Connect with us


Shenandoah’s natural transportation highway



Before commerce was first introduced to the railroad phenomena and before the macadamized turnpike stretched from Winchester to Harrisonburg, our great valley had a natural transportation highway. It would take a number of enterprising partnerships, strategic planning and long term labor intensive efforts to deliver the physical improvements necessary to access a narrow, twisting and shallow river.

In colonial times travel by land was done by old-fashioned stagecoach, on horseback, or on foot. The roads were in a habitually deplorable condition. Many of the towns were thoroughly without roads, only connected with their neighboring towns by Indian trails. Great quantities of hemp, grain and other farm products were often brought to town from the remote settlements on pack horses.

Wagon transport was not an essential factor in Shenandoah Valley trade until the 1760s, when the shipping requirements of the hemp industry provided the first major demand for wagon teams. A warehouse for hemp was established in Frederick County and freight wagons necessary to conduct trade first became a priority.

Wagons in general were expensive to construct and demand for wheelwrights and other skilled craftsmen were greater than the supply. The local and legendary Newtown wagons had not yet been developed to haul hemp and farm produce from the river valleys and mountain slopes over the Blue Ridge to busy city warehouses. Overland transportation using wagons was always an option, but costly and dependent on good weather. Wagon routes were often a treacherous option due to heavy spring and summer rains.

Beginning in 1790, the Shenandoah Valley produced a surplus of flour for export and the developing requirement for passage to eastern markets in Alexandria, Richmond and Fredericksburg grew more intense. Farmers searched for other avenues of conveyance and the solution appeared to be in a natural, but potentially unnavigable transportation highway. Written records reflect that in the 1790s, pig iron and flour were first loaded onto primitive rafts in the North River at what would become Bridgewater and sent down the Shenandoah during high water seasons.

Historical Society Museum – Bridgewater, VA located on the banks of the North River, has been a center of commerce for over 175 years. Its history began with a quiet little settlement previously known as Magill’s Ford, Dinkletown and Bridgeport. Photos / Nancy Gunderman

Around that time George Washington became actively involved in efforts to establish an organization whose objective was to develop water routes between the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers employing a series of canals and locks. Washington led the way in chartering the Potomac Company by first seeking interstate cooperation between Virginia and Maryland in developing the Potomac River. Both states passed legislation in early 1785.

Washington had also called for the establishment of a U.S. Armory at Harpers Ferry, located at the mouth of the Shenandoah River. By 1799, as work commenced on the armory, improvement of the Shenandoah River was a requirement to channel up-river lumber and iron into Harpers Ferry as material resources to support site construction and later for forging muskets, rifles and pistols.

The Virginia legislature unsuccessfully attempted to establish an independent company for developing the Shenandoah River to handle substantial boat navigation. In 1803 it granted a charter to the Potomac Company. In 1805, after obtaining the necessary start-up loans, the company hired a boat crew to inspect the Shenandoah from Harpers Ferry to Port Republic on the South Fork. The Potomac Company concentrated efforts toward managing the most difficult river rapids by building a series of canals and locks on the lower seven miles of navigation above Harpers Ferry. These milestones were completed in 1806.

Potomac Company crews continued to hammer away, black powder blasting rock and dredging the river bed and by 1807 established a navigable passage for trade between Harpers Ferry and Port Republic, then the head of navigation on the Shenandoah. In especially shallow areas, funnel-shaped wing dams made of stone were built with an opening in the center to form a higher flowing passageway for boat traffic.

Historical evidence accounts for an unsophisticated cargo carrying boat, called a Gundalow, to become a mainstay of valley commerce and transportation from roughly the turn of the nineteenth century until after the Civil War. These whitewater river crafts were heavy, with square bows and sterns, flat bottoms, pine hull/floor boards and measuring as much as 9 ½ feet wide by 76 to 90 feet long. The side planks were two inches thick and fourteen or more inches wide.

The yellow pine scale model of a wooden gundalow flat bottom river boat built by George Erdman is on display at the Shenandoah Valley Cultural Heritage Museum at the Edinburg Mill.

