The Blue Ridge Parkway spans almost 470 miles through the Blue Ridge Mountains and passes through many different types of terrain, elevation, populated areas, areas of historical significance, …. Management of this park is an incredible job.
In 2011, shortly after the 75th Anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Superintendent Phillip A Francis, Jr. announced the release of the “General Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement for the Blue Ridge Parkway”.
“This final general management plan provides comprehensive guidance for perpetuating natural systems, preserving cultural resources, and providing opportunities for high-quality visitor experiences along the parkway for the next 20+ years. After more than 75 years since the parkway was established, this is the parkway’s first comprehensive management plan.” – Phillip A Francis, Jr., Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway
The public’s input, park officials & staff, various government agencies, and private research studies were instrumental in the planning process.
Below you will find more information on the management document and information on the reports & studies that led to its creation.
General Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement for the Blue Ridge Parkway (FGMP/EIS)
The National Park Service developed visitor facilities and operated the parkway using a master plan and Parkway Land Use Maps for guidance, as well as applicable laws and policies. That plan and the maps served the parkway well for many years during the period of development and parkway road completion. However, the master plan was seriously outdated and the parkway faced an increasing array of issues that required guidance through an approved general management plan.
The new plan needed to
- Clearly define resource conditions and visitor experiences to be achieved at the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Provide a framework for National Park Service managers to use when making decisions about how to best protect parkway resources, how to provide a diverse range of visitor experience opportunities, how to manage visitor use, and what kinds of facilities, if any, to develop in the national park system unit.
- Ensure that this foundation for decision making has been developed in consultation with interested stakeholders and adopted by NPS leadership after an adequate analysis of the benefits, impacts, and economic costs of alternative courses of action.
The Final General Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement presented three alternatives for the future management of Blue Ridge Parkway. The alternatives, which are based on the parkway’s purpose, significance, and special mandates, present different ways to manage resources and visitor use and improve facilities and infrastructure. The three alternatives were the no-action alternative (continue current management), alternative B, and alternative C. Alternative B was selected as the National Park Service’s preferred alternative.
Under alternative B, the parkway would be actively managed as a traditional, selfcontained, scenic recreational driving experience and designed landscape. To
support that experience, many of the parkway’s recreation areas would provide enhanced opportunities for dispersed outdoor recreation activities.
This alternative would more proactively blend newer law and policy requirements and operational constraints with the traditional parkway concept developed during the parkway’s historic period of significance, which is 1935 to at least 1955. As a result, this alternative would provide a better balance between traditional parkway experiences and modern-day management realities. For example, some areas would be managed differently to address natural and cultural resource concerns and visitor experiences or to achieve critical operational efficiencies.
It would also provide a comprehensive parkway-wide approach to resource and visitor use management. Specific management zones detailing acceptable resource conditions, visitor experience and use levels, and appropriate activities and development would be applied to parkway lands consistent with this concept. This alternative would also seek to enhance resource protection, regional natural resource connectivity, and build stronger connections with adjacent communities.
This Final General Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement includes letters from governmental agencies, any substantive comments on the draft document, and National Park Service responses to those comments. The final plan also includes changes and clarifications made to the document in response to comments received. Following distribution of the final plan and a 30-day no-action period, a “Record of Decision” approving a final plan was signed
by the National Park Service regional director.
The “Record of Decision” documents the National Park Service selection of an alternative for implementation. With the signed “Record of Decision”, the plan can then be implemented, depending on funding and staffing. However, a “Record of Decision” does not guarantee funds and staff for implementing the approved plan.
Blue Ridge Parkway Scenic Experience Project
The Blue Ridge Parkway Scenic Experience Project, completed in two phases between 2000-2003, was designed to answer three key questions:
- What are the benefits of scenic quality preservation along the Parkway?
- What kind of tradeoffs are visitors willing to make among Parkway amenities? In other words, are they willing to give up trails and campsites in order to maintain or improve scenic quality?
- If view quality declines, what will happen to visitation levels and the surrounding regional economies?
- Parkway visitors are extremely loyal; on average, they have been visiting 20 years.
- Parkway visitors are generally very satisfied with their experiences on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
- Despite the fact that visitors to the Parkway do not pay an entrance fee to enjoy the park, it is clear that visitors derive significant economic value from their experiences. This is based on results from both the expenditures that they make while on their trips, and their stated willingness to pay for the benefits that the Parkway provides.
- Respondents indicated that the scenic quality along the Parkway is an important reason for their visitation. They indicated they would take fewer trips if scenic quality declines, and would make more trips with scenic quality improvements.
- This study verifies what people already know: that scenic beauty and recreational amenities are important to visitors in the southwest Virginia and northern North Carolina sections of the Parkway.
- The study is significant because it estimates the economic value that Parkway visitors receive from the unpriced amenities that the Parkway offers. In other words, just because people don’t directly pay for the scenic beauty of this region doesn’t mean that they have no value for it. This study suggests that respondents value scenic beauty very highly, and will change their visitation behaviors if scenic quality is degraded.
