On Saturday morning, August 11, local descendants of Warren County families displaced by the creation of Shenandoah National Park gathered to break ground at the site of a memorial to their families’ collective experience.
That Blue Ridge Heritage Project site is on the Town walking path along Happy Creek just north of Criser Road, adjacent to Burrell Brooks Park and the current Criser Road Bridge replacement project. The Town of Front Royal donated the land for the project.
Hosting the event was local project committee Chairman Darryl Merchant. Merchant was joined by Blue Ridge Heritage Project Founder Bill Henry. Both addressed the project’s impetus, goals and status.
Last year Warren County joined the seven other Virginia counties that Shenandoah National Park runs through in a joint effort to shed light on an often-ignored part of those counties’ collective histories. And while federal officials heading the national park service may previously have been lax in acknowledging those histories, Merchant noted they are now active supporters of the Blue Ridge Heritage Project effort to bring that story to the forefront in the communities that were impacted.
The Blue Ridge Heritage Project is a non-profit, 501-c 3 founded by Greene County resident Bill Henry. Of the eight-county project, the organizational literature states: “To establish a memorial site in each of the eight counties where land was acquired for Shenandoah National Park (Albermarle, Augusta, Greene, Madison, Page, Rappahannock, Rockingham and Warren) to acknowledge the sacrifice of involved families in those communities.
“In order to recognize their contributions and their losses, each site will contain a memorial to the people from that county whose land was acquired for the park. Through educational displays, cultural displays and demonstrations the project hopes to accurately depict the people’s lives and to help preserve their lifestyle, crafts, music, and traditions.”
The ultimate goal, as of the broad study of history itself, is to give visitors to this particular series of memorials “a greater appreciation for the impact the park had on individual lives in general and for that particular community. – Altogether, the eight sites will create an understanding of life in the Blue Ridge Mountains,” project literature states.
Project & costs
The ground broken this past Saturday in Warren County is for Phase One of a three-phased local project. Phase One will see construction of 2-foot x 5-foot x 9-foot stone chimney memorial with a bronze plaque holding the family names of county citizens who lost their land to allow establishment of a pristine national park that is now a major regional tourism and economic asset.
Phase two will add a 16 x 22-foot concrete patio and phase three, two benches, a flagpole and informational kiosk. Total cost of all three phases is estimated at $25,000, with phase one priced at $12,000, including $9,000 for the stone chimney and $3,000 for the bronze plaque bearing the displaced family names. Merchant said $3,500 has been raised so far.
Consequently, the August 11 event also marked the launch of a more aggressive fundraising campaign, including direct contact, mail and online efforts. Donations can be mailed to the: Warren Blue Ridge Heritage Project, PO Box 1508, Front Royal, Va. 22630.
Online, one can access additional information, including on fundraising, at either the Blue Ridge Heritage Project Facebook page and website www.blueridgeheritageproject.com – click the “Warren County” tab – and a new local Facebook page, the “Front Royal Warren County Blue Ridge Heritage Project”. Merchant, who serves as chairman of the local project committee may also be reached at (540) 683-6878.
In another update in numbers, also as of August 11 Warren County’s contribution to the project will commemorate the sacrifice made by what is now counted at 67 local families who lost their homes and land as part of the federal effort to preserve large swaths of America’s natural resources for the enjoyment of all Americans for generations to come.
Merchant said that number has risen from an originally-cited 32 families. But he added, that initial number based on information in park service archives included only those families who had legal title to their land taken for the park. Those 32 families were the lucky ones.
As Merchant noted at the August 11 groundbreaking, the families with deeded proof of ownership of their land in what was to become Shenandoah National Park were compensated for their lost property. However, others who were tenants or who may have thought they owned the land they settled but had no legal record of that ownership, were not compensated for their loss.
And while the goal of natural resource preservation for accessible and affordable regional tourism may be good one, it was often painful for those told they must leave their homes for a greater national good.
A brief history of SNP
Literature handed out at the Saturday groundbreaking documented the creation of Shenandoah National Park (SNP) as a process stretching from 1924 to 1938. That process involved federal and state officials, as well as a private-sector businessman and his associates. Most prominent on that list were President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the back end and Virginia Governor Harry F. Byrd and summer resort “Skyland Lodge” owner George Freeman Pollock at the front.
This chronology is summarized from the Blue Ridge Heritage Project informational packet distributed at the Warren County site groundbreaking:
- “The idea for the SNP began in 1924. The federal government decided that the east coast region of the U.S. needed a park similar to Yosemite or Yellowstone out west.
- The owner of Skyland Lodge, a summer resort (located at what would become Skyline Drive mile post 42) for wealthy clients and politically-connected residents of Washington, D.C., thought a national park would bring visitors to the Shenandoah Valley.
