Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Blue Ridge Budget Blues

Posted February 6, 2007

     What national park has more visitors annually than Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon combined and faces a serious funding shortage?

     The Blue Ridge Parkway is the most visited park in America yet its budget has increased by only one half of one per cent since 1980 when you adjust for inflation.

     The 469 mile ribbon running the crest of the Blue Ridge range from northern Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Bryson City has suffered a sad state of neglect for years. You can see it for yourself. Many vistas are overgrown for lack of maintenance. Fallen trees lie uncleared. Visitor centers have closed. Restrooms are not as clean as they should be.

     Let me state my bias. I am a huge fan. I grew up on the Parkway. My father would pack the family in our Chevy almost every weekend for a trip to such grand destinations as Doughton Park, Craggy Gardens and the Devil's Courthouse. We even drove the entire Virginia stretch up to Front Royal one summer. I remember pimento cheese picnics and pristine beauty captured on canvas in my father's watercolors.

     There is hope. The President's budget is more favorable to national parks this time around. Senator Elizabeth Dole and Representative Brad Miller have been working hard to generate a better deal for the Parkway including a thaw to a hiring freeze. Lots of folks are writing and calling their representatives in Washington. Maybe you will do the same.

     In the meantime let's generate some talk. What is your favorite stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway and what are your favorite memories of this national treasure?

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  • brantleystudio Feb 7, 2007

    I grew up at the edge of the Parkway in Rappahannock County Va. I have a lot of good memories of hiking and camping in the Shenadoah National Park. My favorite places are Skyland and Big Meadows. It wasn't until I was an adult (and married to a NC boy) that I got the opportunity to see the NC part of the Parkway. I was surprise that anything could be as beautiful as the area I grew up in, but it definitely is.
    I think what is most disheartening to me is that I grew up with many, many people whose close ancestors (grandparents) were displaced from the land so that the Parkway could be built. This was a bitter subject among the older people in my hometown. Although many are no longer alive anymore, it must be a horrible feeling for those that are to see the land now and know that they were forced from their home for it to ultimately wind up neglected.

  • jlhurdle Feb 6, 2007

    My Daddy loved the mountains. Eventhough we were 7-8 hrs away, we always went there on vacation. One summer we took 2 weeks in a Chevrolet van and started at Front Royal, Va. and went all the way to Murphy, NC. We slept in the van at overlooks (back then you could) and cooked on a little gas cooker. It was the most memorable time of my life. If I was financially able, I would donate money every year to this cause, plus I would own my own little piece of heaven on earth so I could go anytime I wanted to.

  • ericto Feb 6, 2007

    My fondest memories of Blue Ridge Parkway are the numerous scenic overlooks. I wanted to stop at everyone as a child and look out on the world. Every single entrance to the parkway has a beautiful stone ramp that adds that special touch to every mile. There is nothing quite like this anywhere else in the nation, so let's keep it that way!

  • simracer68 Feb 6, 2007

    Our favorite stretch is from the NC/VA line down to say Mt. Mitchell. My wife and I vacation up there as often as our schedules allow, and one day hope to own our own log home in that (Boone/Banner Elk/Valle Crucis) area. I love simply riding along the parkway and some mild hiking around Grandfather and the Lynn Cove Viaduct with my camera, the wife really enjoys stopping by the Moses H. Cone center to see what new crafts have been added since our last visit. Let us all hope that the future will bring some budget increases so that the Parkway can be looked after properly hence forth.

  • MommyM Feb 6, 2007

    When I was growing up, we would also take weekend or day trips up to those areas. I remember many picnics at Doughton Park, and Craggy Gardens was my father's favorite place. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a national treasure. I look forward to taking my children there. What wonderful memories!

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Bill Leslie