As a visitor — and now a resident — of the Shenandoah Valley for over 50 years, our valley’s majestic beauty and grandeur never cease to amaze me. Having set foot on every continent of the world while serving on military active duty, I can truly say our valley is a unique natural treasure without peer.
Unfortunately, I have also noticed a fast-increasing number of abandoned and dilapidated buildings (both residential and commercial), improper storage of inoperable unlicensed vehicles, and accumulations of trash and rubbish along the valley’s main thoroughfares. I suspect tumbledown buildings and rubbish heaps do not meet anyone’s standard of “rustic country charm.” Abandoned buildings invite nefarious activity and are a hazard to all especially children. Unfortunately, all of us — citizens and county officials — have over the years become “eye blind” to these eyesores that are in clear and open violation of our local zoning, building, and fire code regulations.
Property owners take on the responsibility of maintaining their property in accordance with city and county regulations. That is not at issue. What is at issue is that no one wants to build their new home or locate a new business next to an area where county zoning, building and fire regulations are not followed and enforced. We fret about needing more outside investment in our region, but do we care enough to enforce the existing laws regarding the abandoned (clearly not reusable) buildings and safety hazards that present us in a poor light to would-be investors and new neighbors? It also reflects a community that is not conscious of nor appears to care about the environmental impact of these hazards.
Our valley has so many bright examples of beautification, renewal and investment. Strasburg is experiencing visible benefits from the rejuvenated Trump economy; Woodstock is doing rather well under Mayor Jeremy McCleary; Mount Jackson is attracting substantial private investment and is seeing a surge in refurbished and restored homes.
We are moving forward. And as we move forward, let us remember that we all share this beautiful valley and county. We also share the responsibility to be good stewards of the land we love. So let us rededicate ourselves to keeping our noble and proud county the rural paradise that it should be. Let us work as one – through goodwill as well as the law — to restore our beautiful valley to the grandeur that it deserves.
The result will be a “win/win/win” for all involved. Businesses will bring more economic opportunity to Shenandoah County, taxpayers will win with more jobs and commercial tax revenue — and each valley resident will win once the unblemished beauty that “Shenandoah County” means to the nation is made secure once again.
James R. Poplar III is a Quickburg resident.