Virginia Gov. Gerald L. Baliles' wife gave him one for Christmas. The Loudoun County Sanitation Department has requested several.
The Fauquier Democrat newspaper was so incensed that it published an editorial, calling it a "thinly-disguised piece of propaganda" that advocated "dynamiting the landscape into submission."
At issue is "Let's Build a Road!," a coloring book and calendar presented by road builder and developer William A. Hazel Inc. to the children of asphalt-hungry commuters.
The first 5,000 copies distributed to offices and hospitals were snapped up so fast that 2,000 more were ordered, said Jack Hazel, vice president of company operations.
"What a marvelous idea," stated an editorial in The Journal-Messenger, based in Prince William County, where growth has been rampant and roads are often clogged with traffic. The newspaper suggested a sequel about the "world of residential and commercial development."
Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Audrey Moore hadn't seen a copy, but Moore's predecessor, John F. Herrity, suggested that Hazel send a package of calendars to the Virginia Department of Transportation. "If this shows them how to build roads, I think they ought to sit down and read the whole 12 months," Herrity said.
In its editorial, the Fauquier Democrat said, "What is disturbing here is not the fact that an industry wants to explain its business to children -- it is the fact that they are so blatantly promoting roads as good and wonderful things, paths to happiness and sunsets."
"But, as anyone who has graduated from Tonka Toys knows, roads are a major contribution of urban sprawl, congestion, traffic, gridlock, litter, pollution and the tragedy of ever-increasing auto accidents."
Hazel reacted by taking out a quarter-page, bold-type ad in the next edition of the newspaper, urging people to "call or write" for its road building calendar.
"I joked about it," said M. Owen Korsmo, the Fauquier Democrat's editor. "The first time an editorial generated ad revenue."
Korsmo said the editorial "really touched a lot of buttons out here -- people are extremely sensitive to the issue."
Fauquier County, about an hour's drive southwest of Washington, is squarely in the path of development. Yet it is a county whose politics center on efforts to preserve the county's rolling horse pastures and tranquil way of life, and where the connection between new roads and more development is clear.
William A. Hazel, who heads the Hazel company, and his brother, John T. (Til) Hazel, the powerful Fairfax County developer with his own construction company, own several thousand acres of land there.
Jack Hazel said that his company dreamed up the idea for the calendar as a way of explaining its business to children. The firm has built more than 800 miles of roads in Northern Virignia within the past decade or so, and has 150 road projects under way.
The cover of "Let's Build A Road!" depicts a shiny new asphalt road that winds toward a brilliant orange and yellow sunset, framing the letter "H" for "Hazel."
Inside, it explains the 13 steps of road building, from chopping trees to spreading gravel, and discusses the advantages of new roads. It adds: "In the winter, people can use our road to go visit their grandmas and grandpas . . . . And, next summer, we can go to the ocean, or go camping, or have a picnic in the mountains. Aren't you glad we built our road?"
There's also a "Dear Kids" letter from William A. Hazel to the children of Northern Virginia, promising that if they color the village scene and return it to him, he'll send them "a little gift:" Matchbox toy trucks. "They get a loader, and a dozer and a dump truck," said Jack Hazel.