The Blue Ridge Parkway has announced that $710,035 will be directed to addressing critical repairs along the 469-mile corridor. The Parkway and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation are receiving these funds through the NPS Centennial Grant Program, which includes $26 million for restoration projects at national parks around the country, including $16 million from non-governmental partners. The Parkway projects will improve visitor services, support outreach to new audiences, and strengthen partnerships reinvigorating connections to park communities.
Parkway Superintendent Mark Woods describes this announcement as momentous. “These projects will not only help us reestablish high levels of public service in some areas with serious needs, they are a wonderful model for leveraging public and private funds to advance the Parkway in ways that would not be possible otherwise. Private, local support has been instrumental throughout the history of the National Park Service; it will continue to be critical to the future success of parks and their mission of protecting the country's natural and cultural resources for future generations.”
Protecting the Parkway is an immense undertaking; fortunately the Blue Ridge Parkway has a strong tradition of partnerships and private support. Every dollar awarded to the Parkway as part of this Centennial initiative will be matched by private donations through the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. Carolyn Ward, Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation CEO, states, “Our goal is to work hand-in-hand with the Parkway, providing financial support that ensures protection of resources and a high quality experience for visitors now and long into the future. Because of this matching opportunity, Parkway supporters can double the impact of every dollar they donate through the Foundation, up to the promised match amount.” Funding for these projects is in addition to the Foundation's support of other critical projects in 2015, and brings the nonprofit's total impact on Parkway improvements to $1.25 million this year.
Among the projects will be replacing amenities and repave walkways at Price Park Campground and Picnic Area at Milepost 297. When this project is complete, visitors will enjoy upgrades to a number of picnic tables, fire grills, and walkways at one of the Parkway's most popular picnic areas and campgrounds. The project will repave the walkways and remedy the poor condition of existing amenities at the site, improving the safety and overall experience for visitors. This area is very popular due to the high elevation, scenic views, and natural resources.
Other projects include:
Rehabilitate Abbott Lake Trail for Accessibility
Milepost 86 – This project will complete repaving of the one-mile loop around the lake. Youth conservation crews will help clear vegetation in preparation for the paving project. The bridge nearest the Peaks of Otter Lodge will be converted from an arched to flat span. This spot, which welcomes more than 200,000 visitors each year, will be the first complete ADA trail along the Parkway in Virginia.
Repair and Restore Historic Polly Woods Ordinary
Milepost 86 – Polly Woods Ordinary, one the few remaining features of 18th century settlement in the Peaks of Otter area, was an early tourist destination. The Ordinary presents a glimpse of an early lodge and tavern and fascinates visitors because of its size remoteness. This historic structure has deteriorated significantly in recent years and repair and rehabilitation of the site will ensure it continues to be a destination and provides educational opportunities for future generations.
Rehabilitate Mount Pisgah Amphitheater
Milepost 408 – A lot has changed since 1960, but not at the Mount Pisgah Amphitheater. The facility is long overdue for new bench seats, upgrades to the electrical system, and ADA accessibility to allow all visitors with the enjoyment of interpretive programs and events. With crowds of visitors each year, the amphitheater is a spot deserving of a fresh start.
Repair and Restore Historic Structures at Johnson Farm
Milepost 86 – The historic structures at Johnson Farm provide unique insight into Appalachian farm life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The project will rehabilitate and stabilize the historic farmhouse, barn, meat house, spring house, and corn crib at this highly visited site providing continued interpretive and learning opportunities that would otherwise be lost due to deterioration of the site.
To qualify for Centennial Challenge Grants, projects needed to demonstrate that they provided for authorized activities benefitting one or more National Park System units, contributed towards the Director's Call to Action Centennial goals, required little or no additional recurring NPS operating or maintenance funds to be sustainable, did not include the construction of new facilities; and have a partner who was ready, willing, and able to contribute at least 50% of the project. Once submitted projects that were highly evaluated included more than a 1:1 match, impacted multiple parks, included a contribution to Centennial goals, particularly youth engagement, and addressed high priority deferred maintenance needs.
The Centennial Challenge Grants are part of a multiyear effort to prepare for the 2016 Centennial of the National Park Service including the Find Your Park Campaign which connects a broader audience to public lands and President Obama's Every Kid in a Park initiative that will give every fourth grader and their families free access to federal public lands and waters for a full year, beginning this fall.
Information about visiting the Parkway and park operations is available at www.nps.gov/blri. Information about getting involved in these and other Parkway projects supported by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is available at www.brpfoundation.org.