New poll shows 95 percent of Americans support national parks

According to a new poll commissioned by the National Parks Conservation Association and the National Park Hospitality Association, 95% of Americans cherish the national parks and feel it is appropriate for the federal government to ensure they are protected for the future. To view the survey results, please click here.

We’ve highlighted some of the key findings:

The Blue Ridge Parkway's budget is threatened by budget cuts. This photo was taken at Chimney Rock Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo credit: Pat & Chuck Blackley.

The Blue Ridge Parkway’s budget is threatened by budget cuts. This photo was taken at Chimney Rock Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo credit: Pat & Chuck Blackley.

  • In a variety of ways voters see national parks as the essence of America the Beautiful, majestic, awe-inspiring places to be revered, cherished, and protected. In fact, 95 percent of voters see “protecting and supporting the National Parks” as an appropriate role for the federal government.
  • Voters associate National Parks with key priorities and important American values. Nearly 90 percent of voters think that candidates who prioritize National Parks are seen as:
    Support for National Parks is personal for millions of Americans—81 percent of voters report having visited a National Park at some point in their lives, and nearly nine in 10 say they are interested in visiting in the future.

    • Caring about the environment
    • Protecting our heritage for future generations
    • A good steward of our nation’s resources
    • Forward looking
    • Understanding what makes America special
    • Patriotic
  • Even in these difficult fiscal circumstances, very few voters from either side of the political aisle say the federal government should be cutting back on funding for National Parks.
  • National Parks are highly valued by voters, who see them as home to some of the most majestic, beautiful, and awe-inspiring places in the world. Yet few voters (6 percent) think National Parks are in good shape today, while many more (80 percent) express concern that funding shortages are damaging National Parks and marring visitors’ park experiences.
  • Voters see the 2016 centennial as a great way to engage citizens on the value of National Parks, and 77 percent of voters say it is important for the next president to ensure that parks are fully restored and ready to serve and be relevant to this country for another hundred years.

Our president and congressional representatives should be among the 95 percent of Americans who care about our national parks. This is especially important now as debates over the federal budget continue. National parks protect our natural and cultural heritage and provide affordable vacation destinations for American families, but the budget to operate national parks has already been cut by 13 percent over the last three years in today’s dollars. More cuts could be devastating.

Take Action: Please contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to restore adequate funding to the National Park Service budget. The American people deserve better than closed campgrounds, vacant visitor centers, and history unpreserved. Tell your story and remind our leaders why parks matter.

During the 16-day federal government shutdown this past October, the Blue Ridge Parkway community was heavily affected. “It’s like closing a shopping mall at Christmas time,” said Phil Francis, former Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, in an interview with The Huffington Post about the effects of the shutdown on regional tourism. “It’s the time of year where you either make it, or don’t make it.” The Blue Ridge Parkway receives more visitors in October than any other national park. 60,000 visitors spend $4.1 million each day.

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To volunteer, donate or to become a member of FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway go to www.FriendsBRP.org or call 800-228-PARK (7275). FRIENDS is the only volunteer-driven, not-for-profit organization solely dedicated to protecting, preserving, enhancing and celebrating the nation’s most visited park and American favorite scenic drive. FRIENDS’ more than 10,000 members work to ensure the Parkway’s future through stewardship and fundraising that support volunteer service projects, as well as youth and adult education programs.

 

Blue Ridge Parkway Announces Temporary Road Closures for Routine Maintenance From Milepost 95 to 106

(Bedford, VA) – Beginning Tuesday morning, February 18, 2014,  and continuing for a two week period, Blue Ridge Parkway maintenance personnel will be conducting cutting operations along the roadside between Bearwallow Gap (at Virginia State Route 43 ) and the interchange of U.S. 460 and the Parkway. During the period, both lanes in this section of the Parkway will be closed to all activity (cars, bicycles, and hikers) to ensure the safety of the maintenance workers as well as Parkway visitors. The planned work will not affect travel along Route 43 at the Peaks of Otter south to Bearwallow Gap.

Montvale Overlook at MP 96

Montvale Overlook at MP 96

Annually, Blue Ridge Parkway maintenance and resource management staff conducts maintenance activities that help control invasive vegetation growth along the Parkway. To help insure safe sight distances and a clear right-of-way, this work requires using a large tractor with a cutting head on a long arm, or boom. This tractor must remain in the travel lanes during operation to properly perform its work while cutting the banks and road shoulders.

