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The appointment by Gov. McDonnell to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation board of directors of a man who disparages the mission of the state's parks and campgrounds raises eyebrows
Is this William Small's view of a Virginia Park Service volunteer?
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PRIVATE CAMPGROUND owner William Small's recent appointment to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation board of directors, given his well-known views about the agency's mission, raises serious questions about Gov. Bob McDonnell's managerial judgment. It is a little as though the governor had picked the hag in the candy house to baby-sit Hansel and Gretel.
During the last session of the Virginia General Assembly, identical bills before each chamber would have required Virginia State Parks to set their campground fees at or above those of nearby private campgrounds. The bills were introduced in the House by Republican Peter Farrell, who represents Louisa and parts of neighboring counties, and in the Senate by Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania) and Thomas Garrett (R-Louisa). They were requested by Mr. Small, owner of the private Small Country Campground in Louisa County.
The legislation immediately raised concerns among other lawmakers, Virginia Parks officials, and others who cherish a state park system that is recognized both as one of the nation's finest and most frugal. Virginia may be a business-friendly state, but requiring state campgrounds to raise their fees arbitrarily so as not to undercut the private competition nearby seemed dubious on its face.
Note that the Virginia (private) Campground Association, with 65 members, was on record against the legislation, and that Mr. Small was able to garner support for the legislation from no more than 16 individuals in its ranks. There are 1,800 Virginia-run campsites vs. more than 10,000 private ones operated by VCA members.
The House bill, introduced Jan. 19, was sentenced to limbo in subcommittee less than two weeks later. Del. Farrell then withdrew it. Days later, Sens. Reeves and Garrett withdrew their companion legislation.
Before the Senate version was pulled, Mr. Small fired off a letter to Del. Farrell on Jan. 29, lamenting his abandonment of the legislation:
"According to the website of the Virginia Association for Parks, you caved in to pressure from those socialist leeches that want FREE and SUBSIDIZED camping," he wrote. "These are the same anti-business pukes that clamor for more and more high-dollar campsites, cabins, marinas, horse trails, amphitheaters, sports fields, and other facilities AT TAXPAYERS' EXPENSE."
The letter next disparages the state's overall investment in the parks and the recurring and rising expense of staffing and maintaining them. Mr. Small also points out that unlike the state's corps of volunteers who offer their services to the parks, businesses like his employ and pay people who in turn contribute taxes to state government.
Mr. Small demanded that Del. Farrell reconsider. "Otherwise we don't know how you can honestly call yourself a pro-growth, pro-business, pro-jobs conservative," he concluded.
The administration defends the Small appointment despite admitted prior knowledge of the letter. The big question: Why would the governor appoint to the DCR board a person who views its agency's mission and personnel with antipathy and contempt?
It's a question Mr. McDonnell needs to answer--or obviate by telling Mr. Small to scoot.