Saving the New: a Grayson County Success Story

View west toward Charlotte Hanes ridge seen from the Cox's Chapel Bridge, Grayson County, Virginia, Nov 08
View west toward Charlotte Hanes ridge seen from the Cox's Chapel Bridge, Grayson County, Virginia, Nov 08

The deed finally recorded in December 19 and 170 acres that borders the New River in Grayson County, Virginia, is free of the threat of becoming any number of things that would blemish its continued existence as undeveloped and protected mountain land along one of America’s most splendid rivers.

I was privileged to participate in the Graysonn County / Osborne story by a coincidence of chance and intention.

Ann and I came in contact with the New River Valley Land Trust a few years back and got to know Beth O. So when she was approached about this piece of property to be featured on the upcoming interactive Landscope project by NatureServe, she mentioned my name to Kyle, the online project director. As it turns out, he had just seen my name on the Society of Environmental Journalists list serv offering my introduction to the group back in September.

So Kyle contacted me to see if I might be interested in a photographic assignment (well, a little!) and I made the trip down to Grayson twice with my new friend, Mary Bishop, who fashioned a wonderful account of the Osbornes–Buster, Bobby and Norma–with whom we had lunch in beautiful downtown Independence on our final trip down on a cold gray day in November when there was ice forming at the edges of river rocks (see the image above).

There is an account of the land transaction in the Roanoke Times (with a tiny picture of mine from the location) and Mary’s story is a really good read on the Landscope beta site; this link bypasses the map which will someday be a rich resource for exploring conservation land across the country. Soon, hopefully, my photographs will be available there to go along with Mary’s words and I’ll give you a heads-up when that happens.

Needless to say, though it was more light than heat, it was a thrill for me as freelance photograph to sign a contract that said National Geographic/NatureServe. I’m looking forward to participating in more projects in the months to come.

Follow the river as it flows north into West Virginia: view The New River Gorge Bridge.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. It is indeed, though by the time Mr. Osbourne took out the load to purchase, there had already been so much opposition to it’s placement on the adjacent property that the penitentiary folks had moved on toward Independence for their site. But Buster Osborne (age 92 now) knew there would be others yet to want that land for tacky A-frames and such so he went ahead with the legalities that finalized two weeks ago.