Affected sections will close at approximately 7:45 a.m. each weekday and re-open daily about 5:00 p.m EST on Tuesday, February 18 – Thursday, February 27, 2014 between Mileposts 95 and 106. Those who normally commute on the Parkwayon Monday through Friday may want find alternate routes. The affected area will be available on Saturday and Sunday, February 22 – 23, 2014.

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To volunteer, donate or to become a member of FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway go to www.FriendsBRP.org or call 800-228-PARK (7275). FRIENDS is the only volunteer-driven, not-for-profit organization solely dedicated to protecting, preserving, enhancing and celebrating the nation’s most visited park and American favorite scenic drive. FRIENDS’ more than 10,000 members work to ensure the Parkway’s future through stewardship and fundraising that support volunteer service projects, as well as youth and adult education programs.

Budget Cuts Threaten Future of Blue Ridge Parkway

Story originally published by Environment North Carolina. Written by Liz Kazal of Environment North Carolina.

FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway was present at a recent news conference where a new study was released that outlines the challenges and real effects that budget cuts to the National Park Service have had on the Blue Ridge Parkway and other national parks.

Sunset on the Parkway. Photo by Nye Simmons.

Sunset on the Parkway. Photo by Nye Simmons.

As Congress deliberates on the federal budget, a new Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center analysis released last week, entitled Death by a Thousand Cuts, exposes the challenges facing the Blue Ridge Parkway and other national parks and forests as a result of mounting funding cuts to the National Park Service.

“Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, campgrounds, visitors centers, and picnic areas were closed and ranger-led educational programs were cancelled for the summer,” said Liz Kazal, field associate with Environment North Carolina.

The Blue Ridge Parkway provides critical habitat for wildlife, from black bears to the red-tailed hawk, and offers access to over 350 miles of hiking trails, and much more!

Many parks closures during last fall’s government shutdown capped off the third straight year in which Congress cut funding to the National Park Service’s operating budget. Additional cuts from the March 2013 sequester make for a 13 percent reduction in funding for our parks in today’s dollars over this period.

Death by a Thousand Cuts gives concrete examples of how the Blue Ridge Parkway has been affected by the funding cuts:

  • $784,000 was cut from the budget for the Parkway
  • Campgrounds, picnic areas, and visitor centers closed
  • Ranger-led education programs cancelled

“Let’s give our parks a fresh start in 2014,” added Kazal. “If we continue on this path, our grandchildren could be forced to explore parking lots and fracking wells instead of river valleys and mountaintops.”

Environment North Carolina was joined by Phil Francis, former Superintendent for the Blue Ridge Parkway, Hugh Stephens from FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway – Asheville Chapter, and Danny Bernstein of Carolina Mountain Club and Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, for the release of their report.

Among the largest unquantifiable impacts to the Parkway is the quality of visitors’ experience. Former Superintendent Phil Francis speculates that over 400,000 visitors may feel the effects of sequestration.

“When the Congress creates units of our national park system, they are indicating that these places are special and that these places are nationally significant,” said Phil Francis, former Parkway superintendent. “To me, there is an obligation to take care of them in such a way as to leave them in good shape. That is not happening.”

Due to reduced staff resources at the Parkway, many volunteer groups have had to step in to pick up the slack. Groups like FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Carolina Mountain Club frequently lend a hand to help the park stay beautiful for future generations.

Groups like FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway have a long history of supporting the National Parks System as citizen stewards to the park.

“The FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway is dedicated to providing support to Parkway staff in the execution of their projects,” said Hugh Stephens, member of the FRIENDS Asheville Chapter, “Primarily in the form of mobilizing volunteer labor for enhancement of the condition of campgrounds, overlooks, walking trails and nature programs within the jurisdiction of the Parkway.”

However, relying on volunteer and outside organizations will not always be enough. While the budget deal passed in December may allow for some increase in the parks budget, it is up to Congressional spending committees to decide the actual funding levels this month.

FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway is committed to protecting the Parkway’s natural and cultural resources for the benefit of future generations. You can support FRIENDS’ efforts on the Parkway by volunteering or becoming a member.

