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Guest Commentary: Front Royal, a stationary island as the Tourism revenue stream floats by



In 2013 the author wrote:

“Front Royal as an island.

‘Watching the river go by from the head of an island offers the comfort and illusion that one is moving forward.  A wiser view is to look at the opposite bank. This single act will make clear that only the river is moving forward. The bank, like the island AND our town, is actually standing still’.” 

I have been mulling over, musing really, a recent article and comments from The Royal Examiner: “The Other Side of the Street” dated August 25, 2020. Byline: Roger Bianchini

On the surface it speaks to pedestrian traffic on Main Street with competing elements for and against. Sadly, the issue is the culmination of decades of Tourism tumult.

It is really about parking.

Like characters from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travel; it is really about Big Enders and Little Enders where political, i.e., tourism positions have been lost in the mists of time and history. They have been lost to newly elected officials without understanding local tourism, its accomplishments and history. Its increased revenue opportunity.

At core lies more than three decades of Tourism turbulence: various players and interests that choose to or not to act on this element that is economically critical to both town and county. Most elected officials remain largely clueless to the millions of dollars that Tourism – direct and multiplier – bring to our economy. Multi-millions.

To that I say:

SCHADENFREUDE.* The German word now in common English usage. Not personal, rather, a compilation of lack of leadership, weak or non-decisions and internal conflicts among elected, private and business interests ranging over decades. I have been both player and witness for more than 30 years. I retired from public commitments 14 years ago. I sleep better now.

It’s about Parking.

Beginning in the early 1990s neither Town nor County have managed to create a clear tourism platform: A detailed plan whereby all decisions fit within an overall structure – a matrix. Oh, sure, I sat through dozens of planning sessions that lost momentum and disappeared into the black hole of local politics. This current Tourism hot spot, when filtered through such a matrix, would settle the current Main Street squabble.

I have a deep and long-standing personal history with this struggle which, for me, began in 1986.

Small Tourism steps have taken place, for sure, yet, a combined, cogent and concise guide has not happened. Thousands of dollars spent on meetings and studies. Town and County continue to quarrel. No measurable progress.

We have no universal branding. Some signage/ads use the Gazebo icon (which to an outsider appears to be an alien moon lander with no recognizable relationship to our main tourists attributes); others use a line drawing of a dormer window that is remarkably similar to the Erie Insurance logo. The same with advertising tags.  A mixed bag.  A shot gun approach. No targets hit.

Different town managers have left their individual imprints by imposing personal will. Remember the expensive to-taxpayers tourist phone kiosks placed at town entrances that failed (except as good radar spots for the local gendarmes to write tickets to tourists) and recently removed? A favorite failure was the pitiful attempt to tag “Front Royal – the Aspen of the East”. T-shirts were actually printed.

Setting aside industrial-like businesses (EDA-drawn), we have failed our taxpayers by not smartly understanding and benefiting from the great Tourism pie, just too many bakers with no cooking experience.

The conflicts and battles remain basically the same: No overall agreement on a long-term plan on how to profit from Tourism. Increasing tourism revenue has never been a stated goal. A must fixed pillar.

Through the decades I participated in many dozens of the then-current “darlings” of the Town/County leadership: Remember EDAW or the much touted expensive and now vanished “Envision Front Royal” project, Front Royal Tourism Advisory Board, State Park impact, Avtex Redevelopment Stakeholders and so many more? Nothing has endured nor moved forward. Reviewing my minutes from the Town’s Tourism Advisory Board in 2002 clearly validate this. No impactful, no coherent plan.


At best, Downtown has not been blessed with a well laid out parking scheme to easily transition residents and visitors’ access to our Main Street; this is especially so during special events. This is where Disney excels. Improving and managing people and flows to a given location. Increasing tourism profits by investing in and focusing on tourism access. This is low hanging fruit.

The lack of a coherent master tourism plan coupled with dearth of visionary leadership across the board leads our community to unending strife and reduced tourism revenues which ultimately increases taxes.