The Gundalow was a short-lived boat built for quick inexpensive shipment of bulk commodities (8-12 tons) down river. The boats were most often loaded with flour, lumber and pig iron. Other diverse items such as pork, beef, tobacco, ginseng, copper, manganese, wheat, whiskey, furs, tanned leather and occasionally herds of turkeys were pre-staged on site while boat captains waited for high waters in order to make the trip downriver to Harper’s Ferry or continue on the Potomac to Georgetown.

The crafts were mostly built by local sawmills near Port Republic. A gundalow was usually manned by six crew, four pole men and two oarsmen, one for each tiller. Boatmen manipulated the craft through manmade and natural chutes, rapids and constant choppy waters, docking at river stations to discharge or take on cargo. At their destinations, gundalows were disassembled and sold as inexpensive lumber to frugal builders who then used the recycled material for wall, ceiling and floor construction in houses.

Once landed and unloaded, the boatmen received good paying wages and returned to their point of departure on foot. Front Royal was often a popular place to rest on the return trip. A man could buy new clothes, or get a room, bath, meal, bottle and perhaps some female companionship here. These river sailors were both boisterous and unruly and locals claimed they carried a readily combustible powder keg in their hearts. Boatmen mingling with horse and cattle wranglers, wagon drivers and trainmen created an atmosphere for ferocious nightly saloon brawls giving the village of Riverton on the northern edge of Front Royal, the unflattering nickname of “Helltown.”

The Potomac Company was never able to generate enough funding to fully support navigation improvements to the upper stretches of the Shenandoah River. In 1816, the company sold its Shenandoah works and permissions to the New Shenandoah Company. The new company’s first objective was the physical improvement of the Shenandoah River between Port Republic and Harpers Ferry. Countless wing dams, cut through and tow paths had to be constructed, but by 1825, a continuous and improved waterway extended from Port Republic to the river’s confluence with the Potomac at Harpers Ferry.

By 1829, valley farmers believed that river transport was a cheap, safe and viable alternative to any wagon route east. Therefore, prior to valley rail and turnpike service, upland farmers and iron masters turned to the Shenandoah River whose waters were made navigable by the very spring thaws and ice melts that mired wagon routes and they did so with great zeal. Later channels were sufficiently cleared to navigate gundalows on the North River as far as Mt. Crawford and Bridgewater, on the South River at Grottoes and the Middle River, as far as Mt. Meridian.

Port Republic, founded in 1802 and located at the convergence of the North and South River, established an authentic harbor as docks lined the riverbanks in order to oblige increasing river traffic. The prospect of shipping and boat building propelling immense river trade slowly transformed the newly chartered town into a center for local commerce and agriculture. The nearby Massanutten Mountain ridge provided the tall, limbless long-leaf yellow pines that fueled boat building and other lumber dependent industries. Methodist and Presbyterian churches, mercantile stores, grist mills, leather tanneries, blacksmiths, saw mills, a tilt hammer shop as well as hat makers, shoe factories, wood workers, coopers and tailor shops eventually lined both Main and Water Streets.

Port Republic Museum – Port Republic, VA was founded in 1802 because land speculators were quick to recognize the vast industrial potential of the area, valuing the rivers as a source of power for driving machinery and as waterways for transporting articles of trade.

The New Shenandoah Company began upgrading the North Fork in 1825 for boats measuring a minimum of 66 feet long and 8 feet in width. Contractors not only cleared the river segments congested by trees and other debris, but also built works including dams and chutes. Records of the company indicate that the contract called for river navigation enhancements up to Tumbling Run, halfway between Strasburg and Toms Brook, but continued improvements were extended up to the dam at Pennybackers Mill, near New Market by May, 1832. This site was known as the head of navigation and may also have been a boat yard with docking capabilities for loading cargo similar to Port Republic, however on a much smaller scale. In 1845, accounts reflect that the North Fork was navigable at high water for large boats up to Plains Mill near Timberville.

