If there are any billion-dollar babies in the National Park System, they would be the Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, both of which contributed more than $1 billion in tourism benefits to the communities surrounding their borders, according to a 2015 analysis of the National Park System's value to the national economy.
Blue Ridge Parkway
Amid all the hoopla, celebration, and excitement surrounding the National Park Service's 100th birthday this year, one fact is inescapable: Lodging in the parks this summer will be hard to find. But...it won't be impossible to find.
Judging from last year’s head count in the National Park System—a record 307.2 million—you can pretty much be assured that many parks will be even more crowded this summer as the National Park Service Centennial is celebrated.
Of all the national park units we have visited, none provide a more pleasant experience than driving the 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Vistas through North Carolina and Virginia aren’t as spectacular as those along Rocky Mountain’s Trail Ridge Road, Glacier’s Going-to-the-Sun Road, or Yosemite’s Tioga Road. However, for a pleasant drive that lasts several days rather than several hours, the Blue Ridge Parkway is without peer.
Moses H. Cone Memorial Park is one of the spectacular places on the Blue Ridge Parkway where history and recreation meet. The 3,500-acre park is crisscrossed by carriage trails, which are frequented by hikers and horseback riders alike, and features lakes, gardens, and orchards.
Having already announced earlier this year that the maintenance backlog across the National Park System is closing in on $12 billion, the National Park Service is now highlighting the structural problems with the Arlington Memorial Bridge in Washington, D.C., in a bid to raise congressional awareness of the problems.
Better fire protection is coming to Flat Top Manor at the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park along the Blue Ridge Parkway thanks to a Centennial Challenge project being carried by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation.
Consider it a birthday present to the National Park Service: $48 million to be doled out across the National Park System on projects ranging from improving trail systems and park facilities to bringing youth into the parks.
Today's the day, folks. The last day of 2015, and the last day you can make a donation to the national park friends organization of your choice and claim a tax deduction if the group is a non-profit.
Weary roads in the National Park System stand to benefit from the federal transportation bill passed last week, as it carries an 18 percent increase in funding for the National Park Service, according to the National Parks Conservation Association.