In late March, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation continued its cascade of contributions to the Parkway by conveying ownership of a new 1,800 square-foot Communications Center building. The new facility sits beside Parkway headquarters in Asheville, but its role extends far beyond facilitating law enforcement and other communications on the high road where elevation and geographic aspect have always complicated communications.
The structure enhances emergency operations and law enforcement for the entire Blue Ridge Parkway, but also for Kings Mountain National Military Park, Mt. Mitchell State Park, and the Veterans Administration Police Department in Asheville, North Carolina. The Foundation said the new building was “part of a move by the National Park Service to provide more centralized dispatching services.” As such, “this facility is positioned to serve additional park units throughout the region.”
The Center was built with $212,000 from the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and $125,000 from National Park Concessions, Inc.
“These gifts were vitally important to make this Center possible. I think it will be one of the finest communication systems in the National Park Service,” said Parkway Superintendent Phil Francis. Carolyn Ward, CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, said, “We are proud to be able to provide support for this critical component of visitor safety.”
Superintendent Francis describes the project as, “a superlative example of private sector support for the Parkway. Very little federal funding was used in constructing this facility.”
The Communications Center is so state-of-the-art it can provide reliable communications to all four districts along the 469-mile Parkway. Dispatchers at the Communication Center interact with an amazing 29 counties, 65 cities/communities, 33 fire rescue services, 4 National Forests and 120 town operators in both Virginia and North Carolina. The Center will play a key role for visitor and employee health and safety and serve as a conduit between Parkway emergency services rangers and interpretive, resource management, administrative and maintenance staff.
The Center is fully ADA accessible and is designed to serve as an emergency response center in the event of a natural disaster. The “green” building was was constructed using energy efficient, biologically safe and sustainable eco-panels to reduce energy demands and provide a safe environment for Communication’s dispatch staff.
The adjacent Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center attained LEED Gold status in 2009, a rating attesting that a building's design exceeds the standard for high energy efficiency. When it was built, the Parkway Visitor Center was awarded the maximum 10 points for energy efficiency by the US Green Building Council. The Parkway Visitor Center is rated a 75 percent improvement when compared with performance for a comparable conventional building.
Since 1997, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has allocated more than $3 million to Parkway projects. The Foundation recently announced more than $650,000 in Parkway funding for 2012 projects and programs.