FRIENDS works through members, volunteers, partners and a network of Chapters to protect, promote and preserve the Blue Ridge Parkway and support the National Park Service.
and [insert_php]echo NUMBER_ADOPTED_OVERLOOKS;[/insert_php] of [insert_php]echo NUMBER_OVERLOOKS;[/insert_php] overlooks.
Our volunteers maintain over [insert_php]echo NUMBER_TRAIL_FEET_MAINTAINED;[/insert_php] out of a total of [insert_php]echo TOTAL_TRAIL_FEET;[/insert_php] feet of Parkway trails.
in 2012-2013 FRIENDS began helping the NPS with maintenance of historic cemeteries located within the park, documenting headstones and creating a cemetery database.
Every $1 invested in FRIENDS generates $[insert_php]echo VOLUNTEER_WORK_PER_DOLLAR;[/insert_php] in volunteer service.
A SHORT HISTORY UP TO NOW
What had become known as “America’s Favorite Scenic Drive” was literally being loved to death by the tremendous onslaught of visitors for which the National Park Service (NPS) was ill prepared and certainly could not afford to support. The location of the Blue Ridge Parkway, 469 miles stretching from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to the iconic Great Smoky Mountain town of Cherokee in western North Carolina, placed it within a day’s drive of half the population of the United States.
By 1987, it seemed that the entire population was packing their cars and picnic baskets and heading out for the Parkway. Funding to meet the growing demands of increased visitation to the Parkway (and other national parks around the country) was becoming an annual challenge for the Parkway Superintendent.
The result was that national parks across the US had to do more, with less. Services such as ranger interpretive programs, road maintenance and the expansion of visitor programs and facilities were at risk.
The NPS began to look for ways to meet these challenges by connecting with nearby communities and visitors who loved the Parkway. This same approach was used nationwide and the “friends of parks” movement began. Non-profit groups formed and organized around the singular idea of befriending their favorite parks.
FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway was organized in 1988 as a membership-based organization to provide the funds for special NPS Parkway projects and volunteers to take on many of the jobs that the NPS could no longer afford to support. It was felt that the organization and its members could be a catalyst for ensuring the preservation, conservation, and enhancement of the Parkway that brings so many visitors to its bordering communities. FRIENDS focused on being the link between Parkway visitors and those communities, empowering the communities to become involved in Parkway projects. Today, FRIENDS has established [insert_php]echo NUMBER_CHAPTERS;[/insert_php] community-based Chapters along the Blue Ridge Parkway and is one of the largest FRIENDS groups in the United States.
Interestingly, the use of volunteers working for the Parkway harks back to its very formation and the way its construction began in 1935. The idea of constructing a rural mountain roadway through numerous, isolated communities was a ‘make work’ project under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” plan for social and economic progress. The project employed men from the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC), an innovative, federally funded organization that put thousands of Americans to work during the Great Depression on projects with environmental benefits.
As federal funding to the National Park system has continued to decline, the need for FRIENDS is even stronger today than when it was founded. Every member and volunteer plays an active role. Please consider becoming part of FRIENDS and helping us to ensure the Parkway’s beauty remains to be visited and appreciated by future generations.
FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and an official National Park Service (NPS) partner of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
DOESN’T EVERYONE LOVE A CONTEST !?
Can you help us identify these incredible people? If you know who any of them are, please send an e-mail to Staff@FriendsBRP.org. The first person to identify all the people in the photograph will receive a gift from FRIENDS so dig through those family albums and tell us what you find. We’d love any related photos and stories as well. Pass those on and you may see them re-told on our website and / or in our newsletter High Vistas.