- That resort owner, George Freeman Pollock, recruited guests and business friends to nominate this area of the Blue Ridge Mountains as a potential site of the eastern national park.
- Government specifications required the proposed park to be visually stunning and have amenities like fishing and hiking, access to roads; and essentially be a wilderness – in other words “FREE OF HUMANS”.
- However, the selected site was not free of humans; it was home to over 500 “mountain families”.
- Public and pseudo-science stereotyping of those somewhat isolated “mountain families” as backwards and in need of a push into “normal” society was used as justification for their removal from their mountain homesteads. Later sociological studies concluded that those “mountain folk were no better or worse off than the valley folk” they were said to need social integration with.
- In 1926, during the presidency of Republican Calvin Coolidge, the U.S. government approved the proposed eastern national park site.
- In April 1926, Virginia Governor Harry F. Byrd established the Virginia Conservation & Development Commission, headed by William E. Carson of Front Royal. The commission was created to acquire the land for the park, which would then be transferred to the federal government.
- Carson convinced the State Legislature to enact a blanket condemnation law, which was promptly challenged and not resolved until 1935 when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
- Originally, many land owners were told they would be allowed to remain in the park. However, that changed on February 1, 1934, when a new commission director decreed that “all inhabitants must leave.”
- Federal officials initially tried to dump the relocation problem on state officials, who resisted taking on the final step in a politically-volatile matter they had helped create. Eventually responsibility was transferred to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Resettlement Administration.
- By 1938, some 175 of the estimated 500 impacted families had been resettled to over 6,000 acres of land purchased by the U.S. government for use as resettlement communities.
- As the relocation continued, as quoted by Nancy Martin-Purdue – “And people came in and moved them out. Burned their house down in some cases. Took their things and carried them off to some other place.”
The bottom line assessment: “The FORCED RESETTLEMENT represents a classic case of bureaucratic ineptitude.”
And as the ever-wise “they” say, “Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.”
So this humble observer urges all who are able, to help realize the Blue Ridge Heritage Project mission of seeing that this part of our collective history is NOT forgotten or NOT learned from.
Hey, there are around 40,000 people in Warren County, albeit some too young to earn a living yet. But 55-cents per person would more than cover the $21,500 balance necessary to fully fund the project. We can figure a way out to accomplish that, can’t we?
That might be a topic of conversation at the next meeting of the Warren Blue Ridge Heritage Project Committee, slated for this Thursday, August 16, at 7 p.m. at the Warren Rifles Confederate Museum at 95 Chester Street, Front Royal.
Skyline High School announces band teacher Daniel Holland 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year
Skyline High School is proud to announce that our fabulous band teacher, Mr. Daniel Holland is our 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year!
Danny has taught at Skyline High School for the last 5 1/2 years. He earned his undergraduate degree in Instrumental Music PreK-12 from James Madison University and his master’s degree from Bowling Green State University.
At SHS, Danny teaches guitar I and II, concert band, dual enrolled music artistry, and marching band. Marching and concert band require extensive time commitments both in school and after hours. Additionally, Danny teaches a jazz band group that rehearses before the official school day begins.
Through his expert instruction, he provides students with opportunities to connect through music, enhance positive school culture, and engage our greater community in school spirit and camaraderie.
The Skyline Marching Hawks perform shows each year at our football games, parades, and various competitions, where they have earned many accolades! Danny not only produces marching shows with excellent sound and great visual appeal, but they also convey important messages to the students and the spectators.
The 2022 competition show was entitled: “Try, Try Again,” and according to Danny, focused on the “idea and philosophy that success in anything, whether it be band, sports, academics, and so many other skills, can only truly manifest from learning to cope and grow from the mistakes and missteps we inevitably make.” This show was a gift to our school and our greater community.
Outside of school, Danny is an active member of the Virginia Music Educators Association, most recently presenting at their 2022 annual VMEA conference in November 2022. Additionally, Danny performs as a professional musician as the acting principal oboist of the Waynesboro Symphony.
Danny was nominated for this honor by his peers, colleagues, and students. Here are some of their beautiful words:
- “The immense amount of time and effort Danny puts into making the SHS band program the best it can go above and beyond. The support and safe space he provides to students are invaluable.”
- “I’m amazed by Danny’s dedication. He was not only present for interviews for my position but was present before the start of school working with the band. The marching band is present for so many events/games, and it seems like he rarely does not stay past normal hours. He is also helping with the cross-county musical. He has been very kind and helpful with my many questions. His students seem to find his room safe, and he has created a great work ethic with his students.”
