I camped in Dominion’s “right of way” for the ACP, among 300- and 400-year old trees in Bath County
By Mike Tidwell
To fully understand the unbearable insanity of Dominion Energy’s plan to build the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, you’ve got to come here to Bath County, Virginia to see it. I arrived June 29th with half a dozen other activists to launch a colorful, determined and transparent camp of protest designed to last all summer long with hundreds of people like you. When I got here, I promptly set up my tent among 300- and 400-year old sugar maples, basswoods and hickory trees.
Bill and Lynn Limpert, staunch foes of Dominion’s $6 billion pipeline for fracked gas, own one of the most pristine stands of old-growth forests in all of Virginia. Some of the trees are as old as 500 years old. The jaw-dropping hardwood growth covers most of a 3000-foot-long Appalachian ridge that the Limperts appropriately call “Miracle Ridge.” For perspective, there are no old-growth forests like this anywhere in Shenandoah National Park, a crown jewel of the US National Park System. Let that sink in. The Limperts’ 120 acres in Bath County, now in the direct pathway of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, is as pristine and wondrous as any forest in the state. Dominion wants to cut it all down and blow up all of Miracle Ridge — the whole ridge — for the pipeline.
I’ve been lucky in my life. I’ve seen the great Sequoias of California, the Baobabs of Africa, the towering tea trees of Western Australia. But there’s a special magic to the Limperts’ ancient forest. Backpack in tow, I first visited “Ona,” a 300-year-old sugar maple who would be one of the first trees Dominion cuts down. Ona, an old Lithuanian name, has a staggering 15-foot circumference. You stand at her base and look up and see a seemingly infinite expanse of massive, gentle branches cradling entire ecosystems of birds and epiphyte plants and harboring the soft sound of leaves stirring from gentle summer winds. In Ona’s presence, you look up, you look down. Your feet stop moving. You sigh. You want to cry…with a joy you cannot name. You feel the past and the future all at the same time. And you feel utterly present in the miracle reach of this tree almost too big NOT to be a dream.
Ona is just a 10-minute walk from the Limperts’ mountain home. I hope you’ll come see her and this land sometime this summer. The Limperts — Bill 71, Lynn 63 — are inviting concerned people like you and me from across Virginia and the region to come pitch a tent on their soft grass around their home at 3,200 feet of elevation, with a view of vast mountain ranges to the north. It’s a very comfortable place to visit. There’s a wide porch with tables for outdoor cooking. There’s a Jiffy John on the edge of the meadow. You bask in the view, make new friends, drink coffee. You can drive your car right to the home and camp comfortably no matter what your age and how many kids you have.
Or you can walk along a marked trail and camp right in the pipeline right of way, among the giant trees of Miracle Ridge. That’s what I did, with my new friend Jerrod who found the camp online and drove over from Richmond. As the last light of day left the sky, I sat in a camp chair on the ridge and watched all the trees come alive around me, in magical dark silhouettes. They seem even bigger at night, with a soft riot of June fireflies all around them under a full moon and a blanket of stars. How could an energy company — or any company at all — believe that it is right to destroy this ridge and these trees to transport violently drilled fracked gas that will further warm our planet?
Bill Limpert, the friendly, soft-spoken, guitar-playing steward of this land is inviting anyone who cares to come see the forest in person, to spend time as his guest and be part of the biggest environmental fight now going on in Virginia. As Bill says, “A picture is worth a thousand words, but a visit is worth a thousand pictures.”
Please come and join us any time between now and early September. Come for a day hike or come for several days of glorious, convenient, and meaningful camping. Get your picture taken with Ona and share it on social media. Come be part of the back porch letter-writing campaign. Help us invite Governor Northam and members of the State Water Control Board to personally see what their actions or inactions could allow to happen.
I’ll leave you with more words from Bill Limpert. A reporter asked him why he was forming this summer protest camp on his property. “Lynn and I want to save these glorious trees, of course,” he said. “We want to save the ridge and protect the water of our state. But more than anything, we want to use this camp and this pipeline to protest and stop the calamity of climate change. Lynn and I are not youngsters. We’re retired and getting up there in years. But it is our full intention to outlive the fossil fuel industry.”
Let that one sink in too. Don’t you want to be part of this peaceful, principled, spirited fight we’re putting up?
I’ll see you there.