By Joshua Blanco
In an effort to spread holiday cheer, an anonymous donor recently awarded the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation a matching grant of $300,000 to kick-start its new Trails & Views Forever Fund. The fund, created to support under-prioritized repairs along the Parkway, will include restoration projects for trails, views, overlooks, campgrounds and picnic areas.
“It’s a very generous grant to kick off this effort,” says Rita Larkin, communications director at Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. If matched, the all-or-nothing grant will provide $600,000 towards the fund’s $3 million goal. If the Foundation is unable to raise the matching funds by June 30, 2020, the grant will be forfeited. “Typically when people give a grant like this they just want to make sure people are engaged,” Larkin says. “It’s a double impact for any individual donor and it’s a double impact for the anonymous trust, too.”
The idea for the fund came from regular meetings with the National Park Service (NPS). It became clear that the NPS would be unable to address a number of critical matters because of monetary constraints and the high demands of their schedule. Concerned that many parts of the Parkway would go without proper maintenance, the Foundation decided to launch a fund tailored to aspects of the Parkway that might otherwise go untended. “This is a consolidated effort to take care of a lot of those national spaces together and make sure that there’s a plan in place for their care,” Larkin says. “It’s not just a one-trail-at-a-time kind of thing; it’s a long range picture for these places.”
While the idea of raising $300,000 in a matter of months might seem unattainable, it’s not an entirely new concept. The North Carolina Trails Program, for example, has been awarded roughly $19.1 million in the last decade according to their website. “I think it’s entirely doable,” Larkin says. “I know people love the Parkway and support it.”
The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is also planning to recruit community members and youth groups in an effort to engage the next generation of Parkway caretakers. In the past, the Foundation has worked with organizations like the American Conservation Experience to foster a sense of community among those passionate about restoring their local recreational sites.
For those residing in Asheville and the surrounding areas, a few local upgrades are already in the planning phases. Price Lake and Craggy Gardens are on the list for trail revisions in the years to come. Meanwhile, Graveyard Fields is expected to be the site of brand new boardwalks and restrooms to accommodate its visitors.
Assuming that everything goes according to plan, work throughout the parkway will begin shortly after the funds are acquired, and is expected to be ongoing for the next five to eight years. “We’re just hoping that people love this idea as much as we do,” Larkin says. “This is a really good time to address the issues of these natural places needing our help.”
Those wishing to donate can do so at BRPFoundation.org. Anyone giving $1,000 or more will be acknowledged on signs throughout the Parkway and will also be sent a limited edition patch as a token of appreciation.