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Grundy High School Class of 1962

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            Drive through downtown Grundy in Buchanan County, population 11-hundred, and it’s usually quiet. Just about all of the businesses hugging the Levisa River are boarded up-  the retail center is wiped out.

             There’s been catastrophic flooding here about every 20 years—but the Levisa frequently overflows without making national headlines. 

            After a devastating flood in 1977, many businesses didn’t chance re-opening.

 

Chuck Crabtree: Our forefathers built on the river because the river was part of their lives as loggers.  We infringed on it over the years, by infringing on it we created part of our flood problems and we’re giving the river back to itself.

 

            That’s Town Manager Chuck Crabtree…talking about the Grundy Flood Control and Redevelopment Plan.  It’s a 130-million dollar project headed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Virginia Department of Transportation, and the Town of Grundy.   It involves demolishing dozens of Main Street stores, moving the railroad and rebuilding

U-S-460 on top of a 14-foot levee.  In about three years, the new Grundy Town Center will rise on 13 flat acres, created after blasting away more than two-million cubic yards of mountain.  It will feature a pedestrian bridge, a river walk, and a 2-story parking structure with a Wal-Mart sitting on top.  The retail giant will serve as an anchor to new businesses, representing a new identity for Grundy.

 

Chuck Crabtree: Whether you like Wal-Mart or you don’t like Wal-Mart, people go to Wal-Mart. The area around Wal-Marts is the hottest real estate in the country. If Wal-Mart is there, all the other major retailers want to be there—hey, what’s wrong with Wal-Mart?

 

While saying goodbye to a century-old town might provoke a little sadness…there are many who say they won’t shed tears over brick and mortar. After all, these are the people who clean up every time the Levisa spills. Here’s Mary Belcher, with the Buchanan County Chamber of Commerce--

 

 Mary Belcher:  It’s not that we’re cold-hearted about the buildings and history, that part of the history can’t be preserved. That Levisa will rise again.

 

Over at the Italian Village, the popular Grundy eatery which IS staying put, many diners say the same--   it’s just not about buildings and stone, says customer Jim Wayne Childress.

 

Jim Wayne Childress:  I’ve never identified anything in this county by the buildings—it’s by the people, the buildings are just a facility to operate from—you’re dealing with the people in those buildings.

 

But some residents are disgruntled—townspeople have been hammering out this issue and the details for some 20 years—this woman is staying anonymous in her criticism.

 

It’s a big waste of taxpaper money—look around, there’s nothing going on in this town and there’s nothing going on when it’s finished. They ran off most of the business owners.  

 

There is agreement that the decade-long project and the traffic problems it brings create an inconvenience for both residents and the students of Grundy’s growing Appalachian School of Law.  But the payoffs—about 400 new jobs and keeping shoppers and their dollars close to home--  are irrefutable, say local officials. Again, Mary Belcher.

 

Mary Belcher: What do we have to lose by doing this?  We don’t have anything. We have everything to gain.

 

Echoing those sentiments is local Sandy Shortridge—she even wrote a song about it.

           

There’s dreams across the river. That old Mountain’s coming down, we’re going to have a brand new town and there’s dreams across the river for me and you.

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