Blue Ridge Parkway Seeks Input on Three Courses of Action for Moses H. Cone Developed Area Management Plan

Published Tuesday, January 20, 2015 at 4:39 pm
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During the summer months, visitors can join a ranger for a tour of the second floor of this 20-room, Colonial Revival style mansion (circa 1901). Photo by Peter Morris

 

By Jesse Wood

Jan. 20, 2015. The Blue Ridge Parkway will accept public comments on the environmental assessment for the Moses H. Cone Developed Area Management Plan (DAMP) through February 9, 2015.

The purpose of the DAMP is to “guide the future development and management of the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park,” while the environmental assessment analyzes the potential impacts of of three alternatives presented in the plan.

The three alternatives include a “no-action alternative,” which is a continuation of current management, and two “action alternatives.” Alternative one is the National Park Service’s preference.

In announcing the proposal and the preferred course of action, BRP Supt. Mark Woods said, “We are confident that the direction provided in this plan will provide the Memorial Park with a solid management approach for the future … This alternative recognizes that we have opportunities for interpretation, rehabilitation, and collaboration that we want to take advantage of in a focused way going forward.”

Photo by Peter Morris

Moses Cone Memorial Park features 24 miles of carriage roads. Photo by Ken Ketchie

Pulled from the plan, see a synopsis of the three alternatives below.

To review the entire document that is 200-plus pages, click to the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website here.

Comments can be made online at the link above or written comments may be submitted to Blue Ridge Parkway, ATTN: Suzette Molling, 199 Hemphill Knob Road, Asheville, NC 28803.

Officials with the Blue Ridge Parkway mentioned that comments will be used to prepare the final proposal and impact analysis and these comments, which are typically treated as public record, are available for public review.


 

THE NO-ACTION ALTERNATIVE (CONTINUE CURRENT MANAGEMENT)

The no-action alternative represents a continuation of existing management and trends at the Memorial Park and provides a baseline for comparison in evaluating the changes and impacts of the other action alternatives. The National Park Service would continue to manage the Memorial Park as it is currently being managed, but there is not a comprehensive park-wide resource and visitor use management direction for setting priorities. Resource and visitor use issues and conflicts would continue to be resolved on a case-by-case basis without the guidance of an agreed upon park-wide management strategy.

The Flat Top Manor House would continue to be managed primarily as a craft and book sales shop and the Memorial Park as a recreational area. Managers would continue to adjust daily management practices to respond to current laws and policies, natural and cultural resource management mandates, visitor safety needs, infrastructure deficiencies, fiscal constraints, and changes in visitor use patterns and characteristics.

The extant features of the Memorial Park–the Flat Top Manor House, carriage house, apple barn, carriage trails and Bass and Trout Lakes would continue to be the focus for NPS management and the backdrop for the visitor’s use and experience. Visitors would continue to receive current levels of ranger led programs with some potential additions of interpretive wayside exhibits along trails and at Memorial Park buildings. Little would be changed in the current levels of park operations and visitor use support as long as current funding level is maintained and adjusted for inflation.

Both cultural and natural resource management activities would continue to be directed to treat some of the Memorial Park areas as historic/cultural landscapes while other areas would be conserved in their now more natural condition. Existing natural and cultural resources would be managed in accordance with NPS policies while perpetuating traditional recreational uses. The agricultural lease program would continue to be the preferred way in which pastures and the meadows are maintained.

The approximately 24 miles of carriage roads, now managed as trails, would continue to be a primary focus of recreation activities on the estate. No new uses would be allowed. The Flat Top Manor House, carriage roads, Bass and Trout Lakes, and the Flat Top Mountain destinations of the Cone Cemetery and an observation tower comprise the current overall NPS provided visitor experience.

Bouldering would continue at China Orchard area and a new horse trailer parking area would be created adjacent to the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show grounds accessed by Laurel Lane and US 221.

ALTERNATIVE ONE (ENHANCE WHAT WE HAVE), NPS PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE

Alternative One (Enhance What We Have) has been identified as the National Park Service’s preferred management approach. This action alternative provides a park-wide and comprehensive approach for resource and visitor use management. Specific management zones detailing acceptable resource conditions, visitor experience and use levels, and appropriate activities and development would be applied park-wide.