The macadamized Valley Turnpike, completed in 1841, connected the western valley to the Winchester and Potomac Railroad and gradually reduced the gundalow traffic on the North Branch to almost non-existent status by 1850. The Manassas Gap Railroad arrived in Front Royal in 1854. Gundalows that once floated down the forks of the Shenandoah River to Harpers Ferry and beyond, now were unloading their cargo on to trains at Front Royal which transported them to market points east.

During the Civil War Valley Campaign in 1862, Stonewall Jackson swept the Valley burning bridges to slow Union troops, rendering wagon transport all but impossible. The destruction of bridges briefly revitalized gundalow traffic on the Shenandoah. After the war, gondolas continued to be used to move product to Front Royal until the bridges could be rebuilt and the Manassas Gap rail lines extended to Harrisonburg in 1868. The Shenandoah Valley Railroad connected the south fork communities with Hagerstown MD and Waynesboro, VA in 1881.

Some farmers, out of respect for southern tradition, continued to use this river system friendly to the “sons of the valley” as late as 1880. Despite sporadic business from loyal farmers, millers and timbermen; destructive winter weather, floods, railroads and modern turnpikes pushed the river captains, sailors and gundalows into the dust bin of history. Only recent scholarship has brought them all back to life again. Perhaps someone will soon uncover a nineteenth century gundalow buried under river silt somewhere in the Harpers Ferry basin?

Note: An outstanding source of information on the Shenandoah River is The Shenandoah River Atlas, prepared by W. E. Trout, III and Friends of the Shenandoah River.

Mark P. Gunderman
Stephens City, Virginia

Share the News:


Pandemic Vaccine Si, Pandemic Vaccine No



No one can really deny knowing what is going on around the world as the Covid-19 (and its variants) Pandemic continue to tighten their grip. Everyone in North America who reads a newspaper, watches television, uses a computer or talks to a friend knows about the division of American society over use of existing vaccine as a preventive mechanism against the Covid-19 disease and its dangerous variants.

When I first commented in the Blog/Newsletter on the Pandemic (August of 2020), the scourge was overcoming American and worldwide medical capability – resulting in illness and death rates not seen in over 100 years (including wars). Now, thanks be to God and tremendous efforts by healthcare workers and many others devoted to keeping us all going in spite of disease, we have several vaccines which have proven again and again to be effective in 1/ preventing the disease; and 2/ if a “breakthrough” case should happen, lessen the severity and increase the survivability of illness.

Yet, a huge portion of American society (at this writing – virtually half of U.S. adult population) currently refuses to take the vaccination even if they are “health-qualified”. I find this personally frustrating and terribly disappointing because my wife (known to many readers – Bryane Miller Lickson) cannot take the vaccination for valid health reasons. So, now she is in Day 521 of a self-imposed lock-in. When we do go out to shop, bank etc., she and I are both masked.

The other morning, I was listening and watching the news on television. A young woman in Alabama was interviewed and she expressed her view that vaccination was not necessary. She was 22 years old and, in very good health (in her opinion). She saw absolutely no reason to take the vaccine. Many people – especially in the U.S. – and other countries where vaccines are plentiful – are wrestling over a decision:

Vaccine – Si or Vaccine No.

Credible scientific sources have said many times at the highest levels of government and public health (including my own Alma Mater – Johns Hopkins) that the vaccines are both safe and effective. But there are people also all over the world and very out-spoken here in the U.S. who would make a two-pronged argument against taking the jab. They would assert 1/ that they have heard that the vaccines are not only not helpful, but may cause serous long term negative side effects – both physical and psychological. 2/ And they argue also that no one is going to compel them to take a vaccine.

A good and very bright female friend of both Bryane and me went on to say: “If you can compel one to take a vaccine, we can no longer call ourselves a democracy.” The case against compelling the vaccine reflects in many minds, the issue of freedom of choice – a freedom that they hold dear. In the United States, this includes half the adult population – not yet vaccinated and probably many people who have been vaccinated at least once.

Those of us who also hold that freedom dear, but also hold that human life has a dear value, would hope and maybe even plead for the U.S. to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we can. Medical and legal evidence is clear; without vaccination – maybe even by compelling it as many employers, schools and others do, we won’t win this battle – very possibly the biggest battle (including war) we will ever face.

