the county commissioner’s office.”

Commissioner Lew Weatherspoon put Johnson in contact with Assistant County Manager Coley Price.

“I know we will look into it,” Weatherspoon said. “I don’t know what can be done, but we will certainly investigate.”

Eliot Duke can be reached at eduke@mydailyrecord.com or at 910-230-2038.

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