[important]Viewpoint: Please note that the views expressed in this article are solely that of the author and does not reflect any opinion of the newspaper.[/important]
On an icy day in January 2003, a small group of volunteers from throughout Southwest Virginia sat around a pot-bellied stove at the Carter Family Fold and planned The Crooked Road. Lunch was prepared and a fervent blessing said by Jeanette Carter. The Crooked Road has always been, and continues to be, about the traditional music of Southwest Virginia.
Over the last 10 years, The Crooked Road has sought to unite the communities of Southwest Virginia through their shared musical heritage. The unified nature of this initiative has also been its strength, allowing the region to establish and benefit economically from having an internationally known brand for authentic traditional music.
The Crooked Road believes it can best serve the region in the role of a unifying entity. Although a significant number of localities have supported it, the proposed Crooked Road National Heritage Area designation has not unified the entire region. Without that unity of purpose, The Crooked Road has decided to discontinue its current pursuit of the designation and focus on other important programs such as traditional music education, marketing of venues, strengthening travel industry connections, and development of a branded Crooked Road radio program to name a few.
The Crooked Road organization remains convinced that a National Heritage Area would be of great benefit to the region. Critics of the designation have made numerous claims of adverse effects, most notably that Heritage Areas are a threat to property rights. The Crooked Road diligently researched these claims and could not find a factual basis for them. The independent and well-respected Weldon Cooper Center researched these claims on behalf of local government and could not find a factual basis for them. We are not aware that critics of the designation have provided anyone with a factual basis for those claims either.
The most compelling evidence that Heritage Areas do indeed benefit communities can be found simply by looking across the state line in three directions. Local government leaders in North Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia confirmed that their existing Heritage Areas have not impacted property rights in any way. Far from having adverse effects, these Heritage Areas are providing their regions with valuable support for cultural tourism and economic value through promotion of their cultural assets.
The Crooked Road has an obligation to seek out opportunities that can benefit the region, especially when it involves revenue sources that can help stretch local funding. A National Heritage Area designation is such an opportunity. The Crooked Road is supported and operated by the communities of Southwest Virginia and deciding to pursue a National Heritage Area designation should be their decision. The Crooked Road organization also believes that decision should be made with as much unanimity as possible. That unanimity of purpose does not currently exist for the National Heritage Area. Regardless, the many localities and other stakeholders who provided letters and resolutions of support are acknowledged and appreciated.
The Crooked Road looks forward to finding new and exciting ways of assisting the communities of Southwest Virginia in celebrating their unique musical heritage.