As pointed out by Professor Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown Law (my law school alma mater) speaking about the possible clash between health and human rights – Gostin is an accepted expert on both Public Health and the Law – He has said the greatest value offered by government here or abroad is equity. He is quoted on the Smerconish CNN TV Show and Blog: “We need heath that is fairly allocated to everybody – health with justice.”

It is a fact that so far the courts have upheld the ability of a private company and even school districts to compel vaccination. The only exceptions that have so far been recognized, have been acceptable religious or valid health reasons not to vaccinate.

Several states have tried to limit the legal right of private companies to compel vaccination. Laws banning compulsion to vaccinate or offer proof of vaccination have been routinely over-ruled. It may be that the very survivability of life is at stake here. I’m afraid that many so-called “patriots” do not recognize the crisis the Pandemic has presented.

This Newsletter is about opinion, so, my opinion is: While I have great respect for our freedom of choice here in America, I value the continuation of human life in this country. I think – wish it were not so – that compulsion may be required and must be considered to force Covid vaccination or ban people from many positions, cruises, schools and maybe in serving in the military or other government service.

Charles P. Lickson
Front Royal, Virginia

(Charles P. Lickson, President of LALO, is a former practicing attorney turned mediator and writer He has stated his opinion here and invites reasoned opinions from readers. If you have something to say about the Pandemic or another subject – which might cause us some “conflict of choice”, please send your thoughts to: First appeared in Lickson’s “Ironing Out Newsletter”)

Share the News:
Continue Reading


Reaction to Roger Bianchini’s July 26 editorial notes



I consider Mr. McCool a friend and supported his 2020 candidacy for Front Royal Mayor.  Mr. McCool’s willingness to permit Mr. Bianchini to post editorial opinions that may be inconsistent with his own is a testament to Mr. McCool’s commitment to the First Amendment.

With that said, there is history between Mr. Bianchini and me since we’re on opposite ends of the political spectrum.  On more than one prior occasion he has authored counter perspectives to Letter to the Editor postings I’ve published.  Previously, his editorial comments on my posts were made via a separate and distinct follow-up letter under his name. I acknowledge his right to post viewpoints contrary to mine, however, instead of publishing a separate letter with his editorial comments this time, he chose to attach them at the end of my posted letter.

This technique was unprecedented, and in my opinion, was a scurrilous attempt to discredit my comments without me having an opportunity to promptly rebut them so I voiced a complaint to the Senior Editor and requested that Mr. Bianchini’s response be removed from my posting.  My request was granted and you now see Mr. Bianchini’s comments as a separate post on the Royal Examiner site instead of having been initially attached to my letter.  Having provided this preface, I want to specifically address Mr. Bianchini’s editorial post.

His first comment relates to my assertion that ‘individual freedom’ is a core principle of the Constitution. He references some goals stated in the preamble and focuses particularly on the goal to promote the general welfare and states that the individual freedom text is not specifically referenced. However, he conveniently overlooks the fifth goal, and secure the blessing of liberty…, which is synonymous with individual freedom in my mind, when he claimed there were only four goals.

It’s no coincidence that Mr. Bianchini focuses on the general welfare goal because I think that is consistent with the progressive ideology which has over expansive government at its core, regardless of the ill consequences associated with such a concept and at the expense of individual freedom. My interpretation of Mr. Bianchini’s first comment is that it implies that the massive government social programs expansion in the Reconciliation Bill is intended to further the general welfare promotion goal in the Constitution’s preamble. The problem there is that the advertised cost of the Bill is deceptive in that economists have warned that it is partially paid for with dubious accounting techniques and suspect revenue estimates.

The Bill’s cost has been advertised at 3. 5 trillion dollars but there are sources that project the real cost at over 5 trillion dollars.  This is totally understandable because who can trust numbers from politicians with an unquenchable thirst for spending money others have earned?  This proposed gargantuan spending Bill has been reported to be the largest spending proposal in our history. It is in addition to the trillions of dollars of prior approved Covid spending and more than a trillion dollars proposed for legitimate infrastructure spending under consideration now by Congress.

