The Piedmont View

Fall 2011 Piedmont View

Dear Friends,

After years of tight budgets, the state of Virginia has allocated many years' worth of transportation funding to spend all at once. So, this is our big chance. Once that money is gone, we'll be out of funds and paying off debt for years to come. What should we build?

Picture this. We invest that funding to serve the places where most people live -- our towns, cities and existing suburbs. We use it to improve key intersections in the Charlottesville area, so traffic can flow more freely on Rt. 29 -- and we add some bike paths while we're at it. We expand Metro lines in the D.C. area, so more people can live near Metro stops.

When Brian Higgins joined PEC's staff as our first full-time field officer for Culpeper and Greene, this summer, he had to hit the ground running in Greene County. For one thing, the county is considering a rezoning for a development of nearly 1,200 units—a single project that could increase the county's population by 20%.

This summer marked the fifth year of the PEC Fellowship Program, which is becoming a nationally known educational program for students with an interest in environmental work. Each year, twelve college students, graduate students, and recent graduates spend seven weeks with us, gaining hands-on experience in a wide range of environmental fields

 If there’s one thing that’s been bypassed in the ongoing push for new roads around DC and Charlottesville, it’s public process.

First, in May, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) revived plans for a developers’ dream road around DC—the vast Outer Beltway. The unelected CTB brought back the Outer Beltway without consulting local governments, without a recommendation from VDOT, and without any public input.

On the day that an earthquake struck Virginia, as the region prepared for a hurricane, representatives of Virginia Uranium found themselves addressing the City Council of Virginia Beach, to explain why containment pits of radioactive mine tailings upstream would not pose a danger to the city’s water supply.

The timing of that meeting could have gone better for them. Still, they asserted that they’ll be able to mine uranium safely in Virginia. It’s a tall order—considering that the piles of hazardous mine wastes would cover hundreds of acres.

What fears are separating children from nature? What happens when they reconnect?

When children first arrive at Rappahannock Nature Camp, they are afraid of bugs, the camp director, Lyt Wood, told me.

But, on the day I visited this summer, he opened up a hive of 30,000 honeybees while the children craned to see. The kids had brought long clothes and hats to camp for the occasion. They pulled netting over the rims of their hats and sealed their clothes at the wrists and ankles with blue tape. Wood doused the hive with smoke, then drew out frames that were packed with vibrating, crawling, humming bees.

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