(Photo digitally-enhanced)

 

At least once a year, I travel the full-length of the Blue Ridge Parkway — from Mile Marker 0 near Waynesboro to Mile 469 at the entrance to Smokey Mountains National Park.

The Parkway has been a central part of my life since I first visited it at age 5.  I hiked its trails as a kid, explored raging teenage hormones with young ladies at Rocky Knob Overlook and photographed its beauty for most of my life.

But as I travel the Parkway nowadays I worry and wonder about its future. My motorcycle lurches over broken pavement and potholes while disrepair and overdue maintenance add glaring contrasts to the natural beauty and once-popular stops now greet visitors with locked doors.

Otter Creek, Doughton Park and Bluffs Lodge & Restaurant closed this year.  No vendors stepped foward to take over the facilities after Forever Resorts pulled out at the end of last season. The grapevine says the vendor who took over Mabry Mill this year is telling the National Park Service she won’t be back in 2012.

Floyd County depends on traffic from the Parkway to feed its growing tourism business.  The county contains more miles of the Parkway than any other jurisdiction in Virginia.  But the Parkway all too often seems like part of an era whose time has passed.

Maybe people are just too busy and in too much of a hurry to travel a leisurely 500 miles at 45 miles per hour. Maybe enjoying nature is out of style in an era of Gameboys, texting and wireless internet.

I don’t know but as I travel one of my favorite roads I wonder just how much longer it will be available as one of the treasures of our area.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. Doug,
    I’m sure you’ll understand, but I hope you’re wrong.

    I remember, as a child, riding the Parkway with my parents. Now that I live in Floyd, I have ready access to it. Kind of ironic that it’s fallen into disrepair and threatened with becoming an entry in the history books.

    I know how much you enjoy riding it on your Bike. I would hate to see you lose that.

    I realize that things change over time. There are some things, though, that are really hard to accept like losing something that brings so many people so much enjoyment.

    Ride it while you can, my friend. Like the parkway, we’re gettin’ old.

    Jim

  2. >>Maybe people are just too busy and in too much of a hurry to travel a leisurely 500 miles at 45 miles per hour.<<

    Over the last few years I've long since lost count at how many times I've accumulated a long line of cars behind me on the Parkway because I'm doing the speed limit. They seem to forget they're on the Parkway rather than the interstate, but every time I come to a passing zone one or two (or more!) of them will race past me, and keep racing out of sight.

    I also remember a realtor confiding to me some years ago that he had a trick for getting permission to build housing developments along the Parkway: He would falsely ask to build a staggeringly high number of houses and then let himself be "negotiated" down to the actual number he wanted to build.

  3. The parkway is no longer the attraction it use to be. When a kid (couple of years ago) I can remember the traffic backed up for miles to see Mabry Mill. The cooking at that time was home cooked, the ladies that worked there took pride in what they made and folk would come back every year to say hi to those ladies and those ladies remembered them maybe not by name but by state.And then you had the Harris’ making Apple Butter out back and Homer would always take the time to tell a story or explain how to make the stuff.
    Fact is we live in a changing world. People no longer tour the parkway, nothing there other than history..no water park nor beach…and the parkway just isn’t what it used to be. There is no since of pride there. My Great grandmother worked at that mill for years…why because she lived across the road..no…because the parkway provided her with employment and she was thankful.
    Now it’s just a job…the government is all about money (who would have thought)NPC don’t give contracts to the operator’s so they can make profit and as far as riding a motorcycle on the parkway…I’m afraid I would loose mine in one of the potholes.
    I’m rambling…but I doubt we will ever see the parkway the way it was in the 60-70’s as far as visitors…people are looking for other types of vacation destinations. Ohhhhhh and Doug..bet you can remember all those folks who would pull off on the side of the parkway spread a blanket on the ground and have a picnic…don’t see that either.

  4. I can tell you one reason that traffic has declined is that in many of the overlook areas you can hardly see anything. Federal regs on tree cutting and brush clearing have allowed many of them to lose what was the original scenery.

    My wife grew up here in the 60s and talks about how you could pull over just about anywhere to have a picnic. Granted that today’s travelers would probably be less careful about cleaning up after themselves, but the Parkway almost has the feeling of a federal museum. You can look and touch what we say you can, where we say you can.

    If you want the Parkway to be a place people will want to return to, there has to be a reason other than the privilege of driving on a 45 mph, two lane road.

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