The Albemarle Blue Ridge Heritage Project on Wednesday introduced the first portion of a monument for families who were displaced from their land years ago to make way for part of a national park in the county.
The first phase of the monument, a nonfunctioning chimney, is underway at Patricia Ann Byrom Forest Preserve Park and features a plaque with the last names of families who were removed from the land around the 1930s to create Shenandoah National Park.
The site is on Albemarle County land in the White Hall District of the county, approximately 45 minutes from Charlottesville.
Paul Cantrell, of the Albemarle Blue Ridge Heritage Project’s steering committee, said the purpose of the monument is part of an effort to recognize and honor the heritage of the landowners, as well as tenants and caretakers, who once lived on the land. It’s also designed to resemble what might have stood in that area at the time when people still lived on the land.
“What we’re doing here today is we’re trying to honor the people from Albemarle County who were displaced when they created Shenandoah National Park,” he said.
The Albemarle County project is one of many proposed by the Blue Ridge Heritage Project, a nonprofit group of volunteers working to recognize the individuals and families in the surrounding counties who were displaced from their land in order to create Shenandoah National Park. Those eight counties are Albemarle, Augusta, Greene, Madison, Page, Rappahannock, Rockingham and Warren.
According to an entry on Shenandoah National Park’s website about the displacement, that park was put together from more than 3,000 tracts of land that were purchased or condemned by Virginia and given to the federal government in the 1930s. Approximately 500 families were displaced in the process, according to the park’s website.
The chimney and plaque are the first phase in the Albemarle County project. The second phase consists of a shelter adjacent to the chimney that will include additional information about the project and history of the area.
“That shelter is going to have information panels in it to talk a little bit about that heritage and also be a place where we can host cultural events, music … and invite people out so that we can keep that alive for future generations,” Cantrell said.
The fundraiser goal for the project is $25,000, according to the Albemarle Blue Ridge Heritage Project’s website. So far, $7,320 has been raised from several individual donations.
In addition to that total, the Albemarle County project received a $2,000 donation from the Charlottesville Area Association of Realtors that is going toward phase two of the project, Cantrell said.
Of that $2,000, CAAR communications chairman Jack Crocker said $1,500 came from a grant they applied for through the National Association of Realtors, and the remaining $500 came from CAAR. The additional money was added to match the $2,000 contribution CAAR made to a similar project for the Blue Ridge Heritage Project in Madison County.
“It’s just a way to honor the people and the families that made a sacrifice when they were displaced back in the ’30s,” Crocker said.
Ann H. Mallek, supervisor for the White Hall District, attended Wednesday’s event and said an important aspect of this project is that it’s “a healing effort” and that it’s “really bringing some comfort and some closure in a way to the descendants of the families.”
“It’s a missing gap in our history, and so having this here will really help to tell the story and to help new people learn about it, and longtime residents, as well,” she said.
Cantrell said the Albemarle Blue Ridge Heritage Project is still looking for more information about any other families or tenants and caretakers who lived in the area at the time of the displacement.
“Land records exist, so people who were owners in the park, we basically have those names,” he said. “But people who were tenants and caretakers of property up there, a lot of those names are not in any type of formal record.”
More information about the Albemarle Blue Ridge Heritage Project can be found at blueridgeheritageproject.com/albemarle.