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. To help raise funds for this much-needed project and the replacement of exhibits at the Craggy Visitor Center, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and RomanticAsheville.com Travel Guide are teaming up for a three-week “I Love Craggy” matching donation program. Every gift designated for the improvement projects up to $5,497 (the elevation at Craggy Gardens) will be matched dollar for dollar by RomanticAsheville.com through August 31.
“Craggy Gardens has been one of my favorite places to explore since I was a child,” says Mark File, owner of RomanticAsheville.com. “I hope this project ensures that many future generations will be inspired by this magical place.”
The hike to Craggy Flats Bald, accessible from the picnic area and Visitor Center, is a popular trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway, particularly in June when rhododendrons are in bloom. Heavy visitation has taken a toll on the trail, leading to erosion areas as deep as two-feet and damage to the habitat. Because the trail is so degraded, it is also difficult for National Park Service staff to access the area with the equipment needed to maintain the bald, which served as a grazing area for livestock before the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The rare plants, wildlife, habitats, and natural features found here make it a designated North Carolina Natural Heritage Area.
The trail work extends from the historic shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937 across the bald to the stone overlook at Craggy Knob. The crew with the American Conservation Experience will spend four weeks removing encroaching vegetation, eliminating braided trails causing damage to the landscape, and repairing areas that contribute to erosion. It will be a valuable learning experience for these young adults (ages 18-25) who are exploring outdoor careers in the field of conservation. The trail will remain open to hikers during the rehab initiative.
The Craggy Gardens Visitor Center, milepost 364.5, 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 Inside the circa-1952 building, the 10-year-old faded and outdated exhibit panels will be replaced by displays that tell the story of the plants and animals in this unique and harsh high elevation environment. The work will be accomplished in two phases with the main exhibits slated for installation in late fall this year. David Williams of Wingin’ It Works is collaborating with the National Park Service to design the interpretive panels.
The Foundation is raising a total of $30,595 to fix the trail and create the new exhibits. Donors supporting the project include the Asheville BMW Riders Club, which raised $13,600 for the initiatives during its annual High Pass Boogie motorcycle ride in May.
Those who give $100 or more will have their names added to a donor recognition board at Craggy Gardens Picnic Area, milepost 367.6. In addition, the first 50 people to contribute $100 or more will receive a 2018 RomanticAsheville.com Beautiful Blue Ridge wall calendar.
You can double your gift to Craggy Gardens with the “I Love Craggy” donation matching program thanks to RomanticAsheville.com.