Planning For Blue Ridge Parkway's 75th Anniversary Moving Along

The Blue Ridge Parkway marks its 75th anniversary in 2010. NPS photo.

Plans for celebrating the Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th Anniversary in 2010, about which I wrote on the Traveler last fall, are moving along well. As regular Traveler readers may recall, I serve on the board of the nonprofit organization Blue Ridge Parkway 75, Inc., which is planning the celebration.

Since I last wrote, our professional staff members (one based in Asheville, North Carolina, and the other in Roanoke, Virginia) have coordinated a number of meetings to engage with local communities along the Parkway’s 469-mile route.

Because the Parkway is a narrow unit of the National Park System whose signature views are essentially “borrowed” from adjoining communities and landowners, community ownership of the Parkway is essential to its future survival. Meanwhile, the Parkway provides key economic and quality-of-life benefits to the communities it connects. The community meetings brought to light ideas for improving what has not always been a harmonious relationship between the Parkway and its region.

To help further facilitate these conversations during the anniversary year, Blue Ridge Parkway 75 has also developed a slide show for community speakers to take on the road and has launched the Blue Ridge Parkway 75th Anniversary website, complete with comprehensive calendar of local and regional events focused on the anniversary. Additionally, working in coordination with our neighbors celebrating the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s 75th this year and planning to celebrate Shenandoah National Park’s 75th in 2011, Blue Ridge Parkway 75 will also organize two “hand-off” events that will emphasize the symbiotic relationship of all three of these southern Appalachian parks.

All of Blue Ridge Parkway 75’s efforts are directed towards nurturing public understanding of the Parkway in order to promote stewardship of the park. To that end, we’ve also been planning a two-part 75th Anniversary Symposium, Imagining the Blue Ridge Parkway for the 21st Century. This event is modeled both on a symposium held for the Parkway’s 50th Anniversary in 1985, and on an invigorating and useful conference about the future of the National Parks, Designing the Parks, jointly sponsored last year by the University of Virginia, the National Park Service, the National Parks Conservation Association, and several other park-supporting organizations.

Part I of the Parkway symposium, which will be held April 22-24, 2010, on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, is designed to bring together researchers and professionals from all fields who have done new research about the Blue Ridge Parkway in the last 15 years or so. The subtitle of the symposium is History, Scenery, Conservation, and Community.

We hope to bring together everyone who has research findings to share, with the aim of laying a new foundation of knowledge that will undergird decision-making for the Parkway's next 75 years.

The idea, too, is to begin to create a community among those who have done or are presently engaged in serious research about the Parkway. In the more than 15 years of historical work I did to write my own book about the Parkway, I have repeatedly found out -- usually by accident -- about others who were doing interesting and relevant Parkway-related work. Often these professionals were working on contract projects for the Park Service, but other times, they were freelance writers or people in fields very different from my own realm of history. It is clear to me that all of us who are doing this work should know each other, share insights, share information about resources, and work together where possible for the good of the Parkway.

The symposium will bring people together across disciplinary boundaries: history, biology, engineering, landscape architecture, anthropology, environmental studies, cultural resource management, and on and on. Managing the Parkway is clearly a task that cannot be done by drawing on the expertise of only one or two areas.

If you have done an interesting research paper, contract project, popular article, master's thesis, dissertation, journal article, digital project, documentary film, podcast, mapping project, or other undertaking that has incorporated new, original Parkway-related research, please consider submitting a proposal for the symposium. Excellent student work done at the advanced undergraduate or especially at the graduate level will be particularly welcome.

If you know someone who is researching or writing about the Parkway, please forward this article or the link below to the call for proposals to them.

Full information about the symposium, including complete details on how to submit a proposal, may be found here at the Blue Ridge Parkway 75th Anniversary website.