Steward Story: Growing up on the Blue Ridge Parkway

April 20, 2018

The Blue Ridge Parkway leaves each of us with special memories and a deep connection to the mountains. For Doris Luening, that bond was made when she and her family lived near Mount Mitchell as her father and uncle helped build the Blue Ridge Parkway in the 1930s. Here is her story:

Doris Luening was only five years old when she spent a year on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but even today she can direct you straight to the site of the camp that she and her family called home while her father and uncle helped construct the new roadway. 


Just north of the entrance to Mount Mitchell State Park, a gate spans the faded road that leads to the spot where a collection of cabins and a bunkhouse once stood. The lodgings were built for the crews who took on the hard work of clearing trees, blasting rock, and moving earth to give shape to what locals called “The Scenic.” Doris’s father, James Erwin Asbury, and uncle, Nesbitte Samuel Asbury, came to the monumental project with Nello Teer Construction Company, which was awarded the first Blue Ridge Parkway construction contract. 


James and “Uncle Neb,” as the family called him, were shovel operators, running the complex machines on precarious hillsides to dig out rock and dirt, making way for the paving to come. “In 1935, if you had a job, you were a lucky dog. A lot of people didn’t,” Doris explains. “It was the depths of the Great Depression when this Parkway started. It was a wonderful gift to many people for creating jobs.”


While the Parkway provided steady work for her dad and uncle from 1935 to 1940, it gave Doris a gift of exploration and adventure. There were plenty of young families on the mountain to form a tight-knit community. “You think of being atop Mount Mitchell as a lonely wild place, and you’re being a wild child,” says Doris, “but there were people to play with there and we did.” 


She, her parents, and younger sister lived in a three-room cabin heated by a pot belly stove. Her uncle and aunt were just a few cabins away. Doris and her sister named the resident wild turkey “Tom,” and called him their pet, laying out bread crumbs on a stump so they could watch him eat. The kids rode bikes and played with blocks on the floors of each other’s cabins. Doris had special instructions to watch out for snakes to keep her sister safe. When family and friends came to visit their remote outpost, they hiked to the tower atop Mount Mitchell. Doris even remembers visiting the worksite and riding in a dump truck with one of the workers as he released earth over a steep drop off. “It was scary and thrilling,” she says. 


The excitement and charm of those times have never left her memory, and in 2014, Doris and her husband, David, established the James Erwin Asbury and Nesbitte Samuel Asbury Endowment to give back to the place that has played an important role in her family’s history.


“My dad and uncle worked on the Parkway for five years, and it was a wonderful time period,” Doris says. “They loved the value of being outside on the Parkway and working, and what it did for the surrounding areas and the people. That’s why we created the endowment. We’d like our family to remember them, and remember that they helped create this park, because it’s a gift to all of us.”

Leave a Legacy

Giving back to the Parkway is a meaningful way to celebrate your personal connection to the journey. In 2014, Doris and David Luening created an endowment to honor her father and uncle. To learn more about how you can leave a legacy, contact Ashley Edwards at (866) 308-2773, ext. 170, or via e-mail

 

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Blue Ridge Parkway Outdoor Guide

Updated annually, the printed Outdoor Activity Guide features trail maps, safety information, bear encounter guidance, and articles on Parkway programs, the Blue Ridge Music Center, and current issues facing the park. The National Park Service offers this 24-page newspaper for free at every visitor center, as well as community outreach events. It is an essential guide to a well-planned Parkway excursion. With your support, 100,000 copies will be printed and made available before the busiest visitation periods of the season.
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Force Multipliers for Plant and Wildlife Protection

Law enforcement rangers do far more on the Parkway than just control traffic and keep visitors safe. They protect plants and wildlife from poachers in search of rare species, including galax, ginseng, and even bog turtles. With more than 80,000 acres of park land spread across 29 counties in two states, it's a logistical challenge to monitor the entire Parkway. Your gift for this project will purchase remote sensors to keep a careful watch on vulnerable species and alert rangers to potential thefts in real-time.
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Waterrock Knob: New Exhibits at Visitor Center

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Our Kids in Parks program got its start in 2009 with the opening of the first TRACK Trail at the Asheville Visitor Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Today, there are five trails along the route that engage children and their families with the outdoors through activity brochures. You can expand these adventures for future land stewards by supporting the creation of new experiences at two fascinating Parkway sites in Virginia: the James River and Rocky Knob/Mabry Mill. 
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Bee Kind to the Parkway

There’s a buzz in the air as we launch our Bee Kind to the Blue Ridge Parkway initiative! You can help reestablish wildflower display areas so that bees and their pollinator friends can thrive.  Your gift will:
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I Love Craggy Matching Challenge

