The Piedmont View

Summer 2013 Piedmont View

This year's summer edition of the Piedmont View includes an update on the Outer Beltway project, profiles of two women who's work and passion for conservation spans generations, a story outlining updates to County Comprehensive Plans, something on PEC's Piedmont Memorial Overlook and much more. You can read the individual articles online or view a PDF of the whole issue if you prefer.

The outcome is only guaranteed if you don’t try. This may seem a simple and obvious statement, but it’s profound in that way that simple and obvious statements often are. We all have stories of when we have tried to accomplish something despite all odds. I’ve been a volunteer basketball coach for my daughters’ teams over the years, and I spend a lot time and energy pushing the players to try things that they don’t think they’re capable of. It’s amazing watching them overcome their apprehension and decide to give it a try, and the most satisfying moments are when they make a play during a game that they have struggled with in practices.

VDOT is pushing to create a new major highway in Northern Virginia referred to (among other names) as the Outer Beltway. PEC’s take? This mega-highway would cut through a National Park, open up over 100,000 acres to residential development, and has the potential to actually increase traffic congestion on I-66 and Rt. 50. The good news is—after years of trying to get more press coverage and citizen engagement on the issue—we may have reached a turning point.

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, and that couldn’t be more true than when it comes to the beauty of Virginia’s Piedmont. No one knows this better than our regional photographers. 

With this region’s mountains, rolling farmland, forests, meadows, rivers, waterfalls, wildlife, plants, interesting towns and history—it’s enough to make anyone have to grab a camera and start shooting. PEC will continue to celebrate the Piedmont’s photographers of all skill levels with the opening of our 4th Annual Photo Contest this July. We’ve been delighted with the success of our past three contests, and we are excited to see this year’s submissions.

Despite questions and bumps in the road, VDOT continues to push the Western Bypass.

It’s been a year since Skanska-Branch was awarded the contract to build the Western Bypass. According to VDOT’s plan, environmental reviews were to be completed by November 2012—initiating the design work by Skanska-Branch. Construction is supposed to start in March 2014, and the road would be completed in late 2016. However, it’s now June 2013 and VDOT is no closer to moving forward than they were two years ago. In short, this project was never ‘shovel ready,’ as claimed by proponents.

To say that Marie Ridder, 88, is an accomplished woman is an understatement—and as I drove to meet her for our interview, I was both excited and nervous. Marie has been a highly successful journalist and editor who would later devote her career to social and environmental issues. 

She worked for Lady Bird Johnson in the ‘60s as her liaison to White House poverty programs, and became the deputy director of Head Start. Marie also worked for the Department of the Interior and was appointed to Secretary of the National Parks Advisory Board. She serves or has served in numerous conservation organizations, including the Virginia State Parks Commission, the Virginia Council on the Environment, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and PEC.

Alex Ramey of Culpeper grew up in suburban neighborhoods without exposure to the wilderness. She laughs and says that her closest contact to the “wild” as a kid was a single tree in her backyard. “It’s not that I didn't like being outside,” Alex explains, “but I had never really been in wild places...I know a lot of people have felt a connection with the outdoors since they were really young and went fishing with their grandpa or something, but I never had that.”

Six of PEC’s nine counties are in the process of updating their Comprehensive Plans, or will be doing so soon. It can be easy to tune out these updates, but revisions to the ‘Comp Plan’ can mean drastic changes to the look, feel, and functionality of your county, town, and day-to-day life. This is because the Comp Plan is the community’s most important document regarding land use, growth, development, transportation, and resource utilization.

Dominion Power has come back to Fauquier County with yet another transmission line proposal. The plans for this new proposal are still vague, but Dominion is floating two different ideas:

1. Rebuilding a 230 kV line from Remington to Warrenton within the existing right of way, and upgrading an overloaded line near Gainesville from 115 kV to 230 kV
2. Create a new transmission corridor from east of Warrenton to the Gainesville substation near Vint Hill

In 2000, PEC purchased over 1,200 acres of Ovoka Farm (in Paris, VA) to ensure that this beautiful property— and the vista enjoyed by a young George Washington—remains rural for generations to come. All of the land is now protected by conservation easements and back in private ownership. However, PEC retained ownership of 50 acres at the top of the ridge called the Piedmont Memorial Overlook.

PEC will care for this 50 acres in perpetuity—a beautiful site that overlooks one of the most protected landscapes in the Eastern United States. PEC has three main goals for this land: to act as a memorial site for this region’s conservationists; to be a showcase and demonstration site for good habitat management practices; and to provide the public access to a spectacular over-look along the Appalachian Trail.

PEC was excited to receive a geographic information systems (GIS) software and training grant from Earth Sciences Research Institute (ESRI) this spring—valued at more than $100,000.

PEC uses ESRI’s ArcGIS software to produce high-quality maps and to analyze potential project impacts. This helps us convey important information to the public, partner groups and decision-makers about land use proposals, active campaigns (like uranium mining or the Outer Beltway), as well as land conservation successes and opportunities.

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