The Federal budget for 2021 is approximately 4.9 trillion dollars with over 2 trillion expected to be deficit spending. Thus, the Reconciliation Bill would create an economic nightmare.  The public is already witnessing inflation and grossly expanded deficit spending would almost certainly increase inflation.  The country has over 28 trillion dollars of debt and no credible plan exists to address that liability. Our massive debt is being passed to future generations to address and both Parties are responsible.

Throughout history, socialist governments have consistently shown to be abject failures. You might recall that the definition of stupid is ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’!  Democrats claiming this Bill would promote the general welfare fail to recognize the consistent historical disasters of socialism. The expansion of government that the Reconciliation Bill represents is a substantial transition towards socialism. Socialism is a philosophy alluring in principle but has proved to be unsuccessful in real-world practice.

What is being witnessed in Cuba now is a perfect example of the effects of total government control versus a system based on capitalism and individual freedom.   Isn’t it ironic that the Cuban people are screaming for liberty when freedom is at greater risk in America than ever before?  I heard it said somewhere that, ‘ if socialism is so successful, then why are people attempting to escape it in boats constructed from trash’?

Also, the first ten Constitutional amendments, (Bill of Rights) is a crucial part of our guiding document, and affirm many individual liberties as opposed to the granting of government authority and control.  Readers can judge whether Mr. Bianchini intentionally ignored the sections of the Constitution I referenced above, was a benign oversight, or that he might be blinded by underlying support for a progressive ideology.

Mr. Bianchini’s second comment takes issue with my statement that only half of America voted for Joe Biden.  He reports that Joe Biden registered 7 million more votes than Trump, who in 2016 received 3 million fewer votes than his opponent.  Biden is credited with receiving 51.3% of the November 2020 cast votes, so technically that is only SLIGHTLY more than half.  His comment also changed my fractional reference (half, 1/2) to a digital vote count (apples/oranges), which injects confusion in my opinion, whether intended or not. Mr. Bianchini fails, in what I believe, is an attempt to suggest, that if my comments weren’t 100% accurate then my other arguments should be suspect as well, a tactic he has unsuccessfully employed relative to at least one of my prior Royal Examiner posts. I also see this as a common technique used by Democrats that is infrequently successful in fooling readers.

Democrats rarely give the public the credit it deserves in their commonsense ability to separate misinformation from the truth.  Also, I think he tries to employ the sly tactic of distraction to discredit my statement that Democrats have no mandate in their effort to grossly transform America. The distraction being a shift to referencing other information that doesn’t contradict the reality that Americans voted to expand conservative influence in the House, as I said, regardless that the vote count details he offered were accurate.

In the end, I make no retraction regarding my half of America statement because it is generally correct and logically supports my opinion that Democrats have no mandate for transformative change.   Only a fool or one with a serious bias cannot recognize that capitalism, free markets, and liberty have produced the best quality of life on the planet for people and provide opportunities for everyone to attain their dreams. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!

One other factor that is relevant to his second comment is that the 2020 vote count included illegal votes.  Article II, Section I of the Constitution clearly designates election procedure authority as the exclusive domain of state legislatures. Secretaries of states, Governors, and state judges have no election procedures authority that is not legislatively granted.

There is irrefutable evidence that voting activities occurred in 2020 in several states that were inconsistent with procedures approved by their legislatures which resulted in illegal votes that could have influenced the election outcome.

Democrats have repeatedly labeled that as the big lie from the former President with the full-throated support of the biased social and mainstream media who censure conservative opinions and ignore truths that do not support a progressive narrative. It’s a tactic that if something is repeated enough times it can actually influence public perception. I’m doubtful that the 2020 election will be objectively and thoroughly investigated while Democrats maintain control of the Executive and Legislative branches of government because it might undercut their legitimacy.  Also, how odd is it that Democrats obsess on making negative arguments involving the prior President, now out of office for over 6 months, when there are so many failings with the present Administration that are ignored?

