Not a month after this groundbreaking designation was announced, The Crooked Road took a turn. Now its funding is at risk. This weekend, Virginia's Senate Finance Committee recommended striping about $290,000 from the budget of the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, which is a principle funder for The Crooked Road.
The initiative already operates on a modest budget -- about $350,000 annually. Losing support from the The Virginia Foundation could be a major blow to this promotional platform, which has proven to be a cultural success as well as an economic one.
The Roanoke Times cites a 2008 economic impact study that attributed gains along the length of the trail at $23 million every year. For those business majors out there that's a staggering ROI, something like a 6500%.
What's more The Crooked Road promises to be a model for the rest of the nation. Rob Nieweg, director of the southern field office for the National Trust recently told The Roanoke Times, "We want other regions in the country to look at The Crooked Road and see how to take regional character and, in effect, build sustainable economic development."
It would be a local calamity to lose this attraction but also a regional one. While picking styles and accents vary form holler to holler, we are one Appalachia. When one of us shines, we are all in the spotlight. When one light goes out, life for all of us gets a little dimmer.
Virginian or not, I hope you'll write, email or call a Virginia state representative and encourage him or her to find another way to balance the budget. Ask that they drive on by this crooked road.