Alternative One’s focus is on the Memorial Park being managed as a “Learning Center,” a place for an in- depth interpretive and visitor use program that promotes public understanding and appreciation of the extended Cone Family, their estate and the far reaching influence they had regionally and nationally.

The primary change in the Memorial Park’s infrastructure would be in the expansion of the current parking area behind the Flat Top Manor House. Existing historic structures, landscape areas and features would provide the necessary facilities and places for the Memorial Park to be managed as a “Learning Center.” Educational programs, personal services and visitor activities would be supported by adaptively using existing structures rather than constructing new facilities.

The historic buildings and only the most intact parts of the historic landscape–meadows, lakes, orchards, and conifer plantations would continue to be maintained at current levels. Flexible use of historic structures and cultural landscapes would be encouraged to facilitate increased educational and interpretive services and traditional recreation uses for visitors. Natural resources would be managed to allow natural succession to continue on areas that have gone unattended. Sensitive natural areas would be managed in accordance with NPS policies.

Primary visitor services would continue at the Flat Top Manor House. Structures’ interior spaces may be modified to accommodate interpretive exhibits that facilitate visitors overall understanding of the Cone family, the estate and their influence beyond the boundaries of the park. A business opportunity would continue in the lower floor of the Flat Top Manor House to provide a sales area. Park education programs would be conducted both on and off-site with a strong focus on web-based outreach to a global audience.

Bouldering would continue at China Orchard area and a new horse trailer parking area would be created adjacent to the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show grounds accessed by Laurel Lane and US 221.

Full implementation of this alternative would require some modest additional capital investment and operations increases that are not programmed at this time. Funding this alternative would also require some private/public partnerships through donations, grants, in-kind services, volunteers, etc.

Recommendations within the EA to be implemented would impact the Memorial Park within the lands administered by the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Memorial Park was originally known as Flat Top Manor and was one of North Carolina’s premier country estates. Built by textile magnate Moses H. Cone and his wife, Bertha, at the turn of the 20th century, the estate features some 26 miles of carriage roads, manmade lakes, remnant apple orchards and a 23-room manor house. The National Park Service acquired the estate in 1950, managing it as a part of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

ALTERNATIVE TWO (CULTURAL LANDSCAPE REHABILITATION)

This action alternative also provides a park-wide and comprehensive approach for resource and visitor use management. Specific management zones detailing acceptable resource conditions, visitor experience and use levels and appropriate activities and development would be applied park-wide.

Alternative Two’s focus is on the estate’s period of significance from 1899 to 1947 and it concentrates on the Cones and their Country Place Era estate and their life there. A much expanded interpretive and visitor use program would focus the public’s understanding and recognition of the historic importance of the Cone estate with its historic structures and designed landscapes. A combination of adaptive use and new construction would be used to provide the necessary infrastructure and facilities to support this concept. This would result in rehabilitation of the Memorial Park to include preservation of extant resources, rehabilitation of the cultural landscape, and interpretation of the cultural landscape, buildings and features found on the estate from 1899 to 1947.

Educational programs, personal services and visitor activities would be supported by utilizing the Flat Top Manor House as a visitor center. No craft concessioner space would be provided in the Flat Top Manor House or on the estate. Special events would be managed according to NPS policy for all areas of the Memorial Park. Building and grounds rehabilitation and construction would be made based upon interpretive and educational needs; special events may be considered in facilities or rehabilitated grounds, however, these must be in accordance with NPS policy. Recreation would focus on the traditional recreational uses envisioned by the Cones; the exceptions being the allowance of bouldering at China Orchard and public fishing at Bass Lake. A new horse trailer parking area would be created adjacent to the Blowing Rock Charity Horse Show grounds accessed by Laurel Lane and US 221.

Full implementation of this alternative would require significant additional capital investment and operations increases that are not programmed at this time. Funding this alternative would require substantial funding and volunteer involvement of private and academic sector partnerships including funding donations, grants, in – kind services, volunteers, etc.

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