Years ago, the old “lawyers row” located on the East side of the existing courthouse was knocked down to provide additional parking spaces to accommodate the court house expansion. It did not increase parking – read access – for visitors or residents. Translation: Reduced access to tourism revenue and resident access to Main Street. However, the courthouse received more parking. Great. BUT the leaders of the community demonstrated a will to act in unison for a project they thought was important. I believe adding substantial revenues to Main Street is co-equal. So, such a plan is possible.

Most parking on the south side of Main Street is dedicated to private businesses. The North side parking offers much reduced yet difficult access from Commerce Avenue. KISS

Whether we keep Main Street open for pedestrian traffic would then become moot.  There are several locations in which a parking facility might be situated.  The above ground part can easily conform and match the ‘feel’ of Main Street while funneling access for those needed, local and important merchants. All that revenue – tourists’ wallets – funneled directly to Main Street. Happy Days!

I clearly recall the conflicts that played out years ago when a private citizen brought forth and led the community to revitalize East Main Street: the same beautiful layout we now use. No one misses the pathetic old Main Street’; most do not remember. There was, of course, opposition.

Dare I say that Winchester has supported and invested in its Old Town merchants by reconstructing and adding several parking garages. There is revenue from a parking garage to be had. In business terms: additional revenue stream.

Locals complain and transplants hope that the hub of our county will smartly improve. All want revenues to improve. This spat is simply a decades old cancer that grows increasingly: limits growth potential and importantly – Revenue.

Trace Noel
Front Royal, Virginia

* FOOTNOTE: It can be argued that there’s no real synonym for schadenfreude in English. … “Malicious joy” is one way to describe schadenfreude, as is the verb “gloat” when used in the correct context.

(Trace Noel is a Warren County resident and retired Shenandoah River outfitter. He moved from Northern Virginia to the Shenandoah Valley in 1970. Noel has received national, state, and local awards for conservation and tourism. His submitted bio below outlines his background and experience in the topics he addresses.)

Bio: Trace Noel
1970 BA Degree – History – Bethel University, McKenzie, Tn

Activities focused on water trails, environmental, tourism and river issues:

  • Board of Directors of the national Professional Paddlesports Association based in Springfield, VA. Nation’s largest outfitter trade association.
  • Served on PPA board as Officer, Paddlesports Promotion Chair and member of Executive Committee
  • While serving on Executive board of PPA: purchased Paddler Magazine, created national outfitter on-water insurance program including reinsurance, rewrote national by-laws, created new region, produced week of waterways and national outfitter/livery education school and accreditation program/school.
  • Founding member and Regent, National Professional Paddlesports Business Accreditation School
  • Front Royal COC – Tourism Committee – Chairman
  • Founder and past President of the Virginia Professional Paddlesports Association (VAPPA) Trade Association
  • Past Chairman of Shenandoah River Recreational Use Plan


  • Member Shenandoah River Recreational Working Committee
  • Chairman of Shenandoah River Canoe Liveries and Outfitters Association (SRCLO).
  • Shenandoah River Representative – Virginia Canals and Navigation Society
  • Member of Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries boating legislative review group
  • Advisory Committee member Friends of the Rivers of Virginia (FORVA).
  • Creator and Past Director – Shenandoah RIVERFEST
  • Former Member of the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Shenandoah River. (1988-1996)
  • Member of Page County River Advisory Committee 1992 (MORC STUDY).
  • Member Minimum Instream Flow Technical Assistance Committee (MIF-TAC) 1994
  • Founding Member – Coors Clearwater 2000 Forum, Harrisonburg, VA (James Madison University) – Created origination’s logo.
  • Advisory Committee for Master Plan for Shenandoah River State Park
  • Formed group to acquire land for Guests State Park

Worked with DCR planner, Robert Munson, for acquisition, layout and river access planning for Guests State Park.

