History and the GMP, Part 3: Some priorities

History and the GMP, Part 3: Some priorities

(Originally posted to Virtual Blue Ridge’s Blue Ridge Parkway Blog, July 16, 2008)

In some recent posts, I’ve been trying to give a historically-informed analysis of the “preliminary alternatives” recently announced for the public’s consideration and commentary to help the Parkway staff writes a General Management Plan for the park. Today’s topic? The comments I submitted in response to Question 2.

Read the spring 2008 GMP newsletter and learn about the preliminary alternatives here.

Question 2. Which parts of any of the preliminary alternatives to you feel strongly should be included in the futuremanagement of the parkway?

I think there are three key aspects of the preliminary alternatives that should certainly be included in the future management of the Parkway:

(1)A comprehensive sense of the Parkway as a part of the larger region through which it runs, as described in Alternative C. This understanding of the Parkway, I hope, would extend to the interpretive program in ways thatare suggested in some of the area descriptions in the “Preliminary Alternatives” document, but are not fully spelled out there. Specifically, I would like to see new interpretive media place the history of the Parkway itself within the context of the stories being told about the region. To do this effectively, a much more complex version of the region’s history – one that includes the story of tourism and the reality of conflict over land use and other related matters – will need to be told.

(2) The regionally-based comprehensive and proactive efforts to coordinate land protection and scenery conservation for the Parkway that are described in Alternative C (p. 4). If “long-term strategies for conserving views” included development of regional zoning ordinances or plans to protect the Parkway, I would favor this as well. Maintaining the Parkway in a piecemeal fashion and taking a primarily reactive approach to encroachments and threats seems likely in the long run to squander enormous staff time and energy in what may be a losing battle.

(3) Expansion of moderate-impact recreational opportunities and development of recreational interconnectedness with the region, especially the creation of multiuse trails and capacity for bicycling, again, as outlined in Alternative C. The Parkway has the potential to be an important venue for physical recreation, and expanding the capacity to accommodate bicycles would attract new audiences to the park and move it away from being seen only or mainly as a place for an automobile-based experience. In the age of high gas prices that may herald the beginning of the end of the gasoline engine and the age of the automobile, it will be important for the Parkway to lead a regional transition to other forms of recreation and, ultimately,

My husband David, and me and our boys biking the 34-mile Virginia Creeper Trail in 2005.)

travel. In addition to the multiuse trails proposed on p. 7 for urbanized areas near the Parkway, I would also like to suggest thinking about whether there are ways to link campground areas by bicycle-friendly connections or create bicycle-friendly areas near campgrounds, further enabling the Parkway to become a destination for all bicycle-oriented travelers, including families with young children. I would prefer, in summary, to see the Parkway’s money and energy spent on developing the Parkway further for non-motorized, lower impact recreation (hiking, biking, etc.) rather than enhancing the Parkway for greater use by motorized vehicles including large RVs (and motorcycles, about which I’ll comment later).

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