You know the day is about to dawn by the eerie, pinkish light reflected off the place that used to be called Mary’s Rock. Now it’s known as Trump Towers, the 25-story, all-glass structure thrusting skyward from the ridgeline. Nearby are the Manahoac Indian Casino and the Way It Was Themepark, complete with rides named Shenandoah Swivel, Blue Ridge Barracuda and Make Your Own Moonshine. Downslope, instead of hardwoods and evergreens, sprout too-many-to-count chalets and condos.
And at the end of the day, people in Rappahannock no longer sit, drink in hand, contemplating the sunset over the Blue Ridge. There’s too much glare from all the neon and other artificial lighting. Plus there’s too much work to do in any case — trying to fix up and somehow sell your property when the well’s gone dry and all the county’s streams stink with polluted runoff from the unregulated mountain developments.
The above counterfactual portrait could well be today’s Rappahannock County if there were no Shenandoah National Park. Comprising over one-quarter of the county’s acreage, the park lands were all privately owned three-quarters of a century ago.
Still, it is sad to remember that these landowners became displaced persons, and the newly formed Blue Ridge Heritage Project seeks to recognize and honor their sacrifices. It’s about time. To learn more about the project, the Rappahannock County Historical Society invites you to their annual meeting on Sept. 15. For more information, call 540-675-1163 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coincidentally, the park is commemorating the 37th anniversary of its “wilderness designation” on the weekend of Sept. 14-15. For more information about the many special events and activities, call 540-999-3500 or visit nps.gov.shen.
Given what could have happened to the land that is now the Shenandoah National Park, it would be difficult to argue that the forced sacrifice by the private landowners was not worth it. And if they were alive today, they might well agree.
The tension between individual self-interest and the common good, between private property rights and the rights of others, continues to this day, of course. There are no easy — much less right or wrong — answers in this endless debate, recently being played out in clean water regulations for the Chesapeake watershed.
But taking the point of view of succeeding generations can always help clarify things.