  • Worked with Roger Pence, Head of SRSP to lay out boat landings, commercial traffic access and design of main boat launch/pickup.
  • Front Royal COC – Chair Legislative Committee
  • Avtex Superfund Site Stakeholders Group
  • Local DU Chapter member and Sponsor
  • Member North American Water Trails Assoc
  • Founding Member Virginia Eco-Tourism Assoc. (VETA)
  • Vice Chair – Town of Front Royal Tourism Advisory Board
  • Advisory member of the Shenandoah River Blueway, Shenandoah, VA
  • Contributor and organizing member of Shenandoah River Sojourn 2003-2006
  • Planned and sponsored first state sponsored ‘water trail’ conference – Blueway. Worked with DCR, VDGIF, VA DEPT OF FORRESTRY.  Warren County/Front Royal declined to support.
  • Shenandoah River State Park Visitor Center Advisory Committee
  • BA History – Bethel University, McKenzie, TN.  1970

Junior Class President, Frosh Class Treasurer, National Fraternity President

  • American Canoe Association Certified Instructor of Moving Water Tandem Canoe.
  • 19 years experience whitewater boating.
  • Waterfowl guide since 1991 – Waterfowl hunting of Shenandoah since 1986
  • Swift Water Rescue Trained and Certified
  • Weekly fishing report: Weekender Magazine, The Washington Post and Virginia Outdoor Magazine and Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries Weekly Report. 12 years
  • Weekly fishing Reports for Washington Post, and VDGIF 10 years
  • Feature articles by Washington Post Sunday Outdoor Feature Writer, Angus Phillips for guided trips: opening of Guest State Park, waterfowl hunting, fly fishing for Smallmouth bass, Conservation and River Knowledge.
  • Contributed to, quoted and assisted in the National Geographic Magazine feature article on the Shenandoah River written by Angus Phillips. December 1996
  • 2000 – Conservation award from Virginia Trails Assoc. awarded at VA Governor’s Conference on Trails and Blueways – Virginia Beach
  • 2000 – National “Millennium” Award from National Paddlesports Assoc. for contributions to Paddlesports and the Paddlesports Industry. Special one time presentation.
  • 1998 – Volunteer award from Governor George Allen river clean-up and conservation
  • 2006 – The Frank A. Jones Outstanding Member Award, the highest honor for members of the Professional Paddlesports Association. Amelia Island, Fl.
  • 2007 Citizen Conservationists of the Year presented by The Virginia chapter of the American Fisheries Society. Danville, VA
  • Creator of Original Shenandoah RIVERFEST.
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One county citizen weighs in on municipal ‘Sludge War’



In regard to the “Sludge War” and most specifically the Town of Front Royal’s Mayor Chris Holloway, the people should consider this carefully: Blackmail is wrong. It is immoral and unethical. It has no place in government. For hurting this entire community by calling on debts and refusing to have a working relationship with the County, that could be considered extortion.

If you get what I’m saying and live in the Town, please consider running for Town Council or Mayor. As it turns out, Mayor Holloway has been found wanting. True leaders lead by example and what a total sham to have a Mayor who sets a precedent for malicious, retaliatory antics consistently used by angry bullies lacking in critical thought.

Front Royal needs YOU!

Yours truly,
Jeanne Anderson
Linden, Virginia

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An Appeal to Heaven



Prayer has always been powerfully employed in our country for guidance, protection and strength, from the earliest time when we were only loosely united and isolated colonies. The Pilgrims at Plymouth relied on prayer during their first and gloomiest winter. George Washington “appealed to heaven,” when his Continental Army crossed the icy Delaware River on the night of December 25, 1776, in a logistically challenging and dangerous operation. Benjamin Franklin called for prayer during the Constitutional Convention in July, 1787. Tempers flared and interests clashed as the delegates sought their respective goals. It was at this time Franklin offered his famous appeal for harmony and reconciliation, an appeal for God’s intervention.

Later in October, 1789, President Washington would say at his Thanksgiving proclamation, “It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits and humbly to implore His protection and favor.” Colonials believed their newly established nations many freedoms were a direct gift from God.

