Not on my property: Tyler gathers steam

If the proposed re-opening of the Crozet Tunnel [Cover story, "Ain't No Mountain Wide Enough," November 21] and its hopeful intersections of Greenways trails had at least one Afton resident steaming mad, he's now become furious.

"The only way they can put a trailhead on my land," says owner Bruce Tyler, "is to condemn my house and take it through eminent domain." In other words, he won't go quietly.

Tyler, a lawyer who offers uncontested divorce and separation agreements starting at $88, doesn't want to move anywhere, ever. "My wife and I hope to be buried on this property," he says.

But like any good lawyer, Tyler has done some research. After reviewing 90 pages of material obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Tyler says he believes things are moving too fast.

"I urge the Nelson County Supervisors to put the Blue Ridge/Crozet Tunnel Restoration Project by refusing the $300,000 funding until it can determine the wishes of Afton residents and reconsider some of its assumptions," he says.

Tyler, whose house and office sit right next to the current live rail and whose land borders the CSX property where the old Tunnel is located, says he has located other potential locations for the trailhead.

He notes that the eastern portal of the Tunnel lies several hundred feet beneath a scenic overlook on Route 250 West.

Bud Carter lives on and owns part of that land and would like officials to consider a trailhead closer to the top of the mountain. Carter acknowledges that this plan would involve a steeper incline and several sharp switchbacks.

"There's no question the Tunnel should be open," says Carter. "It's one of the Seven Wonders of the World." At the time of its 1858 opening, the Blue Ridge Tunnel was the world's longest railroad tunnel.

Another choice for the proposed hiking, biking, and horseback-riding trailhead involves Stagecoach Road (Route 600). Although there are a few residences along the ridge of Route 250, Carter continues to maintain the length of it. The original road over the mountain, its historical credentials almost match those of the Tunnel. Civil War soldiers used the road, and the spring where abolitionist John Brown allegedly sipped before heading to his destiny at Harper's Ferry is still there.

Shinko Corpora of Afton Mountain Vineyards would like to see a museum and/or a tourist information spot nearby. "The more stuff to do around here the better for our business," she says.

But not all business owners agree that putting Afton on the map as a travelers' destination is a swell idea. Like Tyler, Shirley Stanton of Afton House Bed and Breakfast disagrees with the projected Tunnel plans.

"The whole thing would be a nuisance," she says. "It would cost too much money to make safe, and that money would be better spent on creating jobs and feeding the hungry."

Tyler and Carter just want the principals involved, including Nelson County, CSX, and The Whitesell Group– a Roanoke planning firm– to take a broader view of how re-opening the Tunnel and all of its ramifications will affect the quality of life for everyone on top of the mountain. Tunnel planners, however, insist that nothing is set in stone.

Nonetheless, Tyler vows to start a petition drive. Although he favors the royal "we" when talking of drawing up something serious and creating petitions, when he's asked for names of others who might be involved, he replies, "It's basically me."

However one looks at the effect the Tunnel re-opening might have on the village of Afton, the implications of increased traffic and revenue seem undeniable. Obviously Tyler considers the whole project a great threat to his livelihood and is working diligently to keep apprised of all decisions regarding land donations, letters of intent, and county involvement before, as he puts it, "They come over the mountain and destroy me."