More Than Scenery: Viewshed Protection

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That we are deeply affected at a gut level by what we take in through our eyes is a given. A picture of an abused animal makes you want to cry, while another image of an injured soldier can make you sick at your stomach.

That we respond viscerally to the view before our eyes is certain. And so there are places we chose to go where what we will see can calm our souls in a world that in too many instances is a “bad scene”.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one such place, and millions of visitors make this aesthetic choice each year. And more and more, when they drive through the Roanoke section of the Parkway, they see that green corridor encroached by man-made structures built to the very edge of the thin boundary of pasture or woods that separates these two worlds.

And they may feel a sinking feeling deep in the pit of their stomachs. A favorite place, once set apart for a different kind of view of the world, is beginning to look like every other common road.

To many, it is appalling that such visual intrusion was not prevented before it ever happened. But there it is: a row of two story homes along a half mile stretch at Milepost 125.5 west of Roanoke. There is talk of a Wal-Mart being built adjacent to the Parkway near Roanoke–unless enough voices are heard to protest it.

Yesterday, the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway sponsored a viewshed tree planting to grow a new forest boundary along this short stretch of roadway, and even under the threat of rain on a chilly April day, dozens turned out to help, including these 25 students from nearby Roanoke College.

If you care about what you see along the Parkway, now is the time to make a difference.


About fred

Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for writing about this, Fred. That section of the Parkway is always heart-breaking to see. This planting project is really good news. Hope the trees are fast-growing!!

  2. wow….that is sickening….

    i can’t believe they were allowed to build that close. hopefully that will be able to be remedied with this project…and lessons learned…….. i will definitely click over and see how i can help….

  3. Unfortunately, most people driving the Parkway don’t really understand the actual extant of the Parkway lands. In many, many place along the Parkway the actual “park” is not much more than the right of way on both sides of the road. As people continue to develop tracts along the Parkway the view is only going to have more “civilized” breaks. That is one of the reason that places like Grandfather Mountain and the Orchard at Altapass are so important to the continued life of the Parkway.

  4. mtnlabs writes….
    I remember when that housing project went up for approval…it was a sad day in the Roanoke/Floyd area. Money always wins out, and the developers voices were heard louder then the concerned citizens who wanted NO HOUSING built that close to the Parkway.
    We lost, they, the big boys won.. ( they think).please contact your local/State officials by written word, calls, and emails, tell them you want this beautiful, treasured Parkway to be SAFE from the invasions of the money hungry developers.

    Women’s Brokerage Enterprises, LLCconcerned citizens who wanted NO HOUSING built that close to the Parkway.
    We lost, they, the big boys won…please contact your local/state officals by written word, and calls, and emails, tell them you want this beautiful, treasured parkway to be SAFe from the money hungry developers .

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