It’s the time of year when millions of visitors are eagerly anticipating their next adventure on the Blue Ridge Parkway. As they plan their drive, hike, or camping trip, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is preparing to meet their expectations by funding $600,000 in projects critical to the preservation and betterment of this treasured route.
Each year, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation collaborates with Blue Ridge Parkway staff to identify high priority projects in need of immediate attention to protect the environment and wildlife, prevent deterioration of historic buildings, and improve visitor enjoyment and safety. For 2015, we have identified more than $600,000 in crucial projects and programs, ranging from wildlife research to historic preservation. For instance, without repairs to the crumbling walkways, picnic tables, and fire pits at the Doughton Park Picnic Area (milepost 240). The Foundation will fund the revamp of the area to keep this popular spot open to the public.
“The Blue Ridge Parkway is an incredible place that gives generations of visitors a meaningful connection to the outdoors and our shared history,” said Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation CEO Carolyn Ward. “With the support of our Community of Stewards, we are doing all we can to meet the needs of this beloved journey through our mountains.”
The Foundation is also collaborating with groups such as the Conservation Trust for North Carolina (CTNC) and Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail (FMST) to strengthen our efforts. Through funding by the nonprofit, a youth conservation crew from CTNC will repair trails and campgrounds in the Highlands District. A partnership with FMST will help build a bridge over the Boone Fork near Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
Since 1997, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has contributed more than $7 million to Parkway projects and programs. “The Foundation’s support through the years has helped the park and park visitors in important and meaningful ways,” said Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Mark Woods. “In 2015, the level of support from the Foundation and their Community of Stewards raises the bar for all of us as we work together to provide a high level of service in protecting park resources and providing high quality visitor experiences. We are grateful for their leadership and vision.”
In addition to the Foundation’s 2015 project list, the nonprofit has committed to raise up to $500,000 for the Centennial Challenge, a competitive bid process for funds to be allocated by Congress. A park must have a partner that will match any allocated funds to qualify for this opportunity. As soon as next week, Congress will announce which projects submitted for consideration will receive funding and require a match from the Foundation. There is more news to come on this exciting opportunity.