President Abraham Lincoln was also aware of the benefits of prayer. It was his belief that, “it is the duty of nations as well as men, to owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God.” At the most tumultuous period in his presidency, he found the dire need for supplication. Before the battle of Gettysburg, he turned to God in prayer. “I went to my room one day and I locked the door and got down on my knees before Almighty God and prayed to him mightily for victory at Gettysburg.”

Today the need for continuous and relentless prayer is greater than ever.

Our nation again faces spiritual warfare on all fronts pushing our citizens into drug abuse, gambling debt, bankruptcy and suicide, along with an epidemic of dysfunctional families, violence and dissension. Our leaders must bow their heads in prayer just as the great people did in the past to avoid plunging our nation into a certified death spiral. God has provided us with everything we need to win the spiritual confrontations, accentuating the awareness to know it, believe it and act upon it. It’s through prayer that we recognize and wield the weapons and wear the spiritual armor as described in Ephesians 6.

We must ask the Lord to bless our political and corporate trailblazers with wisdom and protection and to give us the fortitude to overcome the challenges that lay ahead. We pray that corporate leaders have insight to follow in God’s ways toward peace, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. We pray for our national and local elected officials to heed God’s wisdom in their legislation, judgments and activities. We pray that each of us does our best in our efforts as we are striving to do God’s will.

Mark Gunderman
Stephens City, Virginia

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Couple marries again… for the first time



When California couple Ann Shulman and Steve Colwell needed a copy of their marriage license for a business transaction recently, they turned to the file cabinet where they kept their important documents–but it wasn’t amid their birth certificates or passports. No matter. Shulman sent off a letter to the state’s Vital Record Office requesting a copy, and expected its arrival in a matter of weeks.

What she received instead came as a shock: a certified copy of the pubic record of marriages in California dating from 1905—with no record of their May 5, 1991 wedding. There appeared to be no such union in Marin County or in the entire sunny state of California.

Which meant… they weren’t legally married? How to tell Colwell’s 93-year-old Catholic mother that they had been living in sin all these years? Or their two sons, James and Daniel, 23 and 21 respectively, that they were illegitimate?

In the end they decided to do the right thing: to get married again, for the first time—thirty years later to the day. This time the nuptials took place in Front Royal, VA, near Browntown, where Shulman’s family has owned a farm for 56 years. The bride wore her original wedding gown with cowboy boots and a ten-gallon hat. They planned to honeymoon in Browntown.

Julie Langsdorf
Washington, D.C.

Ann Shulman and Steve Colwell on their first wedding day on May 5, 1991, and below, thirty years later to the day, in Front Royal.

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Court Packing



historically speaking

In the pantheon of great American presidents, a few are always at the top. Lincoln usually comes to mind, then Washington, and Jefferson. In the 20th century, the president who makes every list is Franklin Roosevelt. What makes FDR interesting is that, unlike Lincoln, FDR was beloved in his own time. Because of the way he handled the Depression, it was not uncommon to see FDR’s picture hanging in homes in a place of honor. Don’t get me wrong. Some people had issues with this president, but most appreciated his efforts to relieve the nation’s pains. Yet there was one episode where he did receive rebuke from both sides of the political aisle and the population at large and that was his effort to pack the Supreme Court.

Here was the situation. When FDR took over the nation in 1932, we were in the midst of the greatest depression in our history. The president wanted to tackle as many problems as he could in his first 100 days (starting a precedent that has lasted till today). Many of his proposals became part of his alphabet programs like the WPA, AAA, TVA, and the CCC. One of his first and, it turned out, most controversial was the National Recovery Administration. The NRA, in an effort to reduce competition, created codes that did things like set prices. The problem for FDR was that in 1935 the Supreme Court ruled the NRA unconstitutional.

