January 8, 2007 [LINK / comment]

Conservation and Bell's Lane

Bells Lane In the Sunday News Leader, columnist Bruce Dorries wrote in praise of a movement by area residents who are opposed to paving over and developing the picturesque rural landscape of Bell's Lane. Mr. Dorries draws an apt comparison between slow-paced, dignified Staunton, and booming Harrisonburg to the north, where development spurred by the growth of agribusiness and James Madison University has resulted in ugly sprawl. We don't want to be like that! He interviewed several of us at the Augusta Bird Club meeting in December, when a petition calling for preservation of that scenic area was circulated. Aside from its purely aesthetic qualities, Bell's Lane boasts a unique combination of habitats -- wetlands, ponds, and rolling pastures -- attracting a wide variety of migratory birds. It was there that I saw ten different bird species for the first time, most notably the Short-eared owl. Apparently, the city of Staunton wants to build a shortcut bypass right through the middle of that precious area, which would ruin it. "McMansion"-style subdivisions are another distinct possibility. I called attention to that issue last July, and I hope enough residents of this area wake up and demand that their leaders take the necessary measures (tax breaks or whatever) to conserve the area's natural beauty before it's too late.