Monday, August 31, 2009

Afton Mountain ... rundown gateway to Shenandoah Valley

This structued was once a gift shop on Afton Mountain.

Bob Kirchman's vision of "Afton Mountain ... the Village".
Courtesy of Kirchman Studio.

Afton Mountain ... that crossroads of the Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, I-64, Rt. 250, and entrance to the Shenandoah Valley ... a location that could be the crown jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Skyline Drive has a reported 1.5-2 million visitors annually. The Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited national parkway in the country with over 17 million visitors.

What do visitors see? Blight.

I have posted photos of the rundown condition of Afton for several years and written about the crumbling abandoned buildings, the burned-out walls of a long-forgotten motel (they were finally removed in the spring of 2009), and the sad location of the Rockfish Gap Visitor Center.

A biker from Charlottesville who is a doctor from UVA Hospital saw my original post and agreed, saying he bikes that area and would love to have somewhere to stop, rest, and grab a bite to eat before his return to Charlottesville. He would welcome commerce on Afton.

Bob Kirchman also agreed that Afton needed renovation and even used his artistic skills and vision to make a suggestion of what Afton could look like if renovated and made into "a world-class entrance to Shenandoah National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, Waynesboro & the Valley." He went on to say, "Think of the legacy of Afton. It could return to its glory again ... a living, thriving village of homes, commerce, and tourism, a beautiful oasis in the sky." His newest post about the conditions on the mountain and his dream of what it could be are read in " 'Broken Windows' and Afton Mountain.

In the Sunday, August 30, 2009, Staunton News Leader, yet another voice was heard from a letter writer who was incredulous when he saw the blight of Afton. His opening sentence: "I have enclosed a picture of the shabby entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway in Afton."

Shabby, indeed.

If Bob's vision of Afton was realized, the "scenic" overlook could become scenic again ... Afton could be a go-to location for locals from both sides of the mountain, a place for dinner, dessert, a romantic overnighter, or a getaway to watch sunsets and the beauty of the mountains.

Afton Mountain ... let's make it the beautiful oasis it deserves to be.

1 comment:

Bob K. said...

I have heard asbestos removal mentioned as the reason the owner does not move any faster. As the buildings become severe hazards they are being gradually removed anyway.

I believe there is a business model for this area that can be built by private investors and phased so as to be sustainable. This would likely include the development company proffering such things as a gravity sewer line to Waynesboro and some snow removal equipment to ensure year-round access and operation.

My preference is obviously for a development company to either partner with Mr. Dulaney, give him a land swap or buy it outright. The fact that it is, beyond being an eyesore, a danger to the public [what happens when some twisted person uses the shadow of the abandoned buildings for the unthinkable]?, makes me think public condemnation is not totally out of the picture. Still, my Jeffersonian instincts push me away from 'the public option' here.

Before the roads were improved in Nelson County this was considered the best way to get to Wintergreen. A Village at Afton could recapture some market share from the Ski resort visitors.Some of the living units could provide affordable housing for workers in several cities.

I hope that whatever happens on the mountain will be done with a vision worthy of the location's importance. Without a solid unifying vision you will not drive the traffic that this site has the potential for.