A signature program for FRIENDS that has become a national model, our Save Parkway Views program engages volunteers from communities bordering the Parkway to plant trees, preserving the natural Parkway corridor views from nearby development. The Parkway’s length and mountain crest location make it a carefully crafted window to the natural environment of Appalachia. Parkway designers deliberately appropriated and incorporated landscapes and views that extend far beyond the limits of the Park.
Visitors to the Blue Ridge Parkway come in no small part for these scenic views. The blazing fall leaves, lush forests, long distance vistas and spring flower blooms draw visitors back year after year. Yet the Parkway differs from other National Parks with its land holdings narrowing at times to a mere 200 ft wide. Over time as surrounding areas grew, development began to diminish the quality of the views along the Parkway. This encroachment culminated in a declaration in 2003 by Scenic America, designating certain areas of the Parkway as ‘Last Chance Landscapes’.
In response, FRIENDS established the Save Parkway Views program to restore Parkway viewsheds. The term ‘viewshed’ refers to the entire 360 degree area an individual can see from a given point of view. The Parkway lands may only extend a matter of feet on either side of the road, however, the viewshed is what you actually see around you traveling. Preserving the glorious viewsheds that the Parkway is famous for is the artistic side of Parkway maintenance. It involves finding ways to blend roof line and tree line, neighborhood and forest… a bit like painting a living picture with native plants instead of oils or watercolor.
FRIENDS focuses on being a positive catalyst, working with both commercial and residential developers to preserve the Parkway borders and restore the ecological buffer zone between the Parkway and development. Our efforts are centered on building partnerships, involving all localities along the Parkway and especially in those areas designated ‘Last Chance Landscapes’.
We also work to involve children, youth and college students, coupling work days with environmental education and fun. This approach engages young people, providing a shared awareness and understanding of viewshed concerns through learning and common experience. For some children, this is the first time they have seen the Blue Ridge Parkway and / or planted a tree. The experiences of this rising generation inspire a new focus on our nation’s natural treasures and their personal responsibility for their preservation.
Our efforts have resulted in the planting of 6,440 trees in areas where that buffer zone has been compromised.
The program is considered a ‘win-win’ for both the Parkway and nearby homeowners and developers. The viewsheds give Parkway visitors a more continuous natural experience and they also provide a beautiful view and a natural sound barrier for nearby residents.