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Nelsonite to Become Virginia State Rock

Nelsonite

Photo from Nelsonsite State Rock Initiative

Many great and beautiful innovations hail from the land of Nelson County…Wintergreen Ski Resort, the inspiration for the TV show The Waltons, the ginger gold apple variety, a sea of craft breweries, wineries, and distilleries, and now…Virginia’s state rock. The Virginia State Senate voted to make Nelsonite the Commonwealth’s state rock. On Friday, April 1 Governor McAuliffe signed off on the decision; the bill becomes law on July 1.

The bill’s passage is the result of a community effort which germinated at Piedmont Virginia Community College. PVCC’s political science and geology departments came together in what was initially supposed to be an exercise, a way to experience firsthand the process of introducing legislation to Virginia’s Congress. But the Nelsonite State Rock Initiative had other plans. The group demonstrated steadfast tenacity, and so what began as an innocuous attempt to illuminate students about the mechanism of legislative government became a community-driven initiative, supported by people from all over land in central Virginia. All due to the hard work of three honors geology students and one political science student (who happens to be a 54-year old woman headed to UVa to complete her bachelor’s degree in the fall!)

Nelsonite (named after Nelson County, Virginia, naturally) is a fairly scarce intrusive igneous rock, consisting of mostly ilmenite, rutile, and apatite. It’s mostly black or dark grey, with white and tan speckles. It was deposited on land in Nelson, Roseland, and Amherst over a billion years ago, and is considered a rare earth element. It also occurs in Washington State, Quebec, China, and Canada. It’s got a rich economic history in the 20th century, having been mined a lot by the banks of the Piney River (on land in Nelson County) and other similar areas. It provided an ample source of titanium for paint pigments and steel alloys, and for the calcium phosphate used in artificial teeth and fertilizer. Many historians credit the rock with boosting Virginia’s economy in the early 20th century. It’s still very economically viable in both China and Canada, where they too refer to it as Nelsonite. The movement to officially recognize Virginia’s love affair with Nelsonite gained a steady stream of momentum after Virginia State Geologist David Spears supported the choice. At the annual 2015 Virginia Field Geologists Conference, it won a unanimous vote to be chosen as the state rock.

The Nelsonite bill’s passage was fairly prompt due to more contentious issues before the Congress, such as the difficulty of Virginia’s State Senate to choose a new VA Supreme Court Justice. If you think there are more important issues in front of Congress than rocks, you’re probably right. But the Nelsonite State Rock Initiative asks a rhetorical question that rings true. “With the severity of the problems in the world and the ever-growing demand to face and resolve these issues, is it a waste of time to be focusing on symbolic elements such as state beverages, state flags, state mottos, or even state rocks? Absolutely not.” No matter how symbolic, actions like these are a reflection of community and a celebration of Virginia’s rich heritage. We here at Gayle Harvey Real Estate have to agree.

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