The creation of the Parkway also helped put local unemployed citizens back to work through the New Deal Program. Although construction of the scenic byway, originally dubbed as the Appalachian Scenic Highway, did not begin until September 1935, planners began mapping out the road’s future route on Dec. 26, 1933. According to the National Parks Service, camps of the Civilian Conservation Corps were set up along the Parkway’s intended route and Corps people worked on the road simultaneously with certain sections of the project given priority such as areas with higher unemployment rates. Locals were almost always utilized first in consideration for employment to aid the project.
Recognizing the economic benefits that could come with this scenic attraction, a bitter rivalry between North Carolina and Tennessee developed for the rights to call the Parkway their own, N.C. Rural explained. The decision to install 252 miles of roadway in North Carolina ultimately came from Interior Secretary Harold Ickes who cited North Carolina’s two national