Ramble On

Friday, December 31, 2010

Hawksbill Cabin 2010: Year-end Retrospective, part 1

While I assumed my normal spot this week, out on the Hawksbill Cabin’s brick terrace next to the fire pit, I considered this blog’s year 2010. Eventually, just as the idea must have occurred to staff of the Page News and Courier last week – and to so many other publications, it seemed like a retrospective post would be interesting. And so, here is the result of a review of posts, month by month, for the year.

As I was writing, the word count was getting up there, so I split the post into three. There will be one post today, New Years Eve, with the other two to come on Saturday January 1 and Sunday January 2.

Let me start by saying thanks again to the gang at Appalachian Outdoors Adventures for lending me their internet! Shout out to Gary, Linda, Howard and Andy!

January 2010 – On the blog, the major topics were the “Snowpocalypse” that most of the mid-Atlantic area experienced. It’s one thing to deal with weather like this in Alexandria, where the dense urban environment generally means that services will be promptly restored, streets plowed to allow public safety vehicles to patrol, etc. – but quite another for remote areas here in Page County.

We had a little roofing problem that we had been planning to deal with – water, whether driven rain or melting snow, was creeping down the chimney around the flashing of our new roof. With snow depths being reported in excess of three feet, we were also worried about the loads on our roof, and had our roofer come out to clear snow and improve the flashing. He ventured out on a tracked vehicle and took care of both problems for us.

And when we finally got back out, I went up to finish clearing the snow – I suspect ice dams were part of the problem that eventually led to termites in the old days, and I wasn’t going to let that kind of problem get started…

February 2010 – At the very end of January a little noticed press release appeared in one of the Valley papers, describing the potential location of a Fibrowatt plant in Page County. Fibrowatt generates electricity by burning chicken waste, and some in the County believed that having a plant here at the Project Clover site would have a very positive impact on industrial development. Once the word got out, a wide range of citizen stakeholder groups began to let County leadership know their thoughts on the issue.

On the blog, we invested a lot of time doing extensive background research on Fibrowatt, learning about the technology, the process for building a plant (the company is very proud of the community work it does surrounding this process, evidenced in the Fibrominn plant, in Benson, Minnesota). An outreach group formed, providing information for the broader community about the impacts of a plant – and this group’s work led to a broader dialog about whether the investment the county would ultimately make was worthwhile in exchange for what appeared to be few jobs and potential negative environmental impacts. Ultimately, in March, the Board of Supervisors determined that a Fibrowatt plant wasn’t in Page County’s best interest.

March 2010 – This month featured a very interesting cultural activity in Luray – the 24-hour Marathon of One Act Plays. Folks volunteer to be part of this – dividing into writers and actors, ultimately putting together 4 plays over the course of one day. The writing takes place overnight, then rehearsals in the morning, and the plays done in the evening. I’m looking forward to this again next March.

Following up on the Fibrowatt question from February, I went back into the old Page County EDA materials to try and come to an understanding of how that proposal got to the table when there was so much public opposition to it. What I found was that over the course of several strategic plan updates, the mission of EDA had evolved from one that sought economic development and job creation to one that seemed to favor a very speculative approach to real estate – pretty far off track from what you’d expect.

The Board of Supervisors and new EDA members are still coming to terms with how to correct this situation, and it’s clear that more time and planning are needed for a full resolution. For my part, I think the answer is in the not very old strategic plans – the ones that predate all the Project Clover ballyhoo. There are some basic and practical planning steps enumerated in those plans that have simply been ignored…a back to basics approach that reconsiders these seemed in order then and still does today.

April 2010 –With the arrival of spring, posts on the blog return to outdoors topics, even while the Project Clover, EDA, and Fibrowatt controversies continued to churn. During 2010, I estimate I was up in Shenandoah National Park more than 20 times, but one of the highlights of the year was the Jones Run-Doyles River loop that my hiking group took on in April.

This hike follows two streams through their respective ravines until their confluence. In the spring, the streams are full and there’s a spectacular view of a waterfall every quarter of a mile or so here. It’s a very worthwhile outing, and one my group used as inspiration for our Dolly Sods outing later in the year.  We would return to the Park for another challenging loop at Corbin Cabin - and then there were all my other trips to the Park and the eventual completion of all the hikes in the Best Easy Day Hikes book.

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