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Thursday, June 09, 2005

More Political Nonsense in Southwest Virginia

Delegate Benny Keister (D-Dublin) must have gotten the memo. It either came from Congressman Rick Boucher (D-Abingdon) or from Governor Mark Warner (D-Washington Post).

The evidence for there having been a memo is in the fact that all three have come up with the same foolish idea regarding economic revitalization of our woefully depressed area.

It was Warner, you may recall, who dreamt up the scheme to give all our cow paths names and promote them as bike paths and hiking trails.
"What we want to go ahead in Southside Virginia is build the first of 38-miles of what could eventually lead to a 350-mile hiking and biking trail across Southside Virginia, that will bring jobs, tourism and tremendous economic development activity." (link)
Tremendous economic development activity. A bike path. He cracks me up.

Then Rick Boucher, not to be outdone (he may have aspirations for a more important role in the party too - a one-on-one interview with Katie Curic), looked at Warner's plan and said, "Big whoop, Mark. You came up with the idea but you ain't got the money. I got all the money." So he secured grants for a music center in Scott County, improvements on a wooden trestle on a trail in Washington County, and the construction of assorted visitor centers around the area, each of which is expected to employ a couple of people. (link) Thus we are on our way to full employment.

Now Benny Keister has a plan. He wants to take a road that runs through the area and call it ... drum roll ... a tourist attraction. The news (odd it didn't make the front page of the Roanoke Times, breathtaking as it is) was announced in an article in the New River Valley Current.
Wilderness Road may open to tourists
By Paul Dellinger

PULASKI -- Pulaski has thrown its support behind a proposal by Del. Benny Keister, D-Pulaski County, to turn the Wilderness Road through Virginia into a tourist attraction.

The idea grew out of Gov. Mark Warner's call last fall to establish artisan centers, particularly in Virginia's Appalachian region, to market mountain arts and crafts and boost economic development. The idea is much like what neighboring West Virginia has done with Tamarack, a dining and shopping facility near Beckley that offers products created by state residents. (link)
The title prompts the question: When did we close Hwy 11?

Anyway,great idea, Benny. But why not go all the way and rename the road Fort Knox? Then we'll not only see our area revitalized, we'll all be rich.

Here's Benny's plan:
Keister came up with using the Wilderness Road to tie localities to the idea and to get it done by 2007, when Virginia will be seeing a lot of tourism traffic for its Jamestown celebration, the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in the New World.

The concept would have each locality develop its own offerings for visitors based on geography, culture, history, arts and ethnic backgrounds. It also calls for having the Wilderness Road migratory map placed permanently at highway rest stops, said Harriet Anderson, a retired teacher representing Keister. As destinations and ideas grow, she said, Virginia could work with other states to promote the Wilderness Road.

Now, I know Benny, and Rick, and Mark are a whole lot smarter than me, and this must be a swell idea because the Pulaski Town Council approved his notion - unanimously, but Mapquest may offer up a hint of a problem with luring the Jamestown crowd to the area.

1: Start out going NORTHWEST. 0.1 miles
2: Turn LEFT. 0.4 miles
6: Turn LEFT onto SANDY BAY RD. 0.2 miles
7: SANDY BAY RD becomes IRONBOUND RD. 1.9 miles
8: Turn LEFT onto VA-613/NEWS RD. 0.1 miles
9: Turn RIGHT onto VA-321 E/MONTICELLO AVE. 0.4 miles
10: Merge onto VA-199 W via the ramp on the LEFT toward LIGHTFOOT. 6.2 miles
11: VA-199 W becomes NEWMAN RD/VA-646 N. 0.1 miles
12: Merge onto I-64 W toward RICHMOND. 32.8 miles
13: Merge onto I-295 N via EXIT 200 toward WASHINGTON. 24.4 miles
14: Merge onto I-64 W via EXIT 53A toward CHARLOTTESVILLE. 90.1 miles
15: Merge onto I-81 S via the exit on the LEFT toward LEXINGTON/ROANOKE. 127.8 miles
16: Take the VA-99 N exit- EXIT 94- toward PULASKI. 0.1 miles
17: Turn RIGHT onto VA-99 N/COUNT PULASKI DR. Continue to follow VA-99 N. 3.3 miles
18: Turn LEFT onto US-11/VA-99/WASHINGTON AVE N. Continue to follow US-11/WASHINGTON AVE N. 0.1 miles

19: End at Pulaski, VA US

Total Est. Time: 4 hours, 58 minutes .......Total Est. Distance: 291.57 miles (link)

I hate to be the guy who is accused of urinating in Benny's bath water but there ain't nobody on earth gonna drive 291.57 miles, from the Atlantic coast to Pulaski, Virginia to see all the boarded up businesses and abandoned homes in the area. And I enjoy looking at all the trees along U.S. 11 (the targeted Wilderness Road or Highway to Heaven as the next Democratic politician will want to call it) but there have to be at least 1.36 billion trees between Jamestown and Pulaski so what's the lure? The catch? (The grabber, as we used to say in sales/marketing).

I'll repeat myself until Mark and Rick and now Benny either give up on this goofy "tourism is our secret weapon" mantra or they're driven from office: We need employers, guys. Not banjo pickers sitting on the side of the road over in Bertha. Not cloggers in Christiansburg. Not clowns in Clintwood.

We need employers who are willing to relocate to, or are prepared to expand in, Southwest Virginia because we have made it attractive for them to do so. We can only - and relatively easily - do this by reducing their fiscal burdens relating to taxation and regulation.

Someone has done a marvelous job of it in Singapore and I haven't heard of one hula dancer or slapstick comedian bringing about their prosperity. Prosperity at a level the leadership in Southwest Virginia never even dream of.