The Virginia Creeper Trail
The Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail is a 34-mile rails-to-trail experience that spans from Abingdon to Whitetop Station in Southwest Virginia. It is prized for its scenic and rural beauty throughout every season, becoming an economic engine to all communities along the trail. All who come to enjoy the trail have a civic obligation to protect its beauty, including lands and vistas that may impose on visitors'
experience of the trail.
Welcome to Friends of Abingdon, LLC
We are a local group of individuals that have come together to share ideas, through an open and respective platform, regarding proposed rezoning and commercial developement of open, agricultural land near the
historic Virginia Creeper National Recreation Trail in Abingdon, VA
Next Public Meeting
To Be Announced
Next FOA Meeting
We will meet again the first week of January after the New Year. Date, time, and location will be posted here soon.
One Last “All Aboad!” for the Virginia Creeper
In truth, it's just a tired, soot-saturated patch of pitch hued dirt, long severed from its economic roots. Virgin timber from Konnarock last passed through saw blades decades ago. Travelers found easier, quicker routes from Green Cove to Whitetop to West Jefferson. Economies and populations shifted, and the narrow, elongated collection of rails, ties and wooden bridges felt the inevitable bust of the boom cycle. Rust, gravity and decay crept onboard the Virginia Creeper—the final engineer for all things physical.
And so it would have passed—the three percent inclined plane in slow decline back to its natural state. The hard, hauling labor over, billowing, gritty plumes spewed from coal combustion engines precipitated out of the azure skies. The hand-hewn level aberration in the steep slopes scoured by Straight Branch no longer served an obvious purpose. At least to the economies fueled by cash money.
Infrequently a spark of genius kindles the public imagination. Maybe that winding thread of flat ground robbed from the wilderness could be redeemed—repurposed as a gateway to experience pristine streams, wildlife, physical quiet and spiritual renewal. A place where traffic moves on shoe leather and chain-driven spoked wheels, framed largely by open fields and unmarred rolling hills. A getaway to places quickly vanishing from our physical and psychic landscapes.
For nearly a quarter of a century the people of Abingdon, Washington County, the Atlantic seaboard, North America, the world, have come to spend an hour, a day, a lifetime traveling the Virginia Creeper Trail. They bring their bicycles, their kids, parents, dogs, baby buggies and favorite hiking boots, and yes, their wallets. Some live down Green Spring Road or over on Valley Street, and trek a mile out to the Meadows and back as a daily routine. Some live far out Main Street, U.S.A., and save treasured vacation hours just to visit sporadically as life and budget allow. Almost all leave better than they came. Almost all locals are better for the exchange of goods and chats with far-flung neighbors.
The tangible world evolves, and the Trail is no exception. Deadly tornadoes and fires claw down the bridges. Floods chew away the stream beds. Underground caverns pry open the surface. The square boxes of 21st century consumer economics duke it out just over the crest of that tranquil hill a whistle stop southwest of retired engine #433. It stands as the last bastion between the antiquated timber trestle creek crossing into the wonders of the Trail afforded by Bridge No. 1, and the chaotic madness squeezing its way through the jammed lanes of Cummings Street and Exit 17. It's a fragile defense at best.
Regional and national retailers have a singular purpose—to separate consumers and their dollars in the most cost efficient way possible. They may tout quality and convenience, and dole some of the profit back for the public good, but if the bottom line isn't green enough, the doors don't stay open long. Preserving the tranquility of a soot-saturated patch of dirt doesn't compute in the profit analysis. If fifty feet of the aforesaid hill needs to be scraped off and dumped on the vestiges of an antebellum farm, irrigated with the sweat and blood of dozens of enslaved Africans, the business model minimizes the consequences. If an ill-defined, non-guaranteed, inadequately-sized, illusionary carrot of a much needed "athletic complex" at "no cost to the town" (that plants the historic Meadows’ house in the midst of a parking lot) can entice public officials to abandon all notions of stewardship beyond that of tax revenue, so be it. It's just a business deal.
The only protection for the corridor occupied by the Creeper Trail within the town limits of Abingdon is enforcement of the agricultural/open space zoning that abuts it. That solemn responsibility rests with the town planning commission, council and staff. Agricultural land, and no more, is what the owner bought six years ago. So far, folks in power have shown an uncanny propensity to sacrifice essential components of the town's most sacred birthright for a bowl of lukewarm under-cooked deli porridge. They fear public scrutiny, and for good reason. Extending a general invitation to residents, visitors and the trail-using population to join the discussion would be a public relations nightmare. Ask the thousand plus people signing petitions and letters in opposition. Letting it slip that backroom, closed-door dealings for more than a year have made construction of a 60,000 square foot grocery (and closing the one across the street), two hotel complexes, a retail strip mall and assorted restaurants a "done deal" before the niceties of traffic or environmental studies, and a public meeting (on a fortnight’s fine print legal notice, no less)...well, there's a conversation you don't want to have with your constituents.
All things pass away. Maybe it's time to start saying goodbye to the unique bundle of visual, auditory, physical and psychological experiences we call the Creeper Trail. To our trust in local government to work in the same sunshine that blesses the Trail each day, in partnership with all citizens and not just owners and developers poised to reap millions. To the idea that big business can find a way to mind the store without diminshing the quality of life of the very community that makes its enterprise a success. If so, town council has planned a public wake to start the farewell process at its next meeting on December 7, 2015.
How ironic, and lamentable, that the town’s stampede to judgment is solely for the benefit of the developer’s timetable, and the detriment of a public still blinking its eyes in the sudden onslaught of commercial headlights. Its the antethesis of the steady, calcuated, forward and upward pace of progress for which the trail’s engine was named, and the precursor to a political bullet train. But, if you think the obituary for the Creeper Trail and such lofty ideals is a bit premature, contact council members and tell them to leave that sooty patch of dirt and its environs undisturbed, to be loved and used by generations yet to come.