THE BLUE RIDGE:
A SOCIO-CULTURAL ASSESSMENT OF INHOLDERS
ALONG THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
by Kent Anderson
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
CHAPTER TWO: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
CHAPTER THREE: THE PEOPLE OF THE BLUE RIDGE
CHAPTER FOUR: THE GROUNDHOG MOUNTAIN INCIDENT
CHAPTER FIVE: CONCLUSIONS
PHOTOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTATION INDEX
CHAPTER THREE (continued):
THE PEOPLE OF THE BLUE RIDGE
The family of the widow Lois Harris was in the Blue Ridge as early as the 1700's. Around 1940 she purchased some land near Meadows of Dan from her mother-in-law and planted white pine seedlings. She did not live on the land, but rather used it as an investment. Now the pines are ready for harvest, but the Park Service wants to close her access road which would prevent her from realizing her investment. Even though she cannot recall an accident at the point where her road touches the Parkway, the rationale always given to her is that of prevention of auto accidents. Harris said the Parkway officials have been much more conciliatory the last couple of years, but that it has been distressing to her that rangers always emphasize that "we have the right to take it". She summed up the problem between the NPS and inholders by saying, "The Park Service seems to think that tourists would be offended by a farmer crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway with a load of hay." 10
The 86 year-old Barnard once owned land adjoining the Parkway, but the retired land surveyor sold it around 1950. Occasionally, he had worked on contract for the Park Service and his long experience in the area has convinced him that many of the people listed as "willing" sellers were harassed by Parkway rangers and officials into selling their land to the NPS. On another topic, he said many inholders get around the ban on commercial traffic by putting crops, fertilizer, and seeds in the trunks of their cars. Once, however, after returning from planting some grass, he had left his trunk lid open, making the nearly empty grass seed bag visible to whomever was behind his car. Alvin Barnard was stopped by a ranger and given a warning ticket for this "commercial" activity.11
Terry has lived and farmed on the Blue Ridge all of his 63 years. His opinion on the last two years of Parkway living is typical of a number of older inholders; namely, that the last two years have been the best ever as far as relations between the Park Service and the local people. He said that ranger harassment seems to have declined significantly although there still may be some problems. His belief that the current Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Gary Everhardt, is a definite improvement over his predecessors is a belief shared by many others such as his friend and neighbor, Cornelius Stanley, a 77 year-old retired accountant who has lived near the Parkway for the last 14 years. Despite the apparent signs of better relations such as the recent Agricultural Lease Permits, or Letters of Agreement, both men agreed that NPS efforts to close so many access roads made no sense since there was no history of accidents at those points. They said that the Letters of Agreement prove that the NPS has neither the time, personnel, nor inclination to keep the land in as good a condition as the inholders. Stanley called recent Park Service efforts to close the access roads and eradicate the vestiges of inholdings from the sight of touring motorists on the Parkway as trying to create "a green tunnel." 12
Some Willing Sellers
This study does not want to suggest that the totality of all inholder comments encountered along the Parkway was a list of complaints. There have been many willing sellers of land who have stated that they never sensed any harassment or pressure from the National Park Service to sell their land. Carl Hewitt was one such willing seller. The Park Service expressed interest in his 77 acres in the vicinity of Waynesboro, in Augusta county, Virginia, near the northern entrance to the Parkway. As a part of the negotiation, Hewitt was given a life estate which meant that, even though the government had purchased his land, he was allowed to spend the rest of his life on his land with the stipulation that there would be no incompatible development. Life estates are not uncommon addenda to fee acquisitions by the NPS, particularly when the inholder is elderly. Carl Hewitt said that, at no time, did he feel harassed by the Park Service.
More complicated was the case of H.O. Woltz, Jr. Five years ago, with the land appraised at a fairly high value, his father had agreed to sell his land to the Park Service, but as the negotiations proceeded, the NPS withdrew its interest. Then about 1-1/2 years ago, after a new appraisal had devalued the land somewhat, the NPS offer to buy was rejected by the younger Woltz. Convinced he could obtain a better price elsewhere, the junior Woltz put much of his land up for auction. After 611 bids had been entered, Woltz rejected them all as being too low. He then considered going back to the NPS to sell his land, but, after working very diligently through other private negotiations, has managed to sell 46 acres of his land. Woltz said that his negotiations with the Park Service had been nothing except amicable and professional. He thought that the reason the value of his land had declined in recent years was due to the economic collapse of the Groundhog Mountain development. The "resort bubble has burst," was how he explained his decline in land value.