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To volunteer, donate or to become a member of FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway go to www.FriendsBRP.org or call 800-228-PARK (7275). FRIENDS is the only volunteer-driven, not-for-profit organization solely dedicated to protecting, preserving, enhancing and celebrating the nation’s most visited park and American favorite scenic drive. FRIENDS’ more than 10,000 members work to ensure the Parkway’s future through stewardship and fundraising that support volunteer service projects, as well as youth and adult education programs.

Events Along the Parkway

When you are traveling on or near the Blue Ridge Parkway this holiday season, be sure to support the Parkway’s corridor communities and visit one or many of the wonderful events going on. Check out the list below for fun events along the Parkway’s communities.

Lake Julian Festival of Lights

December 6 2013 – December 23 2013 | Lake Julian Park, 406 Overlook Road Ext., Arden, NC 28704

A Christmas Story

December 4, 2013 – December 22, 2013Flat Rock Playhouse | Recurring weekly on Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday

Train Display at the Bedford Museum and Genealogical Library

December 1 2013  - January 25 2014 | www.bedfordvamuesum.org

The Polar Express at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

November 8 2013 – December 29 2013 | Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

39th Annual Christmas at Biltmore 

November 2 2013 – January 12 2014 | Biltmore

Buchanan Festival of Trees

December 20 2013 | Buchanan Public Library,19795 Main Street, Buchanan, VA, 24066

SunTrust Dickens of a Christmas

December 20 2013 | Downtown Roanoke Roanoke, VA, 24011

Christmas Time’s A’Coming Open House at Peaks of Otter Winery

December 20 2013 – December 23 2013, Noon to 5:00pm | www.peaksofotterwinery.com

The Sound of Music

December 21 2013 | Trinkle Main Stage, Center in the Square, downtown Roanoke, VA, 24010

Blue Ridge Artisans Show and Sale

December 21 2013, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm | McDowell Arts Council

Gatlinburg Winter Magic

December 21 2013, 6:00 pm | Throughout Gatlinburg

Tracks Music & Dance

December 21 2013, 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm | Tracks Music and Dance

The Nutcracker “Sweet”

December 21 2013, 7:00 pm | Mills Convention Center

New Year’s Eve with Stone Canyon

December 31 2013, 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm | Blue Ridge Vineyard

Chateau Morrisette New Year’s Eve Early Dinners

December 31 2013 | Chateau Morrisette Winery, MP 171.5 BRP 287 Winery Road SW, Floyd, VA, 24091

To volunteer, donate or to become a member of FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway go to www.FriendsBRP.org or call 800-228-PARK (7275). FRIENDS is the only volunteer-driven, not-for-profit organization solely dedicated to protecting, preserving, enhancing and celebrating the nation’s most visited park and American favorite scenic drive. FRIENDS’ more than 10,000 members work to ensure the Parkway’s future through stewardship and fundraising that support volunteer service projects, as well as youth and adult education programs.

FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway Celebrates its Chapters at Annual Meeting

(Roanoke, Va.) On November 14 and 15, FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway held its annual meeting in Roanoke, Virginia. FRIENDS members, Board, staff and Chapters and staff from the National Park Service-Blue Ridge Parkway came together to celebrate the spirit of volunteerism and to demonstrate their commitment to preserving the Blue Ridge Parkway for the enjoyment of this and future generations.

Mark Woods addresses FRIENDS and National Park Service. Photo by Don Johnson

Mark Woods addresses FRIENDS and National Park Service. Photo by Don Johnson

Each year, FRIENDS Chapters, members, staff and Board get together with representatives from the National Park Service to share ideas about growing the FRIENDS Chapters and to increase their ability to assist the National Park Service on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 2013 Annual Meeting FRIENDS Chapters Reports provides a glimpse into the accomplishments and future plans of FRIENDS and its Chapters.

FRIENDS Chapters reported on their accomplishments of this past year and their plans to continue working alongside the National Park Service to protect, promote and enhance the Blue Ridge Parkway’s significant cultural, historical and recreational assets. FRIENDS is committed to working with the National Park Service and alongside the Parkway’s corridor communities to carry out this mission.

As part of the meeting, FRIENDS organized a reception and dinner to honor and welcome the new Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent, Mark Woods, to the Blue Ridge Parkway community. The response from community leaders was exceptional as over 100 individuals from the Roanoke Valley attended the reception to demonstrate their support for Mark Woods, his staff and for FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

FRIENDS would like to thank everyone who made this year’s annual meeting a success.

