Friday, May 4, 2012

Blue Ridge Parkway - Did you know?

Did you know:  There are 26 tunnels and 151 bridges on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  
Background Information
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a complex national park with an interesting history. Here are several facts about this national treasure.

Completed in 1987, the Blue Ridge Parkway motor road extends 470.02 miles from Rockfish Gap at the southern end of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Oconaluftee area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. It includes 216.95 miles in Virginia and 253.07 in North Carolina.
The Parkway contains 81,680 acres of Federal land – 46,961 in North Carolina and 34,719 in Virginia.
Construction on the Parkway began September 11, 1935 at Cumberland Knob (Milepost 217.5), which is .6 mile south of the Virginia-North Carolina state line.
The first completed segment of the Parkway motor road is 12 miles between NC 18 and US 21 in Alleghany County, NC.  It opened to traffic in April 1939. The final section was completed in 1987 – 7.5 miles around Grandfather Mountain which included the Linn Cove Viaduct.
At the beginning of construction, the estimated cost was $16.6 million. When the final section was completed 52 years later, some $130 million had been spent on construction. The Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of North Carolina originally acquired rights-of-way for the Parkway and donated them to the Federal government; the Federal government provided funds for design and construction.
The impetus for Blue Ridge Parkway construction was rooted in the Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policy of creating massive public works projects aimed at bringing the country out of the Great Depression. Companies were required to hire as many unemployed local men as possible for the Parkway construction. However, many unemployed were provided work by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a result of the Emergency Work Progress Bill of 1933.
Situated in four CCC camps along the Parkway, these young men enlisted for periods of six months at a time and were paid $1.00 per day, with $25.00 per month sent directly to support their families.
The CCC crews did not work directly on highway construction but were instead assigned to landscape development and construction of structures, trails, and picnic areas.
By 1942 most roadway construction on the Parkway was halted due to World War II and the CCC camps were shut down.
However, during the war three camps of conscientious objectors were assigned to the Parkway. The Civilian Public Service (CPS) program allowed conscientious objectors to perform “public service to humanity” instead of serving in the military. The crews were trained in fire control but spent most of the time grading and seeding road slopes and improving fields and pastures.
Interesting Facts
The Blue Ridge Parkway is a complex national park with an interesting history. Here are several more facts about this national treasure. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited unit of the 391 units of the National Park Service with over 19,000,000 visitors – excluding commuter traffic – each year. That’s more visitors than Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone national parks combined.
Visitors to the Parkway, according to a study done in the late 1990s, spend in excess of $2.3 billion each year in Parkway communities. The Parkway’s annual budget is only $14.3 million dollars. That’s a good return on investment.
The Parkway passes through two states, 29 counties, six Congressional districts, four National Forests (George Washington, Jefferson, Pisgah, and Nantahala), and the Qualla Boundary Cherokee Indian Reservation.
The Parkway has nine campgrounds with a total of 721 tent sites and 351 RV sites. There are 15 developed picnic areas and approximately 275 parking overlooks. 
The motor road crosses 151 bridges and goes through 26 tunnels, 25 of which are in North Carolina. The longest, Pine Mountain Tunnel at milepost 399, is 1,320 feet long.
Concessioners provide visitor services at 11 locations on the Parkway. Overnight lodging can be found at four of these locations and food service at six.
Designated as an All-American Road, the Blue Ridge Parkway’s natural features include spectacular mountain and valley vistas, quiet pastoral scenes, sparkling waterfalls, colorful flowers, and foliage displays. 
Designated as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Parkway is recognized throughout the world as an international example of landscape and engineering design achievements.
The Parkway has approximately 4,000 neighbors. There are 500 agricultural leases that help protect the scenic vistas. In other places, encroachments and developments have had an adverse impact on the visitor experience. The quality of the visitor experience is intertwined with the experience a visitor enjoys while on the Parkway or in a neighboring community. The health of the Parkway and the economic vitality of the adjoining communities are inextricably connected.
The Parkway is more than a road. It is one of the most biologically diverse places in the temperate portion of our planet and is one of the most diverse units (in the top 3) in the National Park Service system. It contains more species of trees than all of Europe and a number of protected plant species. The Parkway is also home to dozens of historic structures. It is a place where visitors come to make memories and enjoy the recreational opportunities that abound there.
The Parkway is owned by all of us. Since most of the threats to the Parkway originate outside its boundaries, we all have a responsibility to provide for its stewardship in partnership with each other. There is no guarantee that the Parkway will continue to always exist. We must take action to provide for a sustainable future.
We must make connections between young people and the natural world. Today, many children are disconnected with the things that we all grew up with. The Parkway is an excellent place for that connection to occur through itsParks As Classrooms
 program or the new program called Healthy Kids Healthy Parks sponsored by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation. 
We can volunteer through the good work of the FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This program engages people of all ages in stewardship activities along the Parkway.
During its 75 years the Parkway has had only eight superintendents: Stanley W. Abbott (acting 1937-1944), Samuel P. Weems (1944-1966), James M. Eden (1966-1968), Granville B. Liles (1968-1975), Joe Brown (1975-1977), Gary E. Everhardt (1977-2000), Daniel W. Brown (2000-2005), and Philip A. Francis (2005 to present).

   Did you know:  The Blue Ridge Parkway remains the most intact example of pre- and post-World War II automotive rural parkway design.

   Did you know:  The Blue Ridge Parkway was designed to connect the Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains national parks.

   Did you know:  The Blue Ridge Parkway boasts the most diverse range of flora and fauna in the entire National Park Service system. 

   Did you know:  There are over 14,000 signs on the Parkway, but no billboards!

  Did you know:  The Claiborne House Bed and Breakfast is 15 miles to three exits/entrances of The Blue Ridge Parkway.  MP 121 being the half way point of this Grand Dame of Scenic Roads in Virginia.

Happy Birthday Blue Ridge Parkway - You might be 77 but you still got it!