Enjoying the Blue Ridge Parkway’s views is the #1 reason why over 13 million people visit the Blue Ridge Parkway every year. The Parkway contains 269 overlooks that feature grand and expansive scenic views as well as informative signs detailing important aspects of Appalachian history, ecology and culture. With 269 such overlooks along its 469-mile stretch, the Parkway and its overstretched maintenance staff struggle to care for them. The Parkway has seen a decline in funding and today it is only able to perform approximately 10% of the needed maintenance on overlooks, with a backlog of identified overlooks maintenance projects increasing every year.
FRIENDS volunteers help maintain the overlooks through a cooperative endeavor between FRIENDS, the National Park Service and the Blue Ridge Parkway’s corridor communities. Its purpose includes (1) decreasing the backlog of overlook maintenance needs, (2) improving the function and appearance of overlooks for visitor enjoyment, (3) releasing National Park Service maintenance employees to accomplish other tasks requiring higher skills, (4) developing community partnerships which instill a sense of pride in public ownership of the Parkway.
FRIENDS volunteers donate their time and energy to removing invasive vegetation, keeping the overlooks clean, and reporting any unusual activity at the overlooks to the National Park Service. Volunteers at overlooks are sometimes the only direct human contact that a visitor has with the Blue Ridge Parkway, and so our volunteers are well-versed in local knowledge and can direct inquiries to the proper channels.