A Look Back and Along The Road

 

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway (VisitNC.com)

The Blue Ridge Parkway today is in many ways what it has been for all its years – a ribbon of highway along the high Appalachian ridges of the Southeast, and a gateway to the discovery of ways of life that thrives along its pristine miles.

The Blue Ridge Parkway winds its way for 469 miles of beautiful ridgeline, from Waynesboro, Va. to Cherokee, N.C. The two-lane, 45-mph, limited access roadway generally rides over or ducks under the big state and national highways, with only occasional crossings of state or U.S. highways.

There’s a simple, Spartan feel as you drive – so clean and green as to be a park. Which, of course, it is.

There are no commercial signs here – just the small, tidy, white-letters-on-brown-field necessaries pertaining to distances and crossing – and an occasional new curve-ahead sign.

The miracle that is the Blue Ridge Parkway begins with its setting. Here in the Southeastern U.S. – that highly populated, technologically advanced and increasingly urbanized home to more than half the nation’s people – there’s a blue ribbon of magic, a linear park once referred to as having been “painted with a comet’s tail.”

It’s a roadway – just hours from the big metropolises of Washington, D.C. and Atlanta and Charlotte – that’s embraced by trees and other green, interrupted here and there with a pullover to look at more distant trees and other green.

The seed of this wonder goes back to the 1930s, when economic and social forces converged with natural ones to create a need in all those realms.

With the Great Depression, many people needed work, and part of the work created by President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal was the making of parks.

A young landscape architect named Stanley Abbott came south from building a linear park in New York state and went to work on a vision to create a series of recreational parks along the Parkway’s complete length – what Abbott called “beads on a string – the rare gems in the necklace.”

The legacy of that vision is the existence – at an average of 30-40 miles apart – of the parks and recreational sites that are one of the major draws of the Parkway. A mile-by-mile overview of those parks as well as other signifi cant spots along the roadway, including restrooms, gasoline and highway crossings is found in the guide.