Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Blue Ridge Parkway Announces Temporary Closure

Beginning Tuesday, April 22, 2014, the Graveyard Fields Parking Area and Trailhead, at Milepost 418.8, will close for approximately 11 weeks. During the closure, the National Park Service will complete important phases of a comprehensive construction project underway at this highly used and popular recreation area. The project addresses important visitor services and safety issues, and includes construction of a new comfort station and doubling of the parking capacity.Complete closure of the parking area is necessary to protect the public during the project and expedite construction.

Graveyard Fields is one of the Parkway's most popular recreation areas, providing access to U.S. Forest Service lands and a variety of outdoor recreation experiences including the opportunity to view three waterfalls, pick seasonal blue berries, and disperse camp. Dangerous parking, heavy use of the area and lack of restroom facilities currently contributes to diminished visitor experiences and natural resource degradation. Planned and funded in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, Federal Highways Scenic Byways Program, and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, this project allows for a series of site improvements including:

· Expansion of the overlook parking area from 17 spaces to 40 spaces.

· Placement of a new three-unit, ADA compliant vault toilet restroom facility constructed adjacent to the parking area.

· Improvements to USFS trails that include installing boardwalk, constructing check dams, improving drainage, closing non-system trails, and modifying boardwalk sections to fit new design features.

· Installation of a new trail map at trailhead and four additional interpretive signs on the Graveyard Fields Loop Trail.

· Reducing the speed limit in the area and eliminating parking along the road shoulder.

Addressing safety issues at the site is a paramount concern for the Parkway. Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Mark Woods says, "Currently visitors to Graveyard Fields use the island of the existing lot, and several hundred feet of the narrow road shoulder in both directions, for parking. This situation is unsafe and has resulted in numerous incidents. We're pleased this expansion will relieve some of the congestion and improve safety for drivers and pedestrians at Graveyard Fields."

This project could not have been completed without the Parkway's philanthropic partner, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation which is providing important financial support of the project.Foundation Director Carolyn Ward expresses her enthusiasm for the project stating, "We know that visitor use exceeds parking capacity every day of week throughout the summer and fall seasons at Graveyard Fields. The Foundation is pleased to provide a way to match people's love of this site with its long term management and stewardship."

Project managers ask for cooperation from visitors and to be aware of gates or lane closure signs in the area in order to expedite construction at the site. Parkway leadership encourages everyone to follow the progress of the project on social media at

Hiking in the Smokies

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