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Three localities feared the National Heritage Area would bring “federal strings.”
The Roanoke Times | File 2009
The Rugby Gully Jumpers with Wayne Henderson (left to right) Helen White and Herb Key play at the Floyd Country Store during an award presentation to The Crooked Road. The group will not seek federal recognition.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
The Crooked Road announced on Thursday that it has given up its attempt at National Heritage Area designation, after three separate county boards of supervisors voted not to support the effort.
Washington, Wythe and Russell counties had recently voted against it after public hearings in which residents spoke of concerns about zoning issues and property rights.
People had voiced the same concerns in public meetings that Crooked Road officials hosted. Members of the Abingdon/Bristol/Southwest Virginia Tea Party had been most vocal, linking the National Heritage Area designation to the United Nations’ Agenda 21, which the Tea Party has said in public meetings and on its website is an effort to control international land use.
But for Crooked Road officials, the county supervisors’ votes held the greater weight, Crooked Road president and board chairman Woody Crenshaw said in a phone interview Thursday.
“We were prepared to debate the issues with our critics,” Crenshaw said after a news conference in Abingdon. “But when local governments started to withdraw their support, it put us in a position of having to move forward with some communities in and some communities not in. And that was not a position we wanted to impose on anybody.”
The Crooked Road winds about 300 miles through 19 counties that have contributed much to the nation’s musical and cultural heritage. Running from Rocky Mount to Breaks, it includes Ferrum, Floyd, Stuart, Hillsville and Galax. It does not touch Wythe or Russell counties, though both localities host Crooked Road-related events. But it runs through Washington County.
On Tuesday, Washington County supervisors voted 5-2 to write a resolution of nonsupport, according to the Bristol Herald-Courier. Supervisor Bill Gibson told the Herald-Courier that the board “did the will of the people,” and that “with federal dollars come federal strings.”
Bristol officials voted in favor, as had Rocky Mount, Galax and Floyd, among others.
Sen. Mark Warner and 9th District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith had both worked for the NHA designation. Griffith said by phone from Washington on Thursday that he had planned to draft a bill that would alleviate critics’ concerns. The designation would not affect private property rights; no eminent domain moves could be undertaken; and the Crooked Road could not request any zoning changes, Griffith said.
“I never drafted the bill because I had promised folks that before we actually got to introducing the bill or drafting it, that I was going to have three town hall meetings of my own to make sure that those people who were concerned got a chance to tell me what language they thought ought to be in the bill,” Griffith said. “We’ll never get to that now.”
The country’s National Heritage Areas, which the National Park Service administers, include the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields National Historic District and the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area . Most of the latter is in Virginia and features what the park service calls “the greatest concentration of Civil War battle sites in the country.”
The road stood to gain about $200,000 per year via matching funds from the National Heritage Area designation, Crenshaw said. That money would have supported, among other things, the road’s youth music education program, tourism marketing efforts, festivals and administrative costs.
“It will be difficult for us to raise that money elsewhere,” he said.
Communities along the Crooked Road have funded it, as has the state and the Appalachian Regional Commission.
“Those sources of revenue are becoming more and more difficult to draw from, particularly local communities,” Crenshaw said. “A lot of the small communities of Southwest Virginia are really stretched. And this was a way to create a sustainable funding source for us.”
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