A rehabilitation project for one of the most popular trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway is underway! A crew with the American Conservation Experience is repairing Craggy Flats Bald Trail, which has become deeply rutted, leading to erosion.
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Centennial Challenge Project: Sharp Top Shelter Rehab

Matching Gift Opportunity! In 2017, Congress provided $20 million for projects across the country through the Centennial Challenge program. These funds will be matched by $33 million from more than 50 park partners to improve trails, restore buildings, and increase visitor access to parks. This project has been selected for a Centennial Challenge grant! That  means your contribution will be doubled by matching funds from the federal government, so you can feel twice as good about your gift.
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Centennial Challenge Project: Humpback Rocks Farm Rehab

Matching Gift Opportunity! In 2017, Congress provided $20 million for projects across the country through the Centennial Challenge program. These funds will be matched by $33 million from more than 50 park partners to improve trails, restore buildings, and increase visitor access to parks. This project has been selected for a Centennial Challenge grant! That means your contribution will be doubled by matching funds from the federal government, so you can feel twice as good about your gift.
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Moses H. Cone Memorial Park: Bass Lake Comfort Station

Your donation keeps the restrooms at Bass Lake on the grounds of Moses H. Cone Memorial Park clean and open to visitors year-round. The facility was completed in 2009 thanks to your gifts, and mimicks the architecture of the former laundry room of nearby Flat Top Manor. 
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Blue Ridge Music Center Trees & Picnic Tables

With your help, we will plant a row of mature trees along the hillside of the amphitheater to provide shade for concert-goers and block the sun for performers on the stage. Additionally, picnic tables will be installed to offer daytime visitors a place to enjoy a meal or take a rest after hiking one of the on-site trails. 
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Craggy Gardens Visitor Center Exhibit Revamp

FUNDED! Thank you for your gifts to make the first phase of this project a reality. The work will be accomplished in two phases with the main exhibits slated for installation in the winter of 2017/2018. Additional gifts will help us accomplish phase two! The Craggy Gardens Visitor Center hosts 85,000 visitors annually. Inside the circa-1952 building, the 10-year-old faded and outdated exhibit panels will be replaced by displays that tell the story of the plants and animals in this unique and harsh high elevation environment.
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Give the Plate

You can give a Blue Ridge Parkway specialty license plate to friends and family members who have a vehicle registered in North Carolina. From the $30 plate fee, $20 goes to the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation to protect and enhance the scenic route. An additional $10 supports the N.C. Department of Transportation Wildflower Program. Your gift is for the initial purchase, and the recipient pays the annual renewal to keep the specialty tag valid.  Here is how it works:
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The designers of the Blue Ridge Parkway created 216 overlooks to offer astonishing views of rippling mountain peaks, valleys, and more. Over time, vegetation has grown and obscured many of the original vistas. Working with the National Park Service, we are setting out to clear these overlooks with the support of individuals and adjacent communities.
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Craggy Flats Bald Trail Repairs

FUNDED! Thank you for your gifts to make this project a reality. A crew with the American Conservation Experience has just finished most of the repairs at Craggy Flats Bald Trail during a four-week stint.
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Julian Price Memorial Park Restrooms & Showers 

FUNDED! Thanks so much for your gifts to make this project possible. Please join us for a ribbon cutting to celebrate the completion of the project at 10 a.m., October 24, at Price Campground, Loop D. Price Park Campground is one of the most visited camping areas on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with 129 tent and 68 RV sites. Your support will build a modern facility with showers and handicap-accessible restrooms.
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Blue Ridge Music Center Programming

The sounds of the fiddle, banjo, and guitar are likely to welcome you when you visit the Blue Ridge Music Center, where the music of our mountains is preserved, interpreted, and celebrated. Cultural preservation is a core element of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation’s mission, and we advance that goal by funding musical programming at the Blue Ridge Music Center at milepost 213 in Virginia.
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Kids in Parks

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. Parks are at their best when people use, appreciate, and care for them.
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Anyone who strolls the loop around Bass Lake, rides horseback or hikes the carriage paths, or explores Flat Top Manor makes a connection with this 3,500-acre estate created by denim magnate Moses H. Cone in late 1800s. The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is raising funds to address crucial repairs and maintenance as well as trail work and landscape restoration for this treasure listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the last two years, the Foundation has raised $2 million for the rehab of the estate.
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Doughton Park: Repair & Reopen Bluffs Buildings

Our goal is within reach! That's right, we only need $250,000 to hit our fundraising target for reopening the former Bluffs Coffee Shop building at Doughton Park, near Sparta, N.C. We've come so far thanks to your dedication and generosity for the project. Support from the North Carolina General Assembly and Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) has also been critical. In 2017, the state appropriated $350,000 toward building repairs. ARC recently provided a $300,000 grant to purchase updated restaurant equipment and furniture. 
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