- Scenic Experience Project – Synthesis
- Scenic Experience Project – Phase I – Virginia
- Scenic Experience Project – Phase II – North Carolina
Long-Range Interpretive Plan
This Long- Range Interpretive Plan (LRIP) presents a visitor experience vision for Blue Ridge Parkway (Parkway) based on purpose, significance, and mission goals identified in the Parkway’s Strategic Plan. It provides direction and focus to visitor experiences at the Parkway for the next ten years, and it identifies a media and activity action plan that best meets current and future visitor needs and effectively tells Parkway stories.
The LRIP is a conceptual plan to guide interpretive managers through elimination or modification of existing programs, creation of new programs, and determination of future media needs. It describes long range and short- range views and deals with all media, including personal services and facilities. The LRIP provides recommendations for broad general management planning decisions for park- wide operations and development that affects interpretation and visitor experience. It also lays the foundation for the next phases of a comprehensive interpretive planning process-media planning, design and production, and the organization of staff and activities into annual implementation plans. It provides a standard for evaluating accomplishments of the Parkway’s interpretation and visitor experience programs. As future general management plans are completed or amended, the LRIP itself will be evaluated to assure compatibility with management goals.
During this long- range interpretive planning process National Park Service staff, interpretive partners, and media specialists evaluated the Parkway’s interpretive program. Goal- driven team planning focused interpretive proposals on significant resources, themes and issues, and developed interpretive strategies to enhance opportunities for visitors to understand, enjoy, and appreciate resources the Parkway was established to conserve.
This LRIP looks at the Parkway comprehensively, not piecemeal. It focuses on critical needs, defines minimal level programs, and describes interpretation concepts for developed areas. It provides direction and focus, not detailed recommendations for interpretation at every overlook.
The strength and success of concepts in this LRIP depends upon management’s priority for education and interpretation for Parkway visitors
Blue Ridge Parkway Roads and Bridges Recording Project
The Blue Ridge Parkway Roads and Bridges Recording Project involved staff of the Historic American Engineering Record Division (HAER) and was financed with Federal Highway Administration money beginning in 1997.
Parkway staff assisted the HAER teams in selecting significant sites and features important to the design and construction of the Parkway. These sites and features were recorded in approximately 200 large format archival photographs and 40-50 full-size drawings. In addition, WASO staff with Parkway review, developed a detailed history of Parkway design and construction as well as a 20-30 page pamphlet for public distribution including narrative, photos and drawings.
External Project Link
Moses H. Cone Manor House Historic Structure Report
The Blue Ridge Parkway and the Southeast Field Office co-sponsored this important study in order to have background data and guidance for preservation.
This Historic Structure Report provides a detailed present day description of the Moses H. Cone Manor House, augmented with photographs and the 1987 HABS drawings by Eric Cook Swanson. Documentation of the existing conditions was accomplished during site visits made by members of the study team between November of 1994 and June of 1995. Interior and exterior paint samples provide information about paint colors and alterations to the building. The Historic Structure Report also identifies specific maintenance and preservation issues. The history of the building’s design, construction and subsequent alterations and use is based on a review of archival materials and a thorough examination of the building’s fabric.
This Historic Structure Report documents several major research findings:
- The career of Orlo Epps, previously identified as the architect of the Manor House in Phil Noblitt’s thesis, is thoroughly examined. The Historic Structure Report contains copies of Epps’ floor plans and two elevations of the house.
- A period of significance for the Manor House, from 1899 to 1947, has been established. This period begins with the start of construction in 1899, and ends in 1947 with the death of Bertha Cone.
- The importance of Bertha Cone’s role in the historical development of the Manor House has been stated in the Historic Structure Report. For 39 years, form the time of Moses Cone’s death in 1908 until her own death in 1947, Bertha Cone steadfastly preserved and managed the estate along the lines laid out by her husband.
- The Manor House has been identified as architecturally significant as an example of the Beaux Arts approach to design.
- A historical context was developed which not only defines the Moses H. Cone Estate as part of the country place movement of the Gilded Age, but further identifies it as a type of country place known as a “manor.”
- The wealth of archival materials detailing the construction and maintenance of the Manor House during its period of significance, 1899 to 1947, makes this an extremely well-documented building.
Visual Sensitivity Mapping of Blue Ridge Parkway Viewsheds
In cooperation with the Blue Ridge Parkway Division of the National Park Service, the Design Research Center at the School of Design, North Carolina State University, has conducted a series of studies to determine the location, extent, and degree of sensitivity of lands visible from the Parkway. Using digital terrain modeling methods, maps of cumulative visual sensitivity were produced for several of the more threatened Parkway sections.
These maps were developed from both unweighted and distance-weighted visual sensitivity models. To better portray the location of visually-sensitive lands, these maps were then digitally overlain on scanned topographic maps. In addition, visual sensitivity maps were combined with three-dimensional terrain models to produced computer-animated renderings of the landscape.
The use of advanced computer modeling and visualization techniques have produced specific information about the location and relative importance of adjacent scenic lands, providing a spatial framework for formulating conservation strategies and allowing the Blue Ridge Parkway to assume a more proactive role in the preservation of critical scenic resources.
External Project Link