Council OKs land for memorial

FRONT ROYAL – Town leaders helped a local group Monday to spotlight hundreds of people forced to move to make way for the Shenandoah National Park 80 or 90 years ago.

Town Council voted 5-0 at its regular meeting to adopt a resolution to contribute land for a memorial on the north side of Criser Road between Burrell Brooks Park and Happy Creek to the Blue Ridge Heritage Project. Councilman Christopher Morrison did not attend the meeting. The memorial would acknowledge and honor the individuals displaced when Virginia used its power of eminent domain to acquire land for the creation of the Shenandoah National Park. The resolution notes that the town would provide maintenance for the memorial.

Darryl Merchant, chairman of the Front Royal-Warren County Chapter of the Blue Ridge Heritage Project, made a presentation to council at a work session Oct. 16 and asked for property for the memorial. The organization plans to pay for the memorial through its fundraising efforts.

A letter to Mayor Hollis Tharpe dated Sept. 1 outlined the Blue Ridge Heritage Project’s mission. Virginia used eminent domain in the late 1920s and into the 1930s to acquire land the state then donated to the federal government for the creation of the Shenandoah National Park. The state displaced more than 500 families and individuals as it acquired more than 1,000 parcels.

“The Blue Ridge Heritage Project seeks to acknowledge and honor the people whose sacrifices made it possible for us to have the Park,” the letter states.

The project’s vision includes the creation of a monument site in each of the eight counties – Albemarle, Augusta, Greene, Madison, Page, Rappahannock, Rockingham and Warren – from which the state acquired land for the national park. The project also seeks to educate visitors about the lives and culture of the people who lived in the mountains through living history presentations, exhibits and demonstrations.

Front Royal borders the national park along the south side of Criser Road. The north entrance to the park at Skyline Drive lies south of town. Almost 13,600 acres of Warren County – 115 parcels – lie in the park.

The memorial will be an obelisk constructed from local stone in the shape of a chimney.

A bronze plaque will contain the surnames of the displaced families or individuals. Displays and signs will tell the story of the park’s creation and its impact on the community.

The 16-feet by 22-feet site in Front Royal would include an all-weather surface and the 5-foot wide, 9-foot tall chimney as well as a flagpole, benches and information signs.

Also at the meeting, council voted to:

• Affirm on its first reading an ordinance to change the town code section pertaining to the application process for posting banners on Front Royal banner poles to promote civic events. No one spoke at the public hearing on the proposed changes. The town offers civic groups the opportunity to advertise their events at no cost using banners across North Royal Avenue or John Marshall Highway. The town has seen a significant increase in reservations for the banners that warranted the need to revise the code section and the application process. The changes would take effect Jan. 1.

• Approve a bid from DALY through a state contract for desktop computers, laptops, hardware and warranties in the amount of $28,748. The Department of Information Technology’s fiscal 2018 budget includes the funding for the purchase. Specifically, the bid covers the purchase of 20 monitors, 17 desktop computers and five laptops with 4-year warranties plus other equipment.

• Approve the buy back of 80 hours of vacation time from the town manager under terms of his employment contract using funds from salaries in his budget

• Convene in closed session to receive legal advice from Town Attorney Doug Napier concerning the former Town Hall; to discuss the assignment, appointment or performance of specific public officers or employees, the residency requirements of specific town department head or heads and whether or not those requirements should be waived or modified for good and acceptable cause on a case by case basis; to talk about the meals and lodging taxes levied in the U.S. 340-522 corridor