Each year, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation works closely with the National Park Service to select vital initiatives that will better connect visitors with the Parkway’s natural wonders and history and sustain the park for generations to come. In 2018, those projects include new exhibits at Waterrock Knob Visitor Center, remote sensors to protect species vulnerable to poaching, historical structure repairs at multiple interpretive sites, new trail experiences for families, and more.
The Foundation is asking supporters to fund $1,518,165 toward 2018 improvements and programs. Included in that total is the ongoing campaign for Moses H. Cone Memorial Park at Blowing Rock and the reopening of Bluffs Restaurant at Doughton Park near Sparta. These projects are part of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s efforts to preserve the important historical and cultural landmarks along the Parkway, the most visited national park unit.
“The National Park Service relies on support from partners, like the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, to meet our mission of the long-term protection of the park’s natural and cultural resources,” says J.D. Lee, Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway. “We are so grateful to the Foundation and its donors who are also passionately committed to this stewardship vision. Their support of these projects speaks to the wide variety of opportunities to engage with and enjoy the Parkway.”
On the list of improvements are new family-friendly Kids in Parks trail adventure guides at Rocky Knob/Mabry Mill and the James River Visitor Center in Virginia. At the southern end of the Parkway, the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center will welcome travelers with newly designed exhibits that highlight the deeper story behind this pristine landscape, including its ties to Cherokee history and the rare plants that call this place home. Law enforcement rangers will receive effective new antipoaching tools to expand their capacity to monitor vulnerable plant and animal populations.
“Our projects fall into four categories, cultural and historical preservation, natural resource protection, education and outreach, and visitor enjoyment,” explains Carolyn Ward, CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. “Not only is it a holistic approach to addressing the Parkway’s needs, it helps donors support the aspects of the scenic route that mean the most to them as individuals.”
Gifts for three projects will be matched by Centennial Challenge grants designated by Congress: repairs and graffiti removal at Sharp Top Shelter near Peaks of Otter, structural rehabilitation at Humpback Rocks Farm in Virginia, and repairs to stone walls at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park. Stone work and log replacement projects are already underway at Humpback Rocks Farm, and work will begin at Sharp Top Shelter this summer.
Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation 2018 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.
Education and Outreach
TRACK Trails on the Parkway
Mileposts 63 & 176, Virginia | Goal: $16,000
The Kids in Parks program got its start in 2009 with the opening of the first TRACK Trail at the Asheville Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Today, there are five trails along the route that engage children and their families with the outdoors through activity brochures. With funding, adventure guides will be added at fascinating Parkway sites in Virginia: Rocky Knob/Mabry Mill and the James River Visitor Center.
New Exhibits at Waterrock Knob Visitor Center
Milepost 451, North Carolina | Goal: $38,005
The Waterrock Knob Visitor Center near Cherokee, N.C., occupies a unique position on the Parkway, having the potential to be either the first or last stop for travelers. The National Park Service will install fresh exhibits to replace the current time-worn displays that feature outdated information. The stations and displays will impart information about the surrounding mountains of the Southern Highlands, the role of conservation in maintaining their pristine beauty, Cherokee history and culture, biodiversity resulting from such high elevations, and the impact of invasive pests, primarily the balsam woolly adelgid.
Bluffs at Doughton Park
Milepost 241, North Carolina| Remaining goal: $250,000
The goal of reopening Bluffs Restaurant at Doughton Park near Sparta, N.C., is closer to a reality thanks to the support of individuals and groups. Last year, the North Carolina General Assembly appropriated $350,000 toward building repairs. The Appalachian Regional Commission recently provided a $300,000 grant to purchase updated restaurant equipment and furniture. In the past, the significant cost of new equipment and repairs deterred potential concession applications. The Foundation is seeking donations to secure the final $250,000 needed to rehabilitate of this former gathering place and economic driver for surrounding communities.
Sharp Top Shelter
Milepost 86, Virginia| Remaining goal: $56,700
Work is set to begin this summer to rejuvenate the little stone shelter that greets visitors at the summit of Sharp Top Mountain at the Peaks of Otter. Workers will remove extensive graffiti, repair and reset windows, doors, sills and thresholds, replace the roof, and stain the clapboard siding to secure the building against the elements. Donations for this project will be matched through the Centennial Challenge program.
Blue Ridge Parkway Outdoor Activity Guide
Parkway-wide | Goal: $11,500
Updated annually, the printed Outdoor Activity Guide features trail maps, safety information, bear encounter guidance, and more. It is an essential guide to a well-planned Parkway excursion. With donor support, 100,000 copies of the 24-page newspaper will be printed and made available for free at all visitor centers.
Natural Resource Protection
Bee Kind to the Parkway
Parkway-wide | Remaining goal: $8,180
This project will give citizen scientists the tools they need to collect native wildflower seeds and survey populations of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators that help keep the ecosystem healthy. The seeds will be used to re-establish wildflower display areas originally designed into the Parkway landscape, and therefore bolster pollinator habitats.
Force Multipliers for Plant and Wildlife Protection
Parkway-wide | Remaining goal: $2,264
In addition to all they do to keep the Parkway safe for visitors, law enforcement rangers also protect plants and animals from poachers in search of rare species, including galax, ginseng, and even bog turtles. However, with more than 80,000 acres of park land spread across 29 counties in two states, it’s a logistical challenge to monitor the entire Parkway. To assist law enforcement, equipment will be purchased to increase this team’s capacity to protect vulnerable species. The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina is also providing generous support for this program through a grant.
New Wildlife Cameras
Parkway-wide | Goal: $5,460
This summer, volunteers will hike off the beaten paths and use GPS coordinates to place motion-sensitive cameras in remote areas, returning periodically to find out what types of birds, mammals, reptiles, and other creatures have passed by the lens. By providing additional cameras for these citizen scientists, park biologists will be able to cover more territory in a multiyear study of animal populations and their locations on Parkway land.
Historical and Cultural Preservation
Moses H. Cone Memorial Park – Project Update
Milepost 294, North Carolina | Remaining goal: $1 million
Flat Top Manor is regaining its grandeur with much-needed exterior repairs. The carriage trails are clear of overgrown vegetation and ready for hikers and horseback riders to explore freely. This summer, exhibits will be installed in the manor to tell the story of the Cone family and others who called the estate home, and outdoor panels will feature trail maps. To date, the Foundation has raised $2 million for the rehab of the estate listed on the National Register of Historic Places. To move forward with additional manor house renovations and grounds work, the Foundation is raising $1 million. In addition to making donations, those who love Cone Park can support rehabilitation efforts by attending the third annual Denim Ball fundraising gala on Friday, August 3, at Chetola Resort at Blowing Rock.
Humpback Rocks Farm
Milepost 5, Virginia | Goal: $75,056
Crews with the National Park Service are already putting their skills in log structure repair and stone stacking to work on Ramsey Cabin and a collection of hand-hewn structures that make up the late 19th century farmstead at Humpback Rocks. With a gift, donors can ensure this fascinating place continues to pass down the story of pioneer families who depended on the land and each other to carve out lives in the mountains. Donations for this project will be matched through the Centennial Challenge program.
Blue Ridge Music Center Programming
Milepost 213, Virginia | Goal: $55,000
Since 2013, the Foundation has supported musical programming at the Blue Ridge Music Center near Galax, Virginia, to help preserve the cultural heritage of the mountains. This year is no exception, as the outdoor venue, museum, and visitor center hosts a series of Saturday concerts highlighting bluegrass, old-time, country blues, gospel, and Americana. Donor support helps keep the music alive in the mountains.
To give or learn more, visit brpfoundation.org.