Sunday, August 10, 2008

No Escape From Sprawl

It had been more than a few years since our last getaway to Smith Mountain Lake. I’ve always enjoyed the simple peace and beauty of the area.

When Smith Mountain Lake was first developed its shores were spotted with trailers, fishing shacks, and modest lakeside homes. The home where we stayed on this last visit, pictured above, is typical of the homes built along the shores as the waters filled in behind the new dam in the 1970s. Although Smith Mountain Lake is located between the mountain cities of Roanoke and Lynchburg, it is accessible only by twisting mountain roads, as no major highways pass through the hills and hollows that surround the lake. For years this lack of interstate access helped to keep the area around the lake mostly rural farmland.

On our first morning there, we paddled our kayaks past the docks and boathouses and out of the cove. As we rounded the bend into the next cove, we were saddened to see that the shoreline was lined with rows of ostentatious new structures. We have seen whole developments of these pretentious McMansions sprouting from newly subdivided farms throughout the county back home, but here in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains they seemed especially grandiose and, to our thinking, out of place. I suppose I was more disappointed than surprised. These garish public displays of over-consumption and inflated self worth seem to be popping up everywhere, why not a serene mountain lake?

I’m not the only one who has noticed the encroachment of McMansions on once rural areas.

Chuck Brodsky - The Come Heres and The Been Heres.mp3

Artist Website:
I have featured the poignant songs of Chuck Brodsky many times in past posts. His CDs can be ordered directly from Chuck Brodsky or from

Susan Trump - Shacks and Chalets.mp3

Artist Website:
This cut is from Susan’s wonderful CD of mountain songs, ”What the Hill People Say”.
Check out all of Susan Trump’s CDs here.

A recent Smith Mountain Lake home renovation by Noonkester Construction


Blogger Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Be grateful for the opportunity you have had to enjoy out of the way places no longer out of the way. Barring a human catastrophe which would put a smile on a Jehovah Witness' face the phrase "out of the way" shall soon have no meaning.

A lake, once the playground of working class folks, I camped near this summer is now surrounded by multi-million dollar bed and breakfasts where fat-walleted rig-pigs can enjoy their whisky, imported powder and speedboat lifestyle while they are saving up for their own piece of lakeside. I'm not complaining though: those rig-pigs were generous with their hospitality.

August 11, 2008 7:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, prosperity is for losers.

August 11, 2008 7:58 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

Prosperity is a good thing, but it is not the local families of the Blue Ridge who are prospering. It is the prosperous folk from far off cities who have built lavish second homes along this rural lake. The owner of the modest home we rented (a local farmer of corn and cattle, told me he may have to sell as he can no longer afford the property taxes. Much of the farmland along the lake has been sold off to developers for the same reason. Those who have the least are losing what little they have.

August 12, 2008 8:07 PM  
Anonymous dan said...

Well said. Ed! It's always amusing how those who disdain those of us who hate to see wealth, instead of progress (and there's one helluva big difference between the two), remain anonymous. May they rot in their nests!

August 14, 2008 7:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Ed,
Demographics. Einstein figured out that one day this would be more threatening than the atom bomb. Or, just another bomb.

"Folks said, keep away from there" and now "Out of the way" or you mean get out of the way ! It's like riding a bike. Small is in the way. Things are so crazy that the low income group is just trying to maintain their low status, a very hard task for most folks, not very motivating while self-initiative is just not what it used to be. If it keeps up like this civilisation is in big trouble. And your right Ed, impossible to keep up with the Jones.

Well, it's pretty much the same everywhere.
It's been a work-a-day summer but the 12th century got my small group of troubadours et troubaritz a standing ovation. The pleasure was imense and it didn't cost anything except some lost sleep in there somewhere. Thought I would just drop by the OBBus and see thought in motion.
The musicologist is an infinite source but enjoy very much when your point of view reflects life and music - the two together - with much charm and a straight forward perspective. I learn a great deal from the musicologist but your Thoureau qualities keeps essential thought afloat and raising the question. Like you I have no answers while,

all thought fly... k.

August 17, 2008 4:21 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

Hi K, Thanks for the kind words. A standing ovation! That's Great! You are being too modest, "a little lost sleep" - and years of hard work. Congratulations!

August 17, 2008 9:47 PM  
Anonymous Lucy said...

I could rant and rave on this topic for hours; don't let me get on my soapbox!! These "city folk" move to the country for it's peace & quiet, but turn it into city livin'. We had a massive subdivision invade next to our farm, and these houses are insanely huge on ~1/2 acre postage stamp size lots. They like to look at our cows, but not too fond of the smell of them... you're next to a freakin' farm, what did you expect,?!?! Did ya not notice the 700-2,000lb black critters before ya built?!?! Plus they complain about the over-crowded school system & other infrastructure issues, but don't want to see that they are a big part of the problem. We're growing too many houses and not enough food & fiber. Good Lord get me off this soapbox... I'd like to say I feel better for having vented, but the problem of irresponsible county growth is still there and more coming in every day.

August 22, 2008 1:44 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

My dear Lucy, no need to apologize for your rant. I’ve stood on that soapbox many a times, I’m more than happy to share.
I’ve noticed that your farm has been hemmed in by oversized houses in the past few years. We have all but given up on looking for a small farm for ourselves. The few tracts of land left in the surrounding counties is priced for subdivision by developers.

August 22, 2008 8:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chuck Brodsky's song nails it! It's so John Prine, and I mean that as a compliment.

There's a Meic Stevens song called "The Ghost Of Solva" that describes a similar situation, of a community beginning to be swamped by what we call in our Welsh language "mewnfudwyr" or incomers.

Lovely song.

August 23, 2008 5:31 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

I am familliar with a bit of Meic Stevens'work, mostly his all English "Outlander" album. While I haven't heard "The Ghost Of Solva," I'm sure that the influx of newcomers is a universal lament.

August 24, 2008 7:09 PM  

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