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Protecting NoVA’s country roads

Our SuperNoVA section takes a look at the people and places that make Northern Virginia shine.

Photo by Douglas Graham

The migration of Allen Cochran’s sheep between his pastures through the roads of Lincoln is something not typically seen these days in Loudoun County, but it harkens back to the original agricultural purpose of the area. Chapelle Hill Road, Lincoln Road and Sands Road—Cochran’s typical path—are part of a 265-mile network of dirt roads throughout western Loudoun County that have remained mostly untouched since the late 1700s.

“The roads were designed to help get the product from the mill to the market and to the consumer,” says Doug Graham, a semi-retired photojournalist who has lived in the area since 1985, when the roads totaled more than 500 miles. “It was the birth of Virginia’s rural economy, which, as you know, is the birth of this country’s economy.”

Graham’s love for these roads has led him to try and preserve them. So, along with Loudoun Now’s Danielle Nadler and a group of historians and preservationists, he created America’s Routes, a website launched in November 2018 to educate people on why these roads should be kept as they are so, as Graham puts it, it’s not “Arlington all the way to the mountain.”

Stories like Cochran’s are, right now, the visible part of the project, photographed by Graham and written by Nadler. But the group is currently seeking fundraising so they can tell more stories for a book, craft educational curriculums and add the entire network of roads to the historic register.

“I actually think we might be able to save them,” says Graham. “And out of all the work I did in journalism that I’m so proud of … I think this is going to be the most important work I’ve ever done.”

This post was originally published in our March issue. Subscribe to the print magazine here.

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