On Oct. 6-7, four of the 69 interpretive signs on the new Blue Ridge Heritage Trail will be installed in Watauga County: Mast Farm Inn, Mast General Store, Horn in the West/Hickory Ridge, and Tweetsie Railroad.
The Trail is a collection of special places throughout the North Carolina mountains and foothills that embody the remarkable history and culture of the region. Words and photographs tell an illuminating story about each site and illustrate many aspects of the region’s natural and cultural heritage including that of the Cherokee, traditional music, agriculture, and craft.
Signs will be located along main walkways at historic, natural and scenic sites, attractions, towns and cities, in some state parks, along the Blue Ridge Parkway, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and at five NC Welcome Centers within the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area. (See attached sample.)
The Trail is not a “Point A to Point B” trail, but rather many stops throughout the region. People can enjoy a single stop or piece together several sites by theme or region. QR codes on each sign will enable people with smart phones to locate other nearby sites.
The goal is to encourage people, both visitors and residents, to discover places they may not know about. For example, most travelers know about Cherokee, but may not know how extensive the Cherokee nation’s land once was. They can learn more on signs being installed in the far western part of the region, in places like Robbinsville, Andrews, and Hayesville.
In addition to the signs, the Trail will be enhanced with the installation of five interactive kiosks in NC Welcome Centers at entry points to the BRNHA. The kiosks will help visitors to WNC or people passing through the state discover someplace interesting to explore along the way, encouraging a nearby stop or adding a scenic route.
An accompanying map brochure and website will also help visitors get around the region and learn more about each site.
The project is an initiative of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership and was made possible by Federal Highway Transportation Enhancement funding administered through the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and Haywood County, NC.
“We are very grateful to the NCDOT and Haywood County for helping us develop this signage program,” said Angie Chandler, Executive Director of the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Partnership. “We believe the Blue Ridge Heritage Trail will be yet another cultural tourism product created by the BRNHA to encourage the traveling public to learn more about our region. By visiting these and other heritage sites, we hope they will extend their stay or plan to return, and thus stimulate the regional economy.”
Installation of all signs and the kiosks is expected to be complete by early November.
The Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, designated by Congress and the President in November, 2003, works to protect, preserve, interpret, and develop the unique natural, historical, and cultural resources of Western North Carolina for the benefit of present and future generations, and in so doing to stimulate improved economic opportunity in the region. National Heritage Areas are locally-governed institutions that encourage residents, non-profit groups, government agencies, and private partners to work together in planning and implementing programs that preserve and celebrate America’s defining landscapes.
The views and conclusions contained in this news release are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the opinions or policies of the U.S. Government. Mention of trade names or commercial products does not constitute their endorsement by the U.S. Government.