In 1997, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation started as a simple idea: Give those who love the awe-inspiring scenic route the opportunity to protect and guide its future. As the Foundation celebrates its 20th year, it is continuing to bring together donors to support new projects and programs that will have a lasting impact on one of the nation’s most visited national park units.
This year, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is committed to raising funds to address a wide range of projects, including rehab of the Bluffs Coffee Shop at Doughton Park, vista restoration at overlooks, land management planning at Watterock Knob, trail work at Craggy Flats Bald, expansion of a citizen science wildlife camera program, repairs to Sharp Top Shelter, Mabry Mill, and Groundhog Mountain, and more.
“Looking back on 20 years of accomplishments energizes us as we set higher goals and create new ways to support the Blue Ridge Parkway,” said Carolyn Ward, CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. “We’ve created a community of stewards that spurs us forward with their enthusiasm and passion for their park.”
Since its inception, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has worked with donors to invest more than $12 million in critical projects, including cultural and historical preservation, education and outreach, natural resource protection, and enhanced amenities for visitors. Past projects include the construction of restrooms at Graveyard Fields, building of boardwalks on Rough Ridge Trail, the expansion of the Linville Falls Overlook, and the launch of the Kids in Parks program, which introduces families to the health benefits and educational aspects of nature.
To mark the milestone, the Foundation will host a 20th anniversary celebration on Thursday, November 9, at Lioncrest on Biltmore Estate in Asheville. More details will be available soon at www.brpfoundation.org.
Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation 2017 Project List
The Foundation will address the following high priority projects in keeping with its mission to protect, preserve, and enhance the Blue Ridge Parkway. Working with the National Park Service staff at the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Foundation identified the following projects and programs, including initiatives being considered for Centennial Challenge matching funds designated by Congress.
Doughton Park (milepost 240): Mold was recently remediated at the former Bluffs Coffee Shop, and the Foundation is raising funds to complete the next stage of repairs to reopen the facility near Sparta, North Carolina.
Craggy Flats Bald Trail Repairs (milepost 367) – This popular trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway leading from the Craggy Picnic Area to the bald will be restored by a youth crew with the American Conservation Experience. Work will include the removal of encroaching vegetation, elimination of braided trails that damage the habitat, and repairs to areas that contribute to erosion.
Craggy Gardens Visitor Center (milepost 364) – Gifts toward this project will replace faded and outdated interpretive exhibits at Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. New interactive displays will tell the stories of air quality, weather, climate, and vegetation at this high elevation as well as the history of tourism at this location that has attracted visitors for generations.
Wildlife Cameras & Citizen Science: The National Park Service will expand its remote camera project with an additional 25 cameras, 10 GPS units, and other equipment used to gather data about wildlife. The more specialists learn about the creatures that call the Parkway home, the better prepared they are to ensure the safety and management of wildlife. Volunteers will be invited to participate in this program by setting up and retrieving cameras.
Renew the Views: The designers of the Blue Ridge Parkway created 216 overlooks to offer astonishing views of rippling mountain peaks, valleys, and more. Over time, vegetation has obscured many of the original vistas. The Foundation is setting out to clear these overlooks. For a limited time, those who donate $100 or more to the Renew the Views program will receive a lithograph by artist Eric Fitzpatrick.
Waterrock Knob Land Management Planning (milepost 451) – In the summer of 2016, the Blue Ridge Parkway acquired 5,329 acres near Waterrock Knob. In an effort to implement recreational opportunities while protecting the fragile natural resources, the Foundation will work with neighboring communities and stakeholders to plan for the future of this pristine landscape. This project is made possible by grants from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership and the Pigeon River Fund at The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina.
Moses H. Cone Memorial Park (milepost 294) – Anyone who strolls the loop around Bass Lake, rides horseback or hikes the carriage paths, or explores Flat Top Manor makes a connection with this 3,500-acre estate created by denim magnate Moses H. Cone in the early 20th century. The Foundation is continuing its multiyear effort to raise $3 million to address essential repairs and maintenance at Flat Top Manor as well as trail work and landscape restoration for this treasured site listed on the National Register of Historic Places. To date, the Foundation has raised $1.7 million toward its goal.
Bass Lake Comfort Station (milepost 294) – To ensure the restrooms at Bass Lake on the grounds of Moses H. Cone Memorial Park remain open to visitors year-round, the Foundation will fund cleaning and upkeep of the facility.
Blue Ridge Music Center Programming (milepost 213) – Spring through fall, thousands of visitors come to enjoy some of the region’s finest traditional music, including bluegrass, old-time, folk, Americana, and country blues at the venue’s scenic outdoor amphitheater at the base of Fisher Peak. The Blue Ridge Music Center offers free admission to its daily, Midday Mountain Music performances, featuring talented regional pickers and players, and the Roots of American Music Museum, an entertaining and interactive exhibit that explores the region’s rich musical history. Continued support will keep the music alive.
Blue Ridge Music Center Trees & Picnic Tables (milepost 213) – A row of mature trees has just been planted on the hillside of the amphitheater to provide shade for concert-goers and performers on the stage. Additionally, picnic tables will be installed to offer daytime visitors a place to enjoy a meal or take a rest after hiking one of the trails on campus. Donations are still needed for this project.
High Meadow Trail Bridge (milepost 213) – Both the High Meadow Trail and Fisher Peak Loop at the Blue Ridge Music Center were once accessible by a bridge over Chestnut Creek. In 2014, the bridge was washed out by heavy rains and has made access to the trails difficult. With financial backing, the park staff will install a new bridge to allow visitors to cross the creek safely and to protect the habitat along the stream. An anonymous donor has agreed to match donations, dollar for dollar, up to $12,500!
Kids in Parks: This signature program is a network of hiking, biking, paddling and disc golf trails outfitted with free activity guides for children and families. The mission behind these TRACK Trails goes beyond fun; the goals are to encourage kids to be active and help them build meaningful connections with nature. In turn, these goals help inspire the next generation of stewards, who will care for all public lands, including the Blue Ridge Parkway. Donations help expand the network of TRACK Trails to allow greater accessibility for families.
Projects nominated for Centennial Challenge funding
The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is also raising funds to pair with money allocated by Congress to address critical repairs along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway currently has a maintenance backlog with a price tag of more than $500 million. The Centennial Challenge is a national program created to address the backlog affecting National Parks through public and private funding partnerships. Donor gifts will be matched by federal funding. This year’s Centennial Challenge will address the following projects:
Humpback Rocks Farm Preservation (milepost 5.8) – The historical structures at Humpback Rocks Farm provide the chance to experience pioneer life on a late 19th century farmstead. Without repairs to the buildings, Parkway travelers will lose the learning opportunities provided by the site. The project will rehabilitate Ramsey cabin, a chicken house, hog pen, root cellar, and spring house.
Sharp Top Shelter Rehabilitation (milepost 86) – Sharp Top Shelter was built in 1858 as part of the Otter Peaks Hotel to provide rustic overnight lodging for guests willing to make the challenging hike to the summit. The stone building nestled among boulders is greatly deteriorated due to weather exposure and vandalism. With support, the building will be restored to enable interpretive opportunities and provide a safe shelter for hikers during inclement weather.
Mabry Mill & Groundhog Mountain Structural Repairs (milepost 176-188) – With donor support, the Foundation will preserve and protect five historic structures surrounding Mabry Mill and the Groundhog Mountain picnic area. The shake roofs of four of the buildings will be replaced, as well as rotting logs in the historic cabins. Additionally, a leaking flume of the mill water wheel will be repaired. These sites form an outdoor museum that helps interpret and preserve elements of early pioneer life in the region.