Harriman: Contemplate open air throughout zoning course of | Letters To Editor

0
11

I don’t live in Loudoun County, but I’m always drawn to the area for hiking along the Blue Ridge, scenic drives, delicious restaurants, and welcoming locals.

I recently learned that Loudoun County is going through a building code rewrite. Part of this rewrite includes the Mountainside Overlay District (MOD), which includes a landscape feature that I find very interesting: the mountain ranges. The mountains play an important part in my desire to visit Loudoun where I can relax and explore with my pup Jack.

As many of you know, the Blue Ridge Mountains are home to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT) and beautiful day hikes like Bears Den Overlook, Raven Rocks, and Buzzard Hill. Advanced hikers might even opt for the aptly named “rollercoaster” section of the AT – 12.5 miles of varying climbs and descents from Ashby Gap to Snickers Gap.

While hiking isn’t for everyone, a fair amount of people enjoy it. In 2021, nearly 59 million people in the United States participated in hiking activities. Thinking more locally, 79% of households in the Northern Virginia Recreational Planning Region listed “visiting natural areas” as one of their top outdoor recreation activities. From an economic perspective, Loudoun County’s annual per capita spending on outdoor recreation is $99.70. That number jumps to $184.32 when fully focused on the city of Leesburg. That’s a lot of money going into the economy for food, equipment, housing and gas!

Aside from attracting tourists, the mountains also contain headwaters to public water resources, support groundwater recharge, and provide valuable habitat for plant and animal communities. They are a place of beauty and heritage and a haven from the busy lives we all lead.

As an outsider, I would like to make a request to the residents of Loudoun to make your voice heard throughout the zoning ordinance rewrite process. Mountains are very sensitive to land disturbance and development, and now is your chance to ensure that they remain protected in the future. The Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on Monday, December 12 and you can either speak in person or provide written comments. Let the district leadership know how important the mountains are to you and Loudoun’s future.

Finally, thank you for allowing this traveler to enjoy all the great natural resources your home has to offer!

Statistics are from the Statistica Research Department (2022) and the Virginia Outdoors Plan (2018)