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Following fear to a dead end
A heritage designation for the Virginia home of traditional mountain music had no land-use strings attached.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
The same day Virginia’s Crooked Road abandoned its efforts to win a National Heritage Area designation as the birthplace of American bluegrass, the U.S. Census Bureau released 2012 estimates showing one-third of the nation’s counties are dying.
A story and map illustrating the trend appeared on Page 6 of The Roanoke Times on Friday; not surprisingly, colored squares designating dying counties across the country cut a bright trail through Appalachia, including the mountains of Virginia’s far Southwest.
The banner headline on A1 that day was: “Crooked Road nixes heritage bid.”
Imagined dangers do their worst when they blind people to a real threat they must face.
The census data clarify the threat: Rural areas with waning local economies, such as farming or mining, are on a downward economic spiral as young people leave to find work and have their families, while older adults age in place. Watching their communities grow poorer.
The Crooked Road’s winding trail through the western mountains and foothills of Virginia, spread across many of the commonwealth’s dying counties, is meant to celebrate the past and help to reinvigorate the economy in hopes of bringing a brighter future.
Landowners’ unfounded fears that a heritage designation would come with “federal strings” that would restrict their property rights prompted the Washington County Board of Supervisors to vote last Tuesday to draft a resolution of nonsupport.
The designation comes with grant money for tourism marketing, music education, festivals and such. It could have had no impact on local zoning rules. Its benefits attracted the support of many more communities than were opposed along the 300-mile Crooked Road. Washington County was one of only three.
But opposition from three presumably representative elected bodies was enough to prompt the Crooked Road to drop its quest.
All will be hurt by political hysteria inflamed by local tea partyers’ paranoid fantasies about United Nations Agenda 21 and its imagined goal of controlling local land-use decisions.
Therein lies a warning — particularly for mostly urban Roanoke County, where two of five supervisors already have been sipping of the party’s poisoned tea.
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