Perhaps getting lost amid all of the election-year racket are all of the steps being taken to enhance our natural heritage and preserve some wonderful gifts of nature for future generations.
Turning over The Natural Bridge attraction in central Virginia to the state last September is just the latest example of a gift that will last.
That action followed the turning over of the backside, or northwest slope, of Grandfather Mountain from private ownership to the North Carolina state park system in 2008 and turning over Chimney Rock Park to the state in 2007.
Closer to home, plans are in the works similarly to turn over Carter Falls on Big Elkin Creek to Wilkes County for a park, and there are new segments of public trails up to Stone Mountain and along Yadkin River being opened all the time.
Such a spate of actions in recent years to preserve nature’s wonders for all are quite a gift to ourselves and to posterity. Natural Bridge, Grandfather Mountain and Chimney Rock parks and Carter Falls are not isolated back-country land that no one wants. They are valuable pieces of real estate in developed communities with commercial or residential appeal that could’ve made someone a pretty penny.
But some good people with a heart for the public good steered these wonders in another direction. Now they belong or should belong to the people, to us.
Yet these developments are passing the notice of most.
Today, many marvel at and enjoy driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, much of which was built in the 1930s. My father-in-law worked a bit on that beautiful road that winds along the peaks and gaps of the Blue Ridge Mountain crest.
But besides those who worked on the road for a necessary salary I wonder how many others of his generation — farmers trying to scratch a living out of their mountain plots, factory workers who kept their noses to the grindstones in hard, Depression times — paid the Parkway much notice at the time.
It takes time to develop these things and develop a constituency for public recreational land. But over time the Parkway became highly treasured.
Perhaps the parks and the falls would’ve been just fine remaining in private hands. But you never know.
For instance, in 1965 they made plans to build not one but two dams on the New River in Grayson County, Virginia, and flood the valley for up to 44 miles back into Alleghany and Ashe counties. Mouth of Wilson, Virginia, would have been hundreds of feet under water.
After 10 years of fierce debate, Congress finally designated the New as a wild and scenic river, stopping plans for the dams and preserving that beautiful, natural treasure for us today.
In the 19th Century, they were going to mine Stone Mountain for its granite. Imagine an ugly quarry there today that would have left us wondering why in the world didn’t someone step up and preserve that beautiful granite dome.
Thank goodness they did. So now in recent times we’ve preserved Grandfather, Chimney Rock and Natural Bridge and perhaps Carter Falls soon. How many future generations shall rise up and call us blessed for it?
And to posterity, you’re welcome.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road. He sends this fictional short story to you and yours as a Christmas gift from State Road. Merry Christmas.
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