You can download the 2013 Annual Meeting FRIENDS Chapters Reports and share it with friends, family and colleagues.

Enjoy the video below that was shown at this year’s reception and dinner:

Show Your Colors With a Blue Ridge Parkway Tag

BlueRidgeParkwayMotorcyclePlate

The new Blue Ridge Parkway tag is available for automobiles and motorcycles

Love the Blue Ridge? Purchase a Blue Ridge Parkway license plate.

Show your colors with a beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway auto or motorcycle tag.

Every Parkway tag purchased provides $15 to support:

  • Education to Promote and Protect natural resources
  • Trail & campground maintenance
  • Overlook maintenance
  • Tree planting programs

Order yours today at any Virginia DMV office or visit the DMV’s website.

If you have any questions or need help securing your new Parkway tag, contact us at 540.772.2992

To volunteer, donate or to become a member of FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway go to www.FriendsBRP.org or call 800-228-PARK (7275). FRIENDS is the only volunteer-driven, not-for-profit organization solely dedicated to protecting, preserving, enhancing and celebrating the nation’s most visited park and American favorite scenic drive. FRIENDS’ more than 10,000 members work to ensure the Parkway’s future through stewardship and fundraising that support volunteer service projects, as well as youth and adult education programs.

 

Parkway Highlight: Peaks of Otter (Milepost 86)

Photo by Chuck and Pat Blackley

Photo by Chuck and Pat Blackley

An intriguing interpretive and recreational complex rests within the triangle formed by Sharp Top Mountain, Flat Top Mountain and Harkening Hill. Abbott Lake, created by Parkway designers, provides the esthetic focal point. Nearby, Peaks Restaurant and Lodge, gasoline station and camp store with bus service to near the summit of Sharp Top Mountain, provide convenient visitor services. A visitor center, open May to October, highlights the natural and cultural history of the Peaks area.

Johnson Farm, a ten-minute walk from the visitor center and open 4 days weekly during the visitor season, provides opportunity for insight about the Johnson family and community life in late 19th and early 20th centuries. Architecturally, the Johnson Farm is the Parkway’s best example of a log cabin home that was enlarged successively, clap boarded and otherwise modified to reflect the evolution and development of Appalachian homes. The farm also represents what may be styled “middle class” life in the mountains. It provides a significant contrast to log homes selectively preserved along the Parkway and the “country places” represented by the Moses Cone estate at Blowing Rock. In addition, the Johnson Farm contains several out buildings associated with the site.

JOHNSONFARM crop

Johnson Farm

The trails, overlooks and other iconic and historically valuable sites need you. The recently formed FRIENDS Peaks of Otter Chapter is looking for new members to join the Chapter responsible for working alongside the National Park Service between Milepost 50-100. If you are interested in preserving these sites through volunteerism and advocacy, please contact Fernando Gracia at Fernando_Gracia@FriendsBRP.org or Greg Baltad at PeaksOtter@FriendsBRP.org or by phone at 540.772.2992.

To volunteer, donate or to become a member of FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway go to www.FriendsBRP.org or call 800-228-PARK (7275). FRIENDS is the only volunteer-driven, not-for-profit organization solely dedicated to protecting, preserving, enhancing and celebrating the nation’s most visited park and American favorite scenic drive. FRIENDS’ more than 10,000 members work to ensure the Parkway’s future through stewardship and fundraising that support volunteer service projects, as well as youth and adult education programs.

 

Hiking Adventure: Chestnut Ridge Trail, Milepost 120.5

Located : Milepost 120.5, near Roanoke Mountain CampgroundChestnutRidgeTrail

Distance (roundtrip, miles):  5.4-mile figure-eight loop

Difficulty:  Moderate – great for families

History:  This trail features strange topography created by early mining operations that has now been reforested.  Craters and hummocks are signs of extensive quarrying that took place in many places in the area.  Roanoke has extensive quarries.

Features:  It is a wide and well-graded path lined with mountain laurel and rhododendron.  It is a 5.4 mile figure-eight loop trail that can be shortened to 2.5 and/or 3.4 miles (these are round trip mileages).

