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Loudoun Times Mirror: Blue Ridge candidate Walbridge pitches proposals to support rural economy

By Nathaniel Cline

Blue Ridge supervisor candidate Tia Walbridge announced Thursday two proposals specifically to support western Loudoun and the rural economy.

Her plans call for supporting conservation, the environment and agriculture by creating a public-private partnership to build a Loudoun farmers’ market near the county’s new Metro stations. The Democratic nominee is also proposing to create a new county Natural Resources Department. Currently, the Loudoun County Department of Building and Development oversees any such initiatives.

“Now more than ever, state and local governments need to step up to create their own strategies to preserve our natural resources,” Walbridge said in a prepared statement. “Loudoun, a county comprised of rural, suburban, and urban regions and often in the national spotlight, is uniquely suited to become a leader in local environmental stewardship. It’s time our county stepped up to the plate.”

Creating a new department would require the reorganization of a number of county offices within General Services, Zoning, Building and Development, and Parks and Recreation, campaign officials said. The focus will be “to maximize government efficiency, reduce wasteful spending, and put teeth behind environmental policies and programs by housing them within a specific department and assigning staff to implement and manage them.”

Walbridge said most surrounding counties have established programs or offices dedicated to protecting their natural resources.

“Loudoun is an anomaly,” she said. “When successful, environmental policies enacted at the local level can be scaled up to state and national levels.”

As for preserving the rural economy and protecting local farmers, Walbridge proposes establishing a farmers’ market near the Metro to connect western Loudoun producers with eastern consumers.

Walbridge said setting a radius within which producers are considered “local” is one way to maximize support to local farmers, and she floated giving local producers prime locations within the market and charging local producers a smaller fee for participation.

“As western Loudoun agricultural lands continue to erode, preserving its rural economy will require a multifaceted approach. In addition to putting in place policies and programs to preserve the land itself, county officials should actively support local farmers and farm-based businesses, like farmers’ markets,” Walbridge said.


You can view Thursday night's debate between Walbridge and incumbent Blue Ridge Supervisor Tony Buffington (R) by clicking here.

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