- “Mr. Holland is an amazing teacher who wants the best for his students. He makes playing music fun and very enjoyable. I wouldn’t have been able to become the musician I am today without Mr. Holland.”
- “He is the best teacher I have ever had. He’s very supportive of his students and other faculty. He is the reason our marching band is great.”
- “Mr. Holland is so supportive and loves what he does. He will do anything to make sure you succeed in anything you do, and when he sets his mind to something, he will do everything he can to make it happen.
- “Mr. Holland is an amazing teacher in general, and he is very helpful and kind. I have struggled to pick up new skills, and he broke it down for me, so I got it quickly.”
The accolades of his colleagues and students are absolutely true!
Danny’s impact on his students, fellow WCPS fine arts teachers, and SHS colleagues is felt in so many ways! Danny models grit and perseverance through difficult situations daily, creating genuine and supportive relationships with his students through his love of music.
For these and many other reasons, Danny Holland is the Skyline High School 2022-2023 Teacher of the Year!
Town Talk: A conversation with Shane Goodwin, Danelle Sperling, Robert Hupman – Reaching Out Now, Christmas Meal at Skyline HS
In this Town Talk, our publisher Mike McCool speaks with Shane Goodwin, Danelle Sperling, and Robert Hupman about the Linda Kroll Community Meal Program.
On December 15, 2022, at 4:30 pm, Reaching Out Now and its partners will host a Christmas meal for families with children in our local school system at Skyline High School School.
This event will feature a traditional Christmas menu with turkey, ham, shepherd’s pie, vegetable medley, rolls, and dessert, all prepared by Chef Devin and the Blue Ridge Technical Center’s Culinary Arts program students.
Town Talk is a series on the Royal Examiner where we will introduce you to local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profit leaders, and political figures who influence Warren County. Topics will be varied but hopefully interesting. Let us know if you have an idea or topic or want to hear from someone in our community. Send your request to news@RoyalExaminer.com.
Thanksgiving officially second busiest Thanksgiving travel period in the history of the Transurban Express Lanes
Transurban, the operator of the 495, 395, and 95 Express Lanes, announced that the 72-hour travel window from the Tuesday before Thanksgiving Day itself was the second busiest Thanksgiving travel period in the history of the express lanes.
More than 155,000 customers took the Express Lanes, with nearly 1 in 4 traveling for free at least once with an E-ZPass Flex set to HOV mode.
Today’s announcement comes on the heels of the 10th Anniversary of the Express Lanes opening in November. In commemoration, Transurban released the annual ‘state of the lanes’ polling research that provides insights on how customers continue to value the expanded travel choices of the Lanes as well as a report detailing the significant impact the 495, 95, and 395 Express Lanes have had in transforming the region.
The primary research from a sample of 1,490 Washington D.C. area drivers found:
- 76% overall customer satisfaction
- 3 in 4 GWA drivers have used the Express Lanes, up from 62% in 2021
- Nearly 7 in 10 drivers (69%) see a regional benefit from the Express Lanes
- Drivers are more likely to say they have carpooled for free vs. paid a toll to travel the Express Lanes at least once a month in the last 6 months – 54% vs. 47%
Over the last decade, the 495, 95, and 395 Express Lanes have saved nearly 10 million Greater Washington Area (GWA) customers more than 33 million hours of time in one of the fastest-growing regions in the U.S. The Lanes have saved time for those living nearby and supported growth in the local community. The Lanes have bolstered the local economy by creating an estimated 53,000 jobs and $8 billion in economic activity, including the growth of existing businesses and the attraction of some of the world’s largest employers, including Amazon, Boeing, Raytheon, and Capitol One.
“More than 10 years ago, we started a journey alongside Virginia leaders to introduce a new way to travel, putting technology to work to unlock congestion and tangibly improve the quality of life of travelers in this region,” said Pierce Coffee, President Transurban North America. “Now we celebrate this partnership that gives more people more time back in their day through choice and convenience.”
About Transurban North America
Transurban is one of the world’s largest toll-road operators and developers, working to get people where they want to go as quickly and safely as possible. By embracing collaboration with the government, our public-private partnerships deliver transformative infrastructure solutions across five markets. In the fiscal year 2020, our global customers saved 376,000 hours on average each workday across 2.0 million trips on our roads with faster, more predictable travel options. With a leading market share of transportation P3 investment in North America, we are pioneering travel solutions like dynamically tolled Express Lanes and are partnering with the government to think about the policies, technology, and infrastructure that will get you home today and ten years from now. Learn more about Transurban North America at: Transurban.com | Expresslanes.com | A25.com
School Board approves virtual instruction contract, other housekeeping items
The Warren County School Board, at its Wednesday, Dec. 7 meeting, approved the expenditure of $72,600 for the spring semester of online instruction provided by Virtual Virginia.