This trail is available to adopt!  Do you love the Parkway and want to give something back? Would you be willing to adopt this trail or any other available trail? Click here for more information on how to Adopt a Trail.  Remember you can also join FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway to help preserve the Blue Ridge Parkway for the enjoyment of this and future generations.

Thank you to those who recently adopted trails. Here is a list of trails that have been adopted in recent weeks:

  • Rough Ridge Trail, Milepost 302.8 – Adopted by Michael Hughes

We appreciate your commitment to the Blue Ridge Parkway!

Trail-adopters, be sure to report your hours and trail maintenance activity using the Trail Maintenance Form.

Click here for more information on how to Adopt a Trail.

To volunteer, donate or to become a member of FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway go to www.FriendsBRP.org or call 800-228-PARK (7275). FRIENDS is the only volunteer-driven, not-for-profit organization solely dedicated to protecting, preserving, enhancing and celebrating the nation’s most visited park and American favorite scenic drive. FRIENDS’ more than 10,000 members work to ensure the Parkway’s future through stewardship and fundraising that support volunteer service projects, as well as youth and adult education programs.

“Did You Know?” Parkway by the Numbers.

Photo by Pat and Chuck Blackley

Photo by Pat and Chuck Blackley

Did you know that the Blue Ridge Parkway has 75 distinct plant communities, of which 24 are considered globally rare and 7 of these are considered globally imperiled? Help FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway preserve and protect these natural resources by volunteering or renewing your membership!

To volunteer, donate or to become a member of FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway go to www.FriendsBRP.org or call 800-228-PARK (7275). FRIENDS is the only volunteer-driven, not-for-profit organization solely dedicated to protecting, preserving, enhancing and celebrating the nation’s most visited park and American favorite scenic drive. FRIENDS’ more than 10,000 members work to ensure the Parkway’s future through stewardship and fundraising that support volunteer service projects, as well as youth and adult education programs.

Give Back by Joining Your Local FRIENDS Chapter

Chapters are the backbone of FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Their work is critical to fulfilling the mission of FRIENDS and includes:

  • Helping connect the Parkway to its adjacent communities
  • Promoting and monitoring the adoption of trails and overlooks in their area by individuals, families and groups
  • Organizing spring clean-up days at Parkway campgrounds, visitor centers, and picnic areas
  • Recruiting volunteers to assist Park staff with special projects in their areas

    Members of the FRIENDS Asheville Chapter Help Maintain Trails

    Members of the FRIENDS Asheville Chapter Help Maintain Trails

  • Participating in local area fundraising to underwrite Chapter expenses and fund Park-requested programs
  • Overseeing the collection of funds from donation boxes
  • Representing FRIENDS and the Parkway at area festivals and events
  • Recruiting, supporting, reporting, and celebrating the work of volunteers in service to the Parkway

If you’re interested in joining your local FRIENDS Chapter, please contact Fernando Gracia at Fernando_Gracia@FriendsBRP.org.  If you don’t see your community listed below, learn about starting a chapter.

  • Peaks of Otter Chapter (Milepost 50-100)
  • Roanoke Chapter (Milepost 100-150)
  • Rocky  Knob Chapter (Milepost 150-200)
  • Fisher Peak Chapter (Milepost 200-217.5)
  • Northern Highlands Chapter (Milepost 217.5-275)
  • Appalachian State University Chapter (Milepost 275-316)
  • Asheville Chapter (Milepost 364-415)
FRIENDS Chapters Workshop at Annual Meeting

FRIENDS Chapters Workshop at Annual Meeting

Each year, FRIENDS Chapters, members, staff and board get together with representatives from the National Park Service to share ideas about growing the FRIENDS Chapters and to increase their ability to assist the National Park Service on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The 2012-2013 FRIENDS Chapters report below provides a glimpse into the accomplishments and plans of FRIENDS and its Chapters.

2013 Annual Meeting – FRIENDS Chapters Reports 

To volunteer, donate or to become a member of FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway go to www.FriendsBRP.org or call 800-228-PARK (7275). FRIENDS is the only volunteer-driven, not-for-profit organization solely dedicated to protecting, preserving, enhancing and celebrating the nation’s most visited park and American favorite scenic drive. FRIENDS’ more than 10,000 members work to ensure the Parkway’s future through stewardship and fundraising that support volunteer service projects, as well as youth and adult education programs.