The photo op tents are in place and the state and local government officials, local business leaders and more are lined up – current and former mayors of Purcellville, Virginia Transportation officials, members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, local developers.
The press is here, and a broad white ribbon has been pulled across part of the Southern Collector Road. Bob Lazaro, the Mayor of Purcellville has conducted his ceremonial ribbon cutting signaling that the road is open, and a muted moment of hand-clapping has blown off into the warm June breeze.
Yes, the Southern Collector Road is open and ready for our cars and trucks and commercial vehicles. And, it’s a big, beautiful wide and majestic road.
But, if you know the path it takes – and recognize that the tall wooded areas on either side were once part of a contiguous (and still functioning) farm – you know you are travelling across, not just a new roadbed, but old farm land that a family probably fought tooth and nail to save.
For, on either side of the political handshaking and ceremony is not only remnants of apple trees, but citizens who worked for years to save Crooked Run Orchard from being split in two by a highway that the town’s own studies showed would relieve traffic in Purcellville by maybe two percent … feisty, never give up citizens of every political stripe and color with hand-made signs reading: “Scar on the Land,” … “Road to Lazaro’s House” … “Stop Eminent Domain Abuse Who’s Next?”
One of the sign holders is good old Sam Howell Brown. Looking at the picture of him standing out there in the sun, I really can’t imagine what it took for him to come out today. He has farmed this land for years, cultivating pick your own berries, a wide variety of apples and peaches, herbs, vegetables, pumpkins and squash. Sam’s dad, Howell Brown farmed it before that, and many generations of Brown’s before that, going back to when the family was deeded the land by Lord Fairfax in 1741 before we became a nation. Today, 20,000 customers pass through Crooked Run Orchard each year.
On this day, police officers have respectfully directed the concerned citizens to stand behind a line near the ceremony lest they be given a ticket for trespassing. Trespassing on land that was once owned by the Brown family, but taken by eminent domain and the dysfunctional and self-serving Purcellville political system – a system of you-do-this-for -me-and-I’ll-do-this-for-you that now threatens western Loudoun County’s remaining agricultural jewels and small town and village ways of life.
One of the public officials speaking at the event suggests to everyone present: “It is time for compromise,” meaning, presumably, can we just move on? Ok, time for compromise, time to move on? But, what have the forces that be compromised to serve their own interests (the road) while at the same time protecting this farmer’s property rights and family heritage? Nothing. No shifting of the roadbed so it wouldn’t split the farm. No safe crosswalk or access to Sam’s back orchard. No assistance in minimizing how the years of construction on the road bordering his farm would affect his business.
It’s not “Time To Compromise.” No, I don’t think so. It’s time all of western Loudoun got behind a citizen-directed plan to make Sam Brown’s situation the last time politicians and others are allowed to sacrifice our historic farm businesses and agricultural heritage for the sake of a vision we don’t share.