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Washington City Paper is right on target with its heart-warming yet heart-wrenching account of the mountain people who were sacrificed at the altar of Shenandoah National Park (“Appalachian Trail of Tears,” 2/28).
For more than 20 years, I have hiked the park’s leafy trails, glorying in its pristine beauty. For many of those years, I led hikes there for local hiking clubs and am a long-standing member of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, an organization dedicated to maintaining and enhancing that beauty. Always I have felt how fortunate we are that this nearly 280 square miles of mountain parkland has been preserved, in perpetuity, for nature lovers like myself.
Alas, that love has been given a new and troubling perspective by your excellent article: the sad, often forced exodus of the hardy farmers who, for generations, had lived among those mountain peaks.
As the article notes, park authorities until recently have whitewashed that ordeal. The brochure handed to tourists stresses, instead, the “harsh” life previously endured by the farmers and that “more than half the population” already had quit the area before the park was created; “the remaining residents sold their land or were relocated with government assistance,” it adds. The disruption, the seizures, the banishments, the torched homesall are conveniently ignored.
Perhaps selfishly, I’m delighted that Shenandoah National Park became a reality; I don’t deny it. But let the National Park Service tell the truth about the many unfortunate victims forced to flee their homes and the misery they suffered from this arbitrary ousting.