Mr. Bianchini’s third comment attempts to diminish the advancements made by Republicans in the House of Representatives in 2020 by shifting the focus to the fact that Republicans are no longer the Senate majority.  The Senate is now comprised of 49 Democrats and 50 Republicans. One Senator from Vermont is not technically in the Democrat party but caucuses with them which results in a 50-50 Senator count. Since Vice President Harris is a Democrat and can vote to break ties, the Democrats function as the Senate majority. Loss of the majority by Republicans in the Senate in no way diminishes their gains in the House of Representatives.

The House of Representatives is called the People’s House because its members are subject to election every 2 years rather than the 6 Year term of Senators. Thus, the House is seen by many political experts to be more reflective of the political leaning of the American public. Had the Democrats made gains in their representation in the House, they would have a better claim to have a mandate, but the opposite is true. Thus, I feel my argument on the issue remains valid.

Mr. Bianchini’s last comment is directed against my criticism of the Democrat’s inclusion of an amnesty provision for illegal aliens in the proposed Reconciliation Bill. He does so indirectly by asserting that the prior Administrations’ immigration policies unfairly limited access without providing evidence.  I’m doubtful any subsequent effort he might make to provide clarification would represent all aspects of the issue but would only attempt to justify a progressive narrative. He goes all-in with the allegation that the prior administration was responsible for immigrants being illegal when the truth is that they are illegal because they don’t adhere to laws that dictate that they present themselves at established border entry points, where adequate staff and resources are available to address asylum applicants rather than anywhere else.

The fact is that the prior Administration instituted policies to enforce existing laws that had been established by both Democrat and Republican governments.  Social and mainstream media bias and control have prevented the general public from being fully informed about the reality of our southern border crisis for political purposes.

While we graciously welcome 1 million legal immigrants into our country each year, we’ve recorded over 1.2 million persons seeking asylum at our southern border already in 2021 at multiple crossing points and evidence exists that most won’t meet the lawful criteria for asylum. That figure doesn’t even reflect the unknown number, termed ‘get aways’, who purposely evaded Border authorities and are now embedded in our communities.

The infamous Wall was not a structure to prevent potential legitimate refugees from attempting legal access to this country but was intended to guide them to staffed entry locations where they could be properly assessed and lawfully processed.

The present Administration has blatantly abandoned its duty to enforce existing immigration law. President Biden terminated international agreements and procedures instituted by the previous Administration that safeguarded America’s sovereignty and protected our citizens.  Biden’s open border policy endangers national security, subjects American citizens to increased criminality, enables drug cartels to expand their influence, and causes a substantial risk to those seeking to immigrate here with assistance from ‘coyotes’ and gangs.

Permitting persons from every country in the world to come across our southern border at any location without adequate controls also introduces unnecessary health risks to Americans at a particularly tenuous time, imposes a significant economic burden, and adds strain to our education system which already has enough challenges.

Granting amnesty to all illegal aliens in this country would amount to rewarding them for their disrespect of our laws, encourage more illegal immigration and present a tax burden to existing citizens who would have to fund social programs those new citizens would qualify for. The unprecedented number of new asylum seekers caused by candidate Biden’s invitation gives foreign criminals free rein to smuggle drugs and undesirables into our country.

Fentanyl smuggled from China has dramatically spiked overdoses which have killed tens of thousands of Americans.  It is logical to deduce that Democrats are willing to accept all the shortcomings of the southern border crisis because of the potential for future election benefits.  It’s shameful that the Democrat party doesn’t seem to be as concerned about existing citizens as they are about people from other countries, but expanding their political power seems to be their priority.

Considering all the shortcomings with Mr. Bianchini’s response to my letter to Senator Manchin that I’ve brought to light here, I’ll carefully scrutinize any editorial comments or news reporting published by him in the future. I’m convinced his July 26 posting purposefully intended to sow doubt in the accuracy of the arguments made in my July 25 post because it was inconsistent with his political beliefs when my comments here demonstrate that his reaction is what actually qualifies as misinformation.

However, I do want to applaud him though for his transparency, in my opinion, by so boldly clarifying his support of progressive ideology which I believe conflicts with the majority conservative perspective of our community. Additionally, I hope Mr. McCool gives greater scrutiny to Mr. Bianchini’s editorials in the future when they may not fully represent the opinions of his online media and potentially damage his standing in the community.

