Citing budget cuts, the Blue Ridge Parkway will be closing, some facilities and reducing hours and services in other areas this year.
According to a press release, the Parkway is “unable to hire its full complement of seasonal employees” due to a five percent budget reduction from federally mandated sequestration. As a result, “park visitors will notice some facility closures and reduced hours and services in some area.”
“We’re not able to fill some key positions,” said Acting Superintendent Monika Mayr. The Parkway will be opening this season without a full crew of maintenance personnel, she said.
Mayr said Parkway management had to make some tough calls, but decided to close the least-used areas and services first. They also worked to spread out closures along the Parkway so visitors wouldn’t have to drive distances of 60-100 miles between park facilities.
Otter Creek, Roanoke Mountain and Crabtree Falls campgrounds will be closed.
James River, Rocky Knob and Crabtree Falls vistors centers will also be closed.
Picnic area closures include James River, Smart View, Droughton Park, Jefferies Park and Crabtree Falls.
Otter Creek Restaurant, Peaks of Otter Lodge, Rocky Knob Rental Cabins, Bluffs Lodge and The Trading Post will not be opening on schedule, but early summer opening dates for these concession faclities will be announced later.
Those facilities that will open this year are scheduled to be fully operational by May 24.
“We regret that reductions to our usual visitor service may cause some inconvenience for park visitors and will keep the public informed if the situation changes. As a unit of the National Park Service, the Blue Ridge Parkway remains committed to its mission to serve the public and preserve our nation’s resources for future generations,” read the press release.
Financial stop-gaps may be in the offing, though, Mayr said. “We’re getting increased interest from partners, volunteers and businesses,” she said — offers of assistance the Parkway may take advantage of for next year’s budget.
“The Parkway is absolutely open this year,” she said. “Our staff is dedicated to giving visitors a memorable and enjoyable experience.”