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Scenic overlook falls victim to trash

July 14, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHANNONDALE, W.Va. - The view from the spot on the Blue Ridge Mountain was exceptional, allowing motorists along W.Va. 9 to stop for a peek that allowed them to see all the way into Berkeley County.

A gaze over the valley at the scenic overlook just below Chestnut Hill Road reveals light green-colored farmland winding through darker green forested areas.

The Shenandoah River follows its winding path below and the misty blue mountains off in the distance actually are the mountains on the west side of Interstate 81 in Berkeley County, said Fred Blackmer, president of Keep Jefferson Beautiful.

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But looking just over the edge of the overlook often was "disastrous," one Jefferson County official said.

For about as long as the overlook was in existence, it was a notorious dumping site, Blackmer said.

Garbage, animal carcasses, refrigerators and furniture often were hurled over the steep hillside, Blackmer said. The smell of the rotting material often floated through the area, he said.

"We could clean the place up, but we couldn't keep it clean," Blackmer said.

Faced with high costs of retrieving the trash from the steep hillside and having few ways of controlling the problem, Blackmer's group approached the state Division of Highways about closing the overlook.

After Blackmer's group did some research on the overlook, such as making sure there were no grant programs that required the overlook to be in operation for a certain period of time, the state highways department decided to close it.

In recent weeks, crews pulled up the existing guardrail along the edge of the site and moved it back to the edge of the highway, effectively blocking the area, Blackmer said.

On Sunday, scattered debris, including animal hides, a large package of discarded phone books, plastic bags, Styrofoam cups and plastic bags still were visible in some high grass and brush.

"It's really unfortunate we had to do this. It was the nature of the place," Blackmer said.

But the view may not be completely lost.

Keep Jefferson Beautiful, a nonprofit organization that handles littering prevention efforts in the county, wants to open another scenic overlook somewhere nearby on the mountain, Blackmer said.

One possible site is about 500 yards up the mountain on some private property, Blackmer said.

Blackmer said the owner of the property has been approached about the idea and seems open to it.

The second possible site for an overlook would be at the point where the new, four-lane W.Va. 9 will come up the mountain from the Shenandoah River and intersect with Chestnut Hill Road, Blackmer said.

Since it would be a large cloverleaf intersection, Blackmer said he believes an attractive overlook could be built at the site.

If possible, Blackmer said he would like to see both overlooks developed.

The one on the private land could be developed relatively soon. When the new W.Va. 9 intersection is built, which will probably take years, it can be a second one, Blackmer said.

Because of the location and the layout of the two sites, they should be easier to control to prevent dumping, Blackmer said.

Blackmer said his group still is still putting together a formal proposal for the overlook at the new W.Va. 9 interchange.

Although state officials could not be reached for comment, one local official believes the W.Va. 9 interchange could work as an overlook site.

"It may be a good place for it. It would be a good view up there," said Jane Peters, executive director of the Jefferson County Development Authority.

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