Snickersville Turnpike Association
Loudon County, Virginia
The Snickersville Turnpike, Route 734 in Loudoun County, Virginia is one of three area turnpikes built in the early 1800s. The historic features of the road include the site of a Civil War skirmish and monument, stone walls, and a bridge dating from the 1840’s.
Who got involved:
Citizens were concerned that the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) plans for the road could threaten its historic character. The Snickersville Turnpike Association (STA) formed in 1994 in response to a VDOT plan to widen and straighten a portion of the road. Citizens established the STA to protect the historical integrity and scenic beauty of the Snickersville Turnpike.
In response to the VDOT plan to widen and straighten the first 1.7 miles of the road, citizens opposed to the plans packed public meetings to voice their concerns. STA initiated letter writing campaigns and hosted a public rally along the route. To raise awareness, STA set up booths at fairs in the surrounding areas where they documented public opposition to VDOT plans with signed petitions and even found support from tourists. STA also conducted their own road survey and traffic count to counter those of VDOT. These efforts yielded a very positive outcome: VDOT did repave the section of road, but did so without destroying trees or stone walls. While the citizens did have to concede to some elements of the road design they found inappropriate, the final road design was a better fit with the character of Snickersville Turnpike.
The STA has found that they frequently disagree with VDOT on appropriate road design for the Turnpike. Loudoun County, local media, and the surrounding communities support the goals of the STA. The STA has also been visible at public hearings and convinced the local government to hire a consultant to draft alternatives for appropriate road and bridge improvements. To increase awareness and build support for road preservation, the STA has hosted multiple rallies complete with street theater incorporating Civil War reenactments. Jane Smith of STA explains that “rallies get the public behind” an alternative plan and have increased awareness. The presence and support of local officials is also important at the rallies. When pressure on the state DOT officials is unsuccessful, the STA has spearheaded letter-writing and e-mail campaigns to the Secretary of Transportation and to the Governor of Virginia.
In an ongoing struggle with VDOT, the STA continues to work to protect the character of the road and prevent the removal of beautiful roadside trees, the destruction of old stone walls, and any widening or realignment, while still protecting the quality and safety of the road. Most recently, VDOT has proposed to replace the 21-foot Hibbs Bridge with a wider, 28-foot, two-lane bridge they say will be safer. In June 1999, the STA hosted a “rally for Hibbs Bridge.”
The work of STA is ongoing as they continue to advocate for sensitive treatment of the Snickersville Turnpike. “When it comes down to it, the citizens own the roads!” says Jane Smith. The STA efforts seek to remind VDOT officials of this fact and halt road construction that threatens Snickersville’s historic integrity.