Reflections: On Why I’ve Supported PEC for Nearly 50 Years

By Childs F. Burden, Supporter

I grew up on the north shore of Long Island, New York in the 1950s. During that decade, I watched development take over much of the agricultural and open space along Long Island Sound. I watched as the character of the land changed.

I do not recall that there was much protest or community effort to guide that change. Sadly, folks just seemed to accept change as inevitable. The sense of place we enjoyed evaporated, and that loss made a strong impression on me.

in time, I came to Virginia to attend “The University” and was immediately impressed by the strong feeling of tradition that exists there. The spirit of Mr. Jefferson hovers over the “academical village” as he called it, and each day the students are reminded of the school’s history and are refreshed and awed by it. I fell in love with the Commonwealth of Virginia and determined to make it my home. After graduation, my wife Elaine and I moved to Loudoun County to be closer to Washington, D.C.

It did not take much time for us to appreciate the fact that the drive from Charlottesville to Middleburg was an unrivaled journey through a cultural landscape that is utterly unique to this nation. It is called the Piedmont of Virginia and it lies along the center of the state and stretches from the Blue Ridge to the fall line of the Rappahannock River. Along its path lies a rich variety of history, conservation resources and an impressive array of celebrated personalities and historic sites. Perhaps, most importantly of all, the Piedmont of Virginia holds the most beautiful landscape this nation has to offer.

I think back on my Long Island childhood home and how that area developed out without retaining the roots to its past. Then I think about how the Piedmont region has grown but has managed to retain its historic and scenic integrity. Why has this been successful in the Virginia Piedmont?

I believe the success we have achieved is largely due to the core of dedicated residents here that take on the responsibility of getting involved. That involvement makes it possible for our growth to be managed in such a way that our sense of place remains largely intact.

Childs Burden at Mount Defiance State Park, site of the Battle of Middleburg fought on June 19, 1863.

Political courage and active participation have clearly made a difference in keeping our Piedmont region from becoming just “Any Place, U.S.A.” Equally omportant is the education of our residents about not only our heritage but the fragility of our environment. It is essential that we appreciate the heritage of our past and value the preservation of our landscapes. We are entrusted with a precious task — the managing of our future with the proper care and understanding that our future deserves. This cannot be done by merely individual activism. It requires the leadership of an organization that can alert us to get involved when threats arise, and they arise in a seemingly endless wave.

This is the reason I support The Piedmont Environmental Council. PEC is the leader when it comes to the protection of our precious water resources, and it is the leader when it comes to teaching us the value of the preservation of our conservational resources and, especially, the value of our agricultural landscapes. Most importantly, PEC stands ready to fight for the protection of the vibrant sense of place we all enjoy in this uniquely beautiful region of Virginia — the Piedmont.

We are here but for a brief span of years. While here, we are charged with the great responsibility of passing on what we have loved to the next generation. It is a worthy effort, and it is the reason that I strongly support the mission of The Piedmont Environmental Council.

This article appeared in The Piedmont Environmental Council’s member newsletter, The Piedmont View. If you’d like to become a PEC member or renew your membership, please visit