FDR, worried that more of his New Deal plans would be rejected by the courts, came up with a plan to get the courts on his side. He proposed adding a new judge for every member of the Court over the age of 70, which meant adding six new justices to the bench, enough to turn the tide of the court in his favor. He claimed the court was overworked and suggested the new justices could relieve some pressure. The problem was that most Americans and both sides of Congress saw it for what it really was, a power grab. Even though the Democrats held the majority in both houses of Congress, a vote for FDR’s measure failed. The failure was partly because one judge had begun voting for FDR’s programs, but also because the courts were seen as sacred and people feared FDR’s plan could destroy the separation of powers.

Constitutionally, FDR had the power to propose this court-packing scheme. As with many things, the Constitution is silent on the number of judges to the high court, simply saying in Article 3, Section 1: “The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”

Congress passed the Judiciary Act of 1789, which set up the Court with six judges. John Adams dropped it down to five, but then Jefferson brought it back to six and then later, when the Federalist judges did not die fast enough, he moved it to seven. Later Jackson added two more as the population grew and more judicial districts were needed. The Civil War saw some jumbling as Lincoln moved the number to ten, only to be reduced to seven by Andrew Johnson. Finally, under Grant the number was put to nine and since 1869 it has remained that way.

Now, in 2021 President Joe Biden is considering legislation to increase the number of justices for the first time since FDR. The president’s reasoning is that the Republicans have gained an unfair advantage with Trump’s three new justices. Democrats are still understandably upset at Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett after Republicans blocked Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland, in his last year. However, though understandable, what the Republicans did was legal, if not morally, correct. What Biden is trying to do is no different than FDR, who wanted to make sure the courts agreed with him. If Clinton had won in 2016 and liberal-leaning judges controlled the court, there would be no call for equality in the court coming from Democratic camps.

I normally try to explain history, not solutions, but this is one area where I believe the Founders failed. Not that their system failed, but they could never have foreseen how partisan we have become.

Judges are supposed to follow the law, not a party. I would propose a new amendment to the Constitution that goes back to the original number, six, or maybe eight. With an even number, the new law would allow Republicans to choose four and the Democrats to choose four. If a judge dies, then the party of that judge gets to choose the new one. I know this sounds crazy, but with an even number justices will have to compromise over the law and not political leanings.

If Biden decided to, he might be able to pull off increasing the number of judges. Historically Speaking, however, he would need to be extremely careful. FDR won his second election by carrying all but two states before he tried something so daring. Biden does not have that same type of support. FDR, who was beloved, was seen as going for a power grab. Biden, who is nowhere nearly as loved, may not be able to survive the hit.

Dr. James Finck is a Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. To receive daily historical posts, follow Historically Speaking at or on Facebook.

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We’re persevering thanks to you!



The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the courage, resourcefulness, and dedication of essential workers who toil day and night to ensure the safety and well-being of their fellow citizens.

Whether you’re a delivery person, nurse, mechanic, police officer, psychologist, grocery clerk, teacher, plumber, doctor, truck driver, social worker, pharmacist, electrician, or other essential worker, in your own way, you’ve helped members of your community make it through this difficult time.

To all of you, we say “thank you.” You’re the reason our community is making it through this crisis.

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Have our elected officials forgotten who they work for?



The Town and County still can’t get it together on issues, nor on Virginia’s Constitutional and Legislative laws.

Don’t you all feel that it should be a requirement that if you are going to run or seek a political seat that a course in American History and Civics should be part of the application, as well as reading the Charters of Town and County and passing a test on them?

Just because these “good ole’ boys” gatherings seem to neglect or ignore certain things on pertaining to how things are to be conducted or pursued because of political views getting in the way, shouldn’t allow them to comment in a public meeting about their opinions. – Like finding out facts and evidence before airing your comments on our law enforcement personnel. Don’t let emotions lead you to making a mountain out of a molehill.

Work together for the common good of this county and town. Stop the fussing and wanting things to go your way, look beyond your circle and see the whole range of voters you are working for!

Tenia Smith
Front Royal, Virginia

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