by Madison V. Fisler
Oct. 16, 2013. Despite the government shutdown closing many national parks around the country, the Blue Ridge Parkway remains open for visitors to drive, hike and explore.
In fact, some High Country businesses are doing their part to help while the federal government remains at a stand-still.
New Horizons Hardscapes, based in Boone, has been helping to keep the trash in the area to a minimum.
“We were out a few weeks ago and we noticed that there was some trash on the trails,” said Cyndi Kirk, co-owner of New Horizons Hardscapes.
“So we decided to put trash cans out to encourage other people to pick up trash along the trails. We knew a lot of people would still be coming out, so we wanted to do something that would help. And we didn’t want any animals getting sick from eating trash.”
Every weekend, the team goes out to check the trash cans and properly dispose of any trash left behind.
“We thought we would to our part to help keep it nice and clean while the government works itself out. When they are ready to take back over we will pick up our trash cans,” Kirk said.
But New Horizons is apparently not the only good samaritan on the Parkway taking matters into their own hands.
“Actually, we went out to check the trash cans yesterday morning, and apparently there is another goodwill patron out there, because someone has been changing out our trash bags before we could get to some of them.”
Parkway visitors should not shy away from coming out and having a great outing in the great outdoors
In fact, the only parts of the Parkway that are closed are the facilities including the welcome centers, restrooms, museums and education centers along the way.
“The facilities are closed, but that isn’t stopping people from coming out,” said Sue Freeman, Director of the Avery County Chamber of Commerce.
“The offices are closed but Park Rangers are still working. You can get up to the Parkway, just pack a lunch and use the facilities before you go.”
The Avery County Chamber of Commerce offices also remain open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily with maps of the parkways and many local publications to help people best enjoy the Parkway and other features of the High Country.
The High Country area seems to be faring much better than other places in the country affected by the government shutdown, according to Charles Hardin, Executive Director of the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce.
“I talked to some people just this week from Gatlinburg, which is on the edge of the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, which is completely closed. They are hurting, but in our case we are very fortunate that the Parkway is still open. We are doing a lot better than many places.”
Despite the shutdown, merchants in Blowing Rock report one of the best Octobers that they have ever had.
“We had a really great week and weekend,” Hardin said. “There has been a good crowd on Main Street all week.”
Though the shutdown has not hurt the High Country as much as other places around the nation, most people are still looking forward to the end of the shutdown so things can get back to normal here in one of the best outdoor adventure destinations in the United States.
“I hope they get it open soon,” Hardin said.
Check out our photos of the Parkway.
All photos by Ken Ketchie