Gary Kushner
Bentonville, VA


Share the News:
Continue Reading


Thank you, Royal Examiner



Thank you, Mike McCool, owner, and the staff of the Royal Examiner for allowing explanatory comments on the Gary Kushner Open Letter to Senator Joe Manchin. With the information Roger Bianchini provided, the matter became an educational opportunity. I appreciate the service, given the number of issues and the abundance of words on each issue confronting us daily. That volume of words makes it difficult to impossible to keep up with government issues.

Special appreciation for the fact that my attention can now be focused upon the issue as a result, rather than the person or persons who write letters. It seems to me that the point should be problem solving for the benefit of our society, which does require learning the issue itself, and understanding the effects of decisions made by governmental units.

Linda Allen
Former Front Royal resident

Share the News:
Continue Reading


An Open Letter to Council and our Community – Small Town Charm or City Hustle? 



Though many emails were sent to our Town Management speaking against the proposed Special Events matrix system, the special event permit proposal has only slightly been adapted from its over-the-top initial draft.

We are still looking at bureaucratic paperwork requiring information beyond the business of the Town Manager’s department for an event permit. Event organizers must choose between a grand event or a social blip and then wade through detailed explanations describing their worthiness to host an event that will attract high-spending tourists and appease a tourism influenced check-list.

Locals have not been offered a simple amplification permit nor a simple community event permit; we are still looking at a subjective matrix and multiple hoops to hop.

At the July 12 work session, integrity was thrown off the table when the recommendation was to manipulate numbers to achieve permit approval and/or ignore the Code of Conduct. Relying on the goodwill of our Law Enforcement to not enforce the Code was also an option.

Where does the line stop? Isn’t any manipulation too much? Why make laws that you then encourage to be broken?

My mind has been blown on this one.

I was chastised by Town personnel for not communicating my concerns and questions with the Town Manager’s office, yet the last two emails I sent to the same personnel with questions and concerns have been unanswered. At this point, anyone who has followed this Special Events Permit process knows my concerns; the Town Management office is no exception.

The concerns brought forward by myself and others on June 28 have been largely ignored. I know I am not the only one. Over the past two months, emails have been sent. Citizens and business owners have expressed their concerns at the hearings. In-person discussions have also taken place. We are being heard but not listened to. Band-aid fixes encased in catchy phrases promising streamlined objectivity and community benefit are passed out with smiles yet the problem persists. What could have been managed efficiently, practically, and in a timely manner has instead been complicated disproportionately for the Town’s needs. Summer is almost over, and the community has missed out on all sorts of fun community might-have-been downtown activity.

Perhaps, Council should be asking:

  • Outside of increasing tourism numbers, how does this matrix system benefit the community?
  • Is increasing tourism, beyond the natural flow we traditionally experience, really a benefit to our community (infrastructure, water, sewage, electric grid, taxes, public safety, general well-being, inflation, town character)?
  • How can the matrix system with all its bureaucratic paperwork benefit local event organizers?
    • Extensive paperwork and the matrix scoring is a deterrent to anyone venturing through the process let alone be approved for a small-medium creative event.
  • Why is tourism influencing community events?
    • No other town around us has such an extreme application system. Community events are encouraged and easily accessible. Why is something so simple being made so difficult?
  • Why does the Town Manager need to know our budget, management experience, past event successes, estimated tourism numbers, projected revenue, corporate backing, marketing, production, projected dollar expenditure by tourists and locals, target market, and after action report on event success in order to approve an event permit?
    • Experience points to bureaucratic micro-managing and catering to a different agenda other than community.

It is very likely this complicated matrix system will be approved on Monday, and the Town Code / Ordinances updated accordingly. This proposal is not good for Community events nor does it encourage Community creativity, development, and character – the very things that give this community the small-town charm that pulls tourists back; no one has been willing to show me otherwise though I’m begging to be shown.

Please come on Monday, July 26 (7 p.m.) to the Council’s regular meeting at the WCGC. The more faces in the crowd, the more reminder that the community is present and listening.

