Cyclists being shut out of Blue Ridge Parkway's Future Plans?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Several weeks ago I posted information concerning a draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Blue Ridge Parkway’s General Management Plan. This draft plan, the parkway's first comprehensive management plan in its 75-year history, will provide comprehensive guidance for the Parkway for the next 20+ years.

In my posting I highlighted some of the changes and impacts hikers and campers could experience, depending on which of the three proposals is adopted. However, I neglected to review the document for impacts on cyclists. Apparently there is concern within the cycling community about the fact that the Blue Ridge Parkway is applying for National Historic Landmark status as a way of managing the parkway in an era of diminished national park funding. The Adventure Cycling Association contends that:

"the designation clearly sets a bad precedent -- one that cannot be easily undone. Under this status, any changes within the parkway will go under intense historic and environmental review, called the Section 106 process. This could halt or stagnate trail building, road maintenance, or any number of future improvements for bicycle access. In addition, other national parks could begin using this designation to “preserve” the status quo. Despite the growing interest in bicycling, park managers wouldn't have to accommodate cyclists or other non-motorized and alternative transportation users."

The Virginia Bicycling Federation is also raising similar concerns in a blog posting from earlier in the week:

Most troubling is an over-arching reference to the Parkway being “actively managed as a traditional, self-contained, scenic recreational driving experience…” The Parkway was formed through legislation in 1936. Its managers seem to have a vision of retaining a “golden age” of that time. But let’s be realistic, a “traditional driving experience” in 1936 was far different than how users would choose to enjoy the Parkway in the 21st century.

If you are a cyclist, and have concerns about the future of cycling on the Parkway, you should note that public comments on the document will be accepted through December 16th.

You can submit written comments by mail to:

Superintendent Philip A. Francis, Jr.
Blue Ridge Parkway
199 Hemphill Knob Road
Asheville, NC 28803


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