The three lakes. That’s what Clara de la Cruz calls the trio of water filled, lawn-length craters that stretch across the dirt lane beside her mobile home in Tarheel Acres, a trailer park located in the rural outskirts of Warsaw off of Wards Bridge Road.
“We should bring our fishing poles out here and see what we can catch,” de la Cruz laughed sourly one afternoon two weeks ago, as she surveyed the mud and water logged ruin of Tarheel Estate Lane, the lone access road into and out of the trailer park.
Only minutes earlier, another Tarheel Acres resident, Mayra Monge, looked on as two friends used wood planks to help push her car out of a morass of mud that makes entering or leaving the area a daily adventure for anyone without a 4-wheel drive vehicle.
“We had to pull six people out of that spot last time it rained. This morning, my husband and I almost got stuck in our van,” noted de la Cruz, pointing down the road at the brown boggy marsh indented with the sunken tire tracks of cars that have tried, and often failed, to make it through without assistance.
According to de la Cruz, Monge and others who live along Tarheel Estate Lane, the problems with the road date back at least a decade. “I’ve lived out here since 2007 and it’s always been this bad,” said Monge.
Gabriel Gurrola, who has lived in Tarheel Acres for the last 16 years, said the condition of the lane has declined considerably. “The road has always been a problem but it’s gotten a lot worse,” he said in his heavily accented, halting English.
Carl Faison said he has also seen the road deteriorate since moving to Tarheel Acres two years ago.
“The road is just messed up. People are messing their cars up, getting stuck. Almost every day we have to push somebody out or pull somebody out,” said Faison.
Though a portion of Tarheel Estate Lane is paved, at approximately the halfway point of it its three quarter mile length the asphalt runs out, giving way to a rutted, dirt path obstacle course where the “three lakes” and mud pit are located. Coupled with the poor condition of the pavement (parts of which look as though they’ve been carpet-bombed) the entire road has the appearance of an abandoned country path left to the destructive forces of time and nature.
And according to its residents, the owners of Tarheel Acres, Joy and Bryan Kennedy, have done little over the years to try to change that, despite the protests of those renting the couple’s trailer lots and driving their road each day.
Though the residents acknowledge the Kennedys recently had the road scraped with a tractor and blade, it appears to have done little to remedy the situation. “They left the mud on top and the water stayed beneath it; the cars still sink. The thing is, we don’t want the road to be scraped, we want the road to be fixed,” said Faison.
“The people who own Tarheel Acres have a tractor, they have the money to do what they need to do, they’re just not doing it. People are paying their rent, why can’t they fix the road? That’s the only thing the people are asking for them to do, to make it passable for people to get up and down from their house.”
“The last time I spoke to Joy (Kennedy) she said they would do something about the road — I’m still waiting,” said de la Cruz.
When contacted for comment about the condition of the road, Bryan Kennedy, who said he’s owned the Tarheel Acres property since 1996, noted the work that had been done to scrape the road and said he had plans to do more once the weather improved. “Once it dries out we’ll get out there and try to fix it. I’m trying but I can’t do anything until it dries out. I’ll put some dirt in, then we’ll shape it up.”
When asked why the road was allowed to deteriorate to its current state, Kennedy simply stated, “Every road in North Carolina is in bad shape when it rains this much.”
After questioning why the residents’ concerns would warrant interest from a newspaper, Joy Kennedy also suggested that many of them are frequently late with their lot payments. “If they paid on time then we might be able to get something done out there,” she commented.
But according to many who currently call Tar Heel Acres home, most of the efforts to improve the road have been their own.
“Even when they were redoing the road (U.S. 117) we were trying to use the extra asphalt they take off the roads to try and help, but it doesn’t,” remembered Faison.
Gurrola said he and others have laid down their own dollars and sweat to improve Tarheel Estate Lane. “Several times we’ve spent money to buy materials, like gravel and dirt to try and fix the road. I tried to collect money from people and buy material to put in but it’s still the same. The fixes don’t last.”
Faison said he believes there’s a larger, underlying drainage problem in Tarheel Acres that makes any improvements to the road an exercise in futility.
“It sometimes takes weeks for the water to dry up, depending on how bad the rain is. All the water is just sitting in the road and underneath the road is washing out.”
Faison’s neighbor, Robert Hicks, explained that, since the rains that moved across the area on the weekend of Feb. 6-7, he’s had to wear water boots to wade outside his trailer.
“Me and my family have lived here 16 years and it’s been like this the while time,” he said.
The residents interviewed for this story spoke about difficulties taking their kids to school, making grocery trips or simply walking out in their yard due to conditions at Tar Heel Acres. But they each said their biggest concern was the problem the road posed for disabled residents, many of whom rely on UPS, FedEx and other services to deliver their medications.
Elsa Mendez, who lives near de la Cruz, has a 10-year-old daughter with Spina bifida, a birth defect that causes incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes around the spinal cord. Though UPS delivers her daughter’s medication, Mendez said it’s sometimes impossible for the truck to get to her house.
“The (UPS) man has to park down the road and walk to my house,” said Mendez.
De la Cruz, who suffers from “blood sugar problems,” said she has been told by ambulance drivers that Tar Heel Estate Lane is “not very accessible.”
Faison, who said he has a metal rod running from his hip to the top of his knee, commented, “I have to be able to get out and get my medications and go to the doctor, and if the roads are impassable for me to be able to get out then I can’t go.”
According to another resident, Eric Malloy, even local law enforcement has expressed reservations about driving on the road.
“If someone out here needs to make a report, the sheriff’s office asks that you do it on the phone; they don’t want to come down here,” said Malloy.
Given the current condition of the road, many of the residents said they would like to see Tar Heel Estate Lane either paved or turned over to the county.
“We just need help,” said de la Cruz. “Right now, it’s like we’ve been forgotten.”