I am very disappointed in our Town Management and the blind refusal to put Community before Tourism. Tourism as the golden carrot takes a toll on our taxes, infrastructure, and Town character. Yes, some businesses and Town revenue will flourish above average, but the average taxpayer will see no benefit other than traffic, inflated prices, strange faces, and more taxes. We are the Town of Front Royal. Sharing our beauty and charm with visitors is wonderful; handing it to visitors on a platter over the heads of the community for the sake of dollars is a travesty. Where will this end?

The final vote for approval occurs this Monday, July 26 unless Council intentionally stops, listens, thinks, and demands full answers. They must not accept sound-bite responses. The problem is bigger than a dance recital or a fun festival.

Stop. Listen. Think.


Annie Guttierrez
Front Royal, Virginia

Share the News:
Continue Reading


Editorial notes on several of Mr. Kushner’s assertions



1 – Regarding social welfare programs pushed by Democrats: “A core principle of the Constitution is individual freedom.” – While “individual freedom” is not mentioned in the introductory paragraph of the U.S. Constitution, “promote the general Welfare” is the fourth and final goal listed after “establish Justice”, “insure domestic Tranquility” and “provide for a common defense”.

2 – re: “only half of America elected President Biden” – half plus 7 million, as opposed to the minus-3 million popular vote deficit Mr. Trump “won” the presidency by in 2016.

3 – re: “Americans chose to expand Conservative influence in the House of Representatives” – but they remained in the minority there; Republicans have lost their majority in the Senate.

4 – re: “provide amnesty to millions of illegal aliens” – Many refugee/immigrants traveling to the U.S. southern border during the Trump Administration became “illegals” due to policy initiatives put in place at the border which needlessly halted and held up the legal entry method and route for weeks, if not longer. So, many of these “illegals” were created by Trump Administration policies making legal entry nearly impossible.)

Roger Bianchini
Royal Examiner

Share the News:
Continue Reading


An open letter to West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin



You previously professed a commitment to bipartisanship, which is a reasonable position because only half of America elected President Biden. You should also acknowledge that in the last election, Americans chose to expand Conservative influence in the House of Representatives, contradictory to election forecasts. You should acknowledge that many citizens likely voted against the incumbent President as a demonstration of disgust with his controversial characteristics, rather than as an affirmation of the Biden/Sanders advertised manifesto. There is absolutely no mandate for the transformation of America that the Democrat party is now embarked on. The human infrastructure (Reconciliation Bill) initiative is a linguistic fraud and everyone knows it. The invention of this new term only fools ignorant people, and that is a very small segment of the American public.

Also, embedded in the Reconciliation Bill is a provision to provide amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, which is not supported by the majority of the public. Hispanic Americans who obtained their citizenship by following our lawful immigration process are some of the most ardent opposition to that proposal. The biased media has purposefully not sought to educate the public on that element. No ‘law and order’ politician should be able to support that provision.

Democrat politicians in conservative states who vote for the proposed Reconciliation Bill are committing career suicide. Is this the legacy you want to leave as a representative of West Virginia?

While you may consider that passing a bill addressing actual infrastructure projects, with bipartisan support that a majority of citizens could benefit from, will offer some political cover that enables you to be a loyal party member and vote for a subsequent grossly expensive social entitlements Reconciliation Bill, but that would be a risky gamble inconsistent with your moderate political reputation. This Bill is nothing short of the radical left’s wish list that is not consistent with the political views of the American majority.

You swore a solemn oath to defend our Constitution. A core principle of the Constitution is individual freedom. The breadth of expanded entitlement programs included in the proposed Reconciliation Bill conflicts with that principle because the more aspects of citizens’ lives that the government controls, the less individual freedom they have. Instituting more entitlements just creates a form of economic slavery to government control at the expense of individual liberty. The proposed multi-trillion-dollar Reconciliation Bill will virtually install a ‘cradle to grave’ socialist philosophy that is inconsistent with American values which have contributed to making us the most exceptional country in the world and will irreparably damage your reputation. So, I hope you will reconsider your support for this reckless legislation and vote to continue to protect individual freedom.


Gary Kushner
Bentonville, Virginia

Share the News:
Continue Reading