Though not a willing seller, Judge Foy Clark of Mt. Airy, North Carolina said that he has never felt harassed nor treated badly in his land relations with Parkway officials and land acquisition officers. The Park Service wants his land because he has a direct access road which goes onto the Parkway. After the last appraisal of his land, the Park Service sent him a contract for his property which the judge thought was somewhat aggressive, but his decline to sell at the current price and time has not agitated Parkway officials according to Clark. He was somewhat apprehensive about the future of his land due to his belief that NPS "policy" can change capriciously.
The former home of Rita Payne (Photo 23), who was a willing seller, gave the initial indication of a current NPS property being allowed to deteriorate; however, as explained to this researcher, the home has not been torn down by the Park Service because the widow Payne likes occasionally to return to her former homestead. As long as she lives, the Parkway will not destroy her former home. 13
Bula and Fannie Barr
The land the Barrs live on has been in their family for at least 150 years. Bula and her 74 year-old mother, Fannie, have no direct access road to the Parkway nor have they been bothered yet by the NPS, but what they have witnessed happening to their neighbors has them troubled and anxious. These two very spunky women said that they were concerned that the Park Service may one day want their land. Bula Barr said she will refuse to move and added, "I can't handle a rifle, but I'm good with a pistol," which typifies the rugged mountain independence of the people of the Blue Ridge. 14
Father of the aforementioned Delila Brady, Don Brady has a unique problem with his land vis--vis the Park Service. While many inholders expressed fear that they may be eventually "landlocked" by NPS efforts (such as Joe Jackson whose only route off his 50 acres is the direct access road to the Parkway which the Park Service wants to close), Brady already has 66 acres of his farmland "landlocked", totally cut off from any access roads meaning that the only way Brady can get to his land is to trespass. In the late 1930's, as the Blue Ridge Parkway was being constructed, the "old" part of Virginia state road 608 was abandoned as the access road to the Brady land south of the Parkway. A "new" road 608 was built north of the Parkway sealing off the previously mentioned 66 acres. After Don Brady's father died in the 1960's and he assumed greater control of the land, he began investigating the legality of what had occurred. He discovered a 1900 and a 1914 deed which guaranteed that the "public road" connecting Brady lands not be "obstructed. Brady's father, who was illiterate, signed, or marked, a deed which relinquished this right-of-way. Brady doubted that his father understood what he was doing at that time and further wondered how a public state road can be deeded away by a private individual. Even though it is now overgrown with weeds and grass, the roadbed of "old" 608 is clearly visible to anyone who walks along it (Photos 1-3). Although his formal education stopped at the third grade, Don Brady is one of the more articulate spokesmen for the culture and people of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He has a keen sense of the oral history of the area and the detailed knowledge needed for preservation. He took this researcher to a house owned by 76 year-old Hattie Sowers. The house was 106 years old and in excellent condition. It was clearly visible from the Parkway, near Willis Gap, and Hattie Sowers was perfectly willing to show visitors this fine example of a Blue Ridge home, but, according to Brady, the Park Service has shown no interest whatsoever in preservation of the structure. Brady said he had great sympathy for the anti-developmental attitude of the NPS. He felt that the Park Service should be notified by every county when parcels of land go on sale so as truly to insure the willing seller-willing buyer arrangement. Once he even offered to sell much of his undeveloped land to the Park Service, but the agency never responded. Brady called the recent Carroll county development off the Parkway (referred to by locals as "top of the hill", Photo 4), as "poor taste to bad," and added that he favored strict land-use restrictions similar to neighboring Patrick county. Local control was the most preferred means of land-use. While he agreed with much of the intent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Don Brady was disturbed by the seemingly inconsistent and roughshod methods of the Park Service, especially when in contact with the people. 15
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