Adopt a Parkway Overlook
Adopt-a-Street, Adopt-a-Highway, Adopt-a-Stream and similar volunteer programs help decrease government costs and foster a sense of community pride and ownership. Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, families, businesses and organizations can adopt an overlook.
Initiated by the National Park Service, the coordination of the Adopt-an-Overlook program recently transferred to the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway Inc., a Roanoke, Va.-based nonprofit.
Through the program, more than 270 overlooks and parking areas are eligible for adoption, which requires a minimum three-year commitment to remove litter and debris, sweep sidewalks and parking areas, clean signage and other structures and, in some cases, trim foliage and mow grass.
“They usually range from the usual picking up of trash to something more intensive, depending on an overlook,” said Fernando Gracia, coordinator of volunteers and programs for Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway. “If an overlook is visited more often, it is more likely to be abused. Some overlooks might require a little bit of mowing.”
More than half of the overlooks are still available for adoption, including about 25 sites from the Mt. Jefferson overlook north of Blowing Rock to the Lost Cove Cliffs overlook south of Linville.
“In our first year with the program, volunteers have adopted 133 of the 272 Parkway overlooks — 49 percent adopted,” Gracia said.
Gracia said the Blue Ridge Parkway is asking communities to take more responsibility for the park, as its budget continues to face cuts.
“The BRP maintenance staff is officially tasked with cleaning overlooks as their schedules permit; however, over the past 10 years, the Parkway has seen a decline in funding for the maintenance division,” according to a document of guidelines for the program.
The Parkway is only able to perform approximately 10 percent of the needed maintenance and repair on overlooks, and the backlog increases each year, it said.
“It’s the park’s way of helping the communities around the Parkway kind of gain a sense of ownership of the park,” Gracia said.
Gracia acknowledged the recent death of a Parkway maintenance worker while mowing the grass at the Haw Creek Valley overlook. In May, 63-year-old Dana Bruce died when his riding mower fell more than 140 feet down an embankment.
The National Park Service has revised its training procedures for maintenance workers following that incident, and Adopt-an-Overlook program volunteers at overlooks that require mowing will undergo the same training, Gracia said.
Two chapters of Friends in the Blue Ridge Parkway are located in Watauga County, including a chapter at Appalachian State University and a Boone/Blowing Rock chapter, also called the High Country chapter.
For more information about the Adopt-an-Overlook program, including overlook availabilities, visit http://tinyurl.com/adopt-overlook or call (800) 228-7275. For more information about Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway, including local chapter information, visit http://www.blueridgefriends.org or call toll free at (800) 228-7275.