The National Park Service is asking visitors for patience while crews clean up nearly a month's worth of debris from winter weather and lack of maintenance. BPR’S Helen Chickering checked in with two people who have deep connections to the national parks here in Western North Carolina.
Phil Francis served as superintendent for both the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Francis now chairs The Coalition To Protect America's National Parks. Carolyn Ward is a former park ranger who is now CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. Both Ward and Francis say it will take a lot of work to get the parks back in shape.
From the National Park Service:
“Employees along the entire Blue Ridge Parkway are glad to be back at work,” said Superintendent J.D. Lee in a statement from Parkway officials. “We are so grateful to the committed Parkway staff, partners and neighbors that supported the Parkway during the lapse in appropriations.
"We had several weather events before and during the lapse that will continue to impact Parkway travel in the coming days and weeks. We appreciate the public’s patience and cooperation as we prioritize work to provide access to this special resource,” he added in the statement.
The National Park Service maintains an online tool that allows visitors to monitor openings and closings along the historic, 469-mile route using an interactive, real time road map. The map allows visitors to zoom in on specific sections of the Parkway, provides current road closure information, and serves as an essential Parkway planning tool for park visitors, especially in the winter.
Winter weather can impact the Parkway for extended periods given a number of variables including the route’s north facing slopes, tunnels, high elevations, and limited sight distances. Limited snow and ice removal may take place, however the Parkway’s natural resource protection priorities limit the use of ice melting chemicals. Park rangers monitor conditions in affected areas and open the road as soon as safe travel can resume.
For more information about winter operations on the Parkway and to access our park road closure map please visit www.nps.gov/blri