Letters to the editor

Posted: April 17, 2014

The ‘elusive’ tourist?

I read with interest the Open Forum letter submitted by Chris Fordney (April 11). Who is right and who is wrong in the debate between mountain bikers and the administration at Third Winchester Battlefield is not mine to decide. What I do take issue with is the writer’s assertion that there is very little public interest in history, or at least in Civil War history.

The writer, to bolster his argument against Third Winchester’s decisions, claims the Civil War tourist is “elusive,” basing his opinion upon two summers of volunteer work at the Kernstown Battlefield in Winchester. It does not take a scientist or a pollster to know that one should not base a conclusion upon old or a very narrow sampling of data.

Mr. Fordney’s volunteerism at the Kernstown, if I recall correctly, was about 10 years ago and consisted of perhaps two weekends each season. The property had only recently been opened to the public, and awareness of its vital history — both Civil War and colonial dating back to the early 1700s — was just beginning to be known by local, national and international visitors.

Last summer, in 2013, the Kernstown Battlefield hosted some 2,400 visitors intent upon viewing the near-pristine site of two Civil War battles and a portion of a third. They came for a variety of reasons: to see and learn about vital events in our history and often to visit the very site their ancestors had trod, fought, and perhaps even died.

These individual visitors, plus numerous large tour groups, came for a specific historical reason, but thousands of others came for other events such as the Handley and Shenandoah University’s cross-country races held here, or the very popular Easter Egg Hunt and the Follow the Star programs held upon the open vistas. While here, the visitors and students also learned about the very interesting Civil War events right here in their own backyard. Many have returned during non-event times to see and study and “feel” the history on these hills and fields.

From the opening in 2001 with little public awareness to today’s popularity, there is a vastly different conclusion to be drawn about the Civil War interest here and nationwide. Our visitors are acutely interested in learning about and teaching their children about our nation’s history, in their own family history and how they interact. This battlefield and others such as Third Winchester are serving as perfect venues and magnets for thousands of visitors annually.

Gary Crawford

President

Kernstown Battlefield Association

What ‘Busy Bees’

Literacy Volunteers-Winchester Area would like to thank Jim Stutzman Chevrolet Cadillac and Loudoun Mutual Insurance Company for their generous sponsorship ensuring another successful Adult Spelling Bee.

We also want to thank the other businesses and individuals who supported our event through sponsorship or team registration. Because of the generosity of our community, we were able to have our most successful Bee to date. We raised more than $15,000.

Held in the beautiful Fellowship Hall of First Presbyterian Church, 10 teams of willing adults got on a stage to spell their hearts out for a great organization. The Valley Health “Healthy Bees” won this year with the word “jacaranda,” a type of plant.

The biggest thing to remember is why all these adults took the time to come and spell in front of everyone to begin with — to help those adults who cannot.

Without basic reading, writing, math, and computer skills, adults struggle to find jobs, stay healthy, and support their families. Illiteracy or low literacy in adults has a direct impact in the community with unemployment, utilization of health-care services, and the academic achievement of children.

A mother’s reading level is a significant determinant of the academic success of her children, even when other factors, such as family income and neighborhood are considered. According to a National Institutes of Health report, “programs designed to increase the educational achievement of children from low-income neighborhoods would be more successful if they provided education to parents at the same time” (National Institutes of Health, 2010).

There are many ways you can make an impact on your community through Literacy Volunteers. Consider supporting our organization by volunteering, making a donation, helping plan, or coming to our events. Remember, a parent is a child’s first teacher.

Bonnie Flax

Board Member, LV-WA