You couldn’t miss it. The equipment trailer on Zulla Road spanned the lane’s width from double yellow line to white line with barely an inch to spare. My 2-horse gooseneck covers the same width, and how many of those travel Zulla each day? I realize our region has become a Mecca for bikers, but for the life of me, I wonder why bikers enjoy trailers like this constantly breezing past them. Our roads showcase stunning views but sharing the road is really hard and often dangerous.

This summer, my Facebook feed was filled with friends who groused at the bikers. Large clubs of riders regularly lined up to meander the roads from Middleburg to The Plains, Upperville, and beyond. But with so many trailers and bikers navigating the same blind hills, blind curves, low shoulders, or no shoulders, there is little room to share. And now, the law allows bikers to travel side-by-side, instead of end-to-end.

I applaud anyone who appreciates our region. I am adamant; it should be shared with all! The conservation easement was intended to protect the scenic viewshed for everyone. On top of the federal tax deductions, Virginia rewards landowners with the nation’s largest state tax credit supplement for protecting its scenic views. If we don’t share the views we protect, our legislature may be inclined to reduce the reward.  

This leads to the far more significant question, what is on the doorstep? Property values here have soared as at-home workers abandon their commutes for houses in the country. If you have internet, you have Zoom and online shopping. You’re all set. But do these new owners embrace the equestrian lifestyles that make the region desirable in the first place? I remember how Potomac changed overnight. That was horse country, too. Who works with new landowners to better understand the world where they now live? MFHs do, but there are a lot of changing lands changing hands.

Further, a Washington Post article (1/16/22/Metro) reports Loudoun County hosts 140 data centers. Prince William County is now home to 33, with more on the way. The typical data center occupies 100 acres of land. Electric utilities power it all, but upgrades to the grid must be made eventually, or we end up like the debacle in Texas. We all hunger for better cell and internet service with reliable power to feed it all, but are we ready for the necessary concessions?

So far, we’ve successfully upended, discouraged, or worked with most development in the name of progress. The best has succeeded. The rest has been tabled. But the world is marching on and is changing more quickly than we expected. What will happen in 5 years? Ten years? 25 years? Or beyond? It is all being negotiated now. I asked 96-year-old lifelong conservationist Marie Ridder her advice, and she succinctly answered, “Two words, Mr. Banner … birth control!” 

The late George Ohrstrom, Jr. was a past president of the Orange County Hounds and a lifelong supporter of the Piedmont Environmental Council. Some time ago, I complained of impending change. He wisely replied, “It’s going to change, Rob. Be a part of the change.” So, I try. Here’s how, and I encourage your support, too. 

The Equine Land Conservation Resource, a national non-profit based in Lexington, KY, helps protect equestrian regions all across the country, so I’ve joined their board. Florida, New York, Kentucky, Ohio, and California have similar problems to Virginia’s. With deep foxhunting roots, the ELCR connects all experiences to equestrians everywhere. Together, ELCR reaches out to groups (a bike club, for instance) to explain how we can all live together. ELCR is trying to upgrade its website to make its networking notifications more robust. Today’s world expects today’s website. Yes, it is expensive but well worth the investment in our future. 

Holly Groshek, the ELCR Executive Director, said, “The equine world is remarkably small with similar problems everywhere. Our world is your world. We may have addressed your problem elsewhere and can share the solutions that worked.”

Want to help? Send ELCR your support through membership and donation. It will be money well spent to help solve our problems here or in the states where our friends live and ride horses. If you do, you have my thanks. In the meantime, I’ll see you around the campus. Drive carefully.

Equine Land Conservation Resource is a qualified 501(c)3 non-profit with a mission to preserve equestrian regions across the nation. Visit www.elcr.org. Contact Holley Groshek at hgroshek@elcr.org, or (859) 327-4584 cell. Send deductible donations to ELCR, 4037 Ironworks Parkway, Suite 120, Lexington, KY 40511. Earmark “Changing Lands.” 

Robert Banner is Senior Project Officer at ACRE Investment Management in The Plains, VA, managing ecological credits for all concerned landowners. Contact Rob at rob@acre-investment.com, or call his cell (540) 729-1335.

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