Change the name of Little River?

Ice in the Little River and snow alongside: Winter in the Blue Ridge
Little River in Floyd County

A debate on local social media highlights an issue that communities like Floyd face: A desire of those who move to a community and want to change it.

This latest debate started over a suggestion to change the name of Little River to Tutelo River to honor the Native American tribe that once called this area home.

This has brought out those who don’t like newcomers coming into Floyd County and start changing things.

I first ran into this kind of debate in South Carolina while working on a project in Hilton Head Island. A popular joke on that exclusive retirement community started with “Hilton Head would be a great place to live if we only had (insert name) here.”

More than one retiree noted that “if we get a Starbucks in Hilton Head, I’m outa here.”

When we moved to Floyd County in 2004 — a return for me after a 39-year absence — the population of Floyd stood at 434 residents. In 1965, the year I left, it was 435. That, I told wife Amy, was a symbol of how little had changed in 39 years.

Yet, Floyd County has changed dramatically, especially in recent years. Sustainable farming, tourism, downtown renovation, new businesses in and old ones out. Our county government is considering using solar power to heat county schools.

One can order a mixed drink at restaurants in the Courthouse District, joining Little River in that change, or a bottle of liquor at the ABC store. New restaurants have come — and some old and new ones have closed. Mexican and Italian meals are available for diners.

In the debate over changing the name of Little River, someone said what Floyd really needs is a Chinese restaurant. My wife would second that request. A sushi bar is planned for part of the new construction at the Winter Sun on South Locust.

Some bemoan the arrival of national chains to the county. Dollar General now has stores in Floyd and Check and is looking to build a third in Willis. Food Lion, Hardees, Subway, Pizza Inn and Family Dollar are here.

Floyd has had national retail outlets in the past: A Ben Franklin five and dime, a Western Auto, a Piggly Wiggly and a Sears Catalog store. Of course, the town also had shirt and knitting factories and three new car dealerships.

With change come problems: The county’s crime rate is up and Floyd County often has more than 100 inmates in the New River Valley Jail in Dublin. Taxes are climbing, although real estate taxes remain lower than in most areas of Virginia.

Which brings us back to the discussion over whether or not to change the name of Little River to one that is more socially conscious and recognizes the ones who originally settled in our part of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwestern Virginia.

Two forks of the Little River rise near the Blue Ridge Parkway and flow Northwest and out of the county — as all water does — before joining the New River just downstream of the Claytor Lake Dam.

As rivers go, it is relative short, just 65 miles, and flows along the Floyd-Montgomery County and Montgomery County lines. A number of businesses use the river’s name, as does roads.

Floyd knows a thing or two about name change. The community was originally called Jacksonville. The river that flows from the Blue Ridge Parkway to the New River near Radford was called Little River when the Floyd had another name.

Should the name of the river be changed? That’s debatable. Will it be changed? That’s debatable. Change comes slowly in those parts.

Change, however, come: Some good; some bad; some inconsequential.

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© 2021 Blue Ridge Muse