Find your Blue Ridge Parkway passion project

Mabry Mill by Vicki Dameron.jpg

Mabry Mill in Virginia Mabry Mill in Virginia
May 31, 2019

Bolstering rare plant populations. Archiving and sharing photographs of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s past. Revealing obscured views at overlooks. Repairs to a historic mill. We are asking donors to support these projects and additional initiatives that will enhance the scenic route and share its stories with millions of visitors.

Each year, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation works with the National Park Service to select projects that will connect visitors with the park’s natural wonders and history and sustain the park for generations to come.

This year, nature lovers can support the work of a plant nursery intern, which will allow the Parkway to nurture rare or declining plants, such as the Heller’s Blazing Star. Those fascinated by the history of the 469-mile route can donate to begin the process of digitizing thousands of historic Parkway photographs that will be made available to the public through an online archive. Donors can also create a lasting legacy by funding the replacement of the flume at Mabry Mill in Virginia, one of the most photographed sites on the Parkway.

“Those who love the Blue Ridge Parkway can truly be champions for this national park unit,” says Carolyn Ward, CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. “Every gift, large and small, is an investment in a national treasure and a testament to the power of the Parkway experience.”

The costs of these projects range from $5,400 to continue the Bee Kind to the Parkway wildflower pollinator program to $600,000 to complete extensive repairs at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Donors are invited to give to the project that most reflects their passions or the overall protection of the Parkway. Gifts help determine which projects can move forward most quickly.

“On behalf of the National Park Service, it is a privilege to work with the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation to collaborate on these projects that protect park resources and meet important visitor needs,” said J.D. Lee, Parkway Superintendent. “This work represents the National Park Service mission at its core. Partners like the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation are key to helping others show their support of the Parkway and making a long-term impact in protecting this special place.”


2019 Projects & Fundraising Goals

Education & Outreach

Craggy Gardens outdoor exhibits
Milepost 364 | Goal: $6,200
With the recent addition of new interpretive indoor panels, Craggy Gardens Visitor Center features a wealth of fascinating information about the flora and fauna that call the high-elevation area home. But during the off-season and after-hours when the visitor center is closed, there is little information available for visitors. In collaboration with the National Park Service, the Foundation plans to install outdoor exhibits that orient visitors and provide information on how to care for the fragile ecosystem as they explore it. 

Digitize historical photographs for online viewing
Goal: $25,000
The development of the Blue Ridge Parkway and its evolution over the decades are fascinating stories that are brought to life through photographs dating back to the initial days of construction in the 1930s. Thousands of images in the Parkway’s archives are not available for public viewing. This project will begin the process of organizing and digitizing historical park photographs to make them available online for the public to learn from and enjoy.

New exhibits at Waterrock Knob Visitor Center
Milepost 451 | Remaining goal: $31,300
Waterrock Knob is a majestic and captivating place, not only for its ecosystem but its history. The faded and outdated exhibits at the visitor center do not tell the compelling story of this landscape. Gifts for this project will fund dynamic exhibits to share details about the role of conservation in maintaining the pristine environment, Cherokee history and culture, unique biodiversity at the high-elevation site, the return of elk to the southern end of the Parkway, and more.


Visitor Amenities

Rock water fountain reconstruction
Milepost 364 | Goal: $8,000
Arched stone bridges, concrete milepost markers, and wood overlook signs are iconic design features of the Blue Ridge Parkway. For decades, rock water fountains in the designated recreation areas also helped define the park’s aesthetic. Today, most of the fountains are dry and the stonework is crumbling. With public support, a fountain at Craggy Gardens will be replaced in an ongoing project to bring back these signature designs and provide visitors with clean water.

Renew the Views
Parkway-wide | Goal: $60,000
The Renew the Views program takes Blue Ridge Parkway overlooks from “Nothing to see here” to “Wow!” status. This project will mobilize highly trained National Park Service arborists to continue removing trees and overgrown vegetation obstructing long-range views. With 216 designated overlooks in North Carolina and Virginia, there are still many sweeping mountain landscapes left to be revealed again. This vista restoration effort is also an investment in the economic vitality of cities and towns all along the way. Most visitors cite the views as the reason for their Parkway visit, thus helping to boost local tourism.

Repairing Bluffs Restaurant
Milepost 241 | Remaining goal: $155,000
It’s been nearly 10 years since the last diners enjoyed a hearty meal at Bluffs Restaurant, but with additional support from the community, the Foundation will reopen this iconic spot at Doughton Park near Sparta, North Carolina. The building’s roof was replaced last fall. The next step is the rehab of the stone building’s interior in preparation for a new operator. The construction work is slated to begin later this year with a goal of reopening the facility in 2020.


Historical & Cultural Preservation

Mabry Mill flume repairs
Milepost 176 | Goal: $75,000
Mabry Mill near Meadows of Dan, Virginia, is one of the most photographed sites on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but it is much more than a pretty place. The mill built by Ed and Lizzie Mabry in the early 1900s is akin to an outdoor museum where visitors can learn about a bygone way of life. To ensure the mill wheel can turn for educational demonstrations, the flume must be repaired. Gifts for this project will be doubled thanks to a Centennial Challenge grant authorized by Congress. This project is in partnership with the National Park Foundation.

Remaking history at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park
Milepost 294 | Remaining goal: $600,000
In 2016, the Foundation kicked off an initiative to raise $3 million to rehabilitate Moses H. Cone Memorial Park in Blowing Rock, N.C. To complete repairs at the former estate, the Foundation must raise the remaining $600,000. A special National Park Service Historic Preservation team will oversee repairs at Cone Manor, including the weathered and damaged exterior. The work is slated to begin in late summer.


Natural Resource Protection

Plant nursery intern
Goal: $20,000
The 80,000-plus acres that make up the Blue Ridge Parkway are home to more than 2,000 plant species. With public support, the National Park Service will offer a plant nursery internship designed to expand opportunities to protect threatened and rare native plants. The intern will assist park biologists in laying the groundwork for a plant nursery, including site selection, development of educational materials for visitors, and propagating plants found in the wild.

Bee Kind to the Parkway
Parkway-wide | Remaining goal: $5,400
Last summer, scientists with the Blue Ridge Parkway began re-establishing wildflower areas in the park to bolster populations of bees and other pollinators that contribute to the entire ecosystem. Citizen scientists collected and sorted native wildflower seeds and the soil was prepared for planting. Additional funding is needed to begin the planting process and conduct pollinator surveys to track the impact of this important Parkway-wide project.


Signature Programs

Kids in Parks
Goal: $60,000
Kids in Parks is a network of hiking, biking, paddling and disc golf trails outfitted with free activity guides for children and families. The mission behind these TRACK Trails goes beyond fun; the goals are to encourage kids to be physically active and help them build meaningful connections with nature. In turn, these goals help inspire the next generation of stewards who will care for all public lands, including the Blue Ridge Parkway. This year, Kids in Parks is celebrating a huge milestone: one million adventures using TRACK Trails! With a donation, supporters can continue to engage young people in the joys of the outdoors and the stewardship of public lands.

Blue Ridge Music Center programming
Milepost 213 | Goal: $38,200
This year, thousands of music lovers will clap along to performances by local and national acts, explore the Roots of American Music Museum, and even bring an instrument to jam during the Midday Mountain Music sessions at the Blue Ridge Music Center near Galax, Virginia. However, ticket sales alone do not cover the cost of musical programming. Gifts designated for the Blue Ridge Music Center will provide cultural experiences for thousands of visitors and continue the traditions of mountain music.

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