Virtual Virginia is the online instructional service provider for Warren County students enrolled in the virtual education option.
Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Heather Bragg told school board members that a total of 65 students—10 at the elementary level—have enrolled for the spring semester, and the provider must be paid in advance of the January 2023 spring semester’s start.
Ms. Bragg told the board that the elementary school fee was a set price for each pupil for the core curriculum, while secondary school pupil fees are calculated at $300 per credit, which allows the students to get their core classes as well as electives.
Board member Ralph Rinaldi asked Bragg to elaborate on why students might enroll in the virtual learning program rather than attend school in person. The Covid pandemic introduced students to virtual learning, and some continue out of anxiety about returning to the traditional classroom setting, she said. Bragg added that some students just do better in the virtual learning environment.
Students enrolled in the virtual learning option are provided computer access, as well as a school counselor and a local mentor who supervises the students.
Antoinette D. Funk motioned to pay for the spring semester, which was seconded by Melanie C. Salins, followed by a unanimous vote.
Other action items from the meeting include:
- A vote to increase the hourly rate for selective positions, beginning Jan. 1, 2023. Employees currently making less than $12 per hour will begin earning the federal minimum wage of $12 next month.
- Purchase approval for network battery backup equipment for Skyline Middle School at $51,270.
- Second reading of the proposed 2023-2024 school year calendar. The board will approve a final calendar at the first January 2023 school board meeting. The calendar would have students return to school on Aug. 9, 2023, and end the school year on May 23, 2024. It includes banked hours that would cover inclement weather cancellations and 13 professional days for teachers.
- Voted to approve the policy on sexually explicit material, which brings Warren County Public Schools into compliance with a Virginia law passed this year that requires districts to notify parents. (This will be covered in a separate Royal Examiner story.)
- Voted to accept the 2023 General Assembly legislative priorities.
- Voted to award a contract in the amount of $47,880 to Document Solution, Inc. For the lease of copiers at Hilda J. Barbour Elementary School.
- Set the 2023 organizational meeting of the Warren County School Board for Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023, at 6:30 p.m. in the Board Room of the Warren County Government Center.
National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day – Flags to be flown half-staff
This December 7, we remember the world-changing event known as Pearl Harbor Day, or as President Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his December 8, 1941 speech declaring war on Japan, “a date which will live in infamy.”
Early on Wednesday morning, December 7, 2022, many will gather at Pearl Harbor National Memorial for the 81st Commemoration. The early start marks the moment to the minute 81 years ago when Japanese warplanes descended on Oahu, killing 2,403 service members and civilians, injuring thousands more, and dealing a near-fatal blow to the Navy’s fleet at Pearl Harbor.
Most young Americans who died that day, along with those who served in uniform during World War II or on the home front war effort, are collectively known as the Greatest Generation. Their sacrifices reflect the theme of this year’s Commemoration: Everlasting Legacy.
The focus is the importance of remembering Pearl Harbor and how the Greatest Generation saved us from tyranny and brought us peace through reconciliation.
Governor’s Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia
In accordance with the authority vested in me as Governor, I hereby order that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia to be flown at half-staff at all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds in the Commonwealth in solemn respect and memory for the nearly 4,000 American service men and women killed or wounded in the early morning of December 7, 1941, at the United States Navy Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
I hereby order that the flag shall be lowered at sunrise on Wednesday, December 7, 2022, and remain at half-staff until sunset.
Ordered on this, the 6th day of December 2022.
Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Patient of the Week: American Goldfinch
These two American Goldfinches hit the same window at the same time and ended up here at the Center for care.
Though both are currently having breathing difficulty, and the male has significant head trauma with bleeding from the left ear, neither sustained any fractures. They are recovering together while they receive supplemental oxygen and pain medications.
Do you know what to do if a bird hits your window?
Though it was once standard to contain a window strike bird and let it rest for a few hours before attempting release, research has now shown that this is inadequate. Many of the issues we see with window strikes manifest 24+ hours after the strike, long after the bird can fly off.
If you see a bird hit a window, contain it right away and call the closest permitted rehabilitator. Do not release it! In the meantime, take steps to break up the reflections on your windows with tape, paint, or decals spaced no more than 2” apart. Prevention is better than treatment!
A new record!
Yesterday we surpassed last year’s intake number with this window strike pair. We are hopeful that they will soon be released together to enjoy the rest of their wild lives!
If you are looking for an easy way to help native wildlife become a monthly BRWC donor! For as little as $5/month, you can provide year-round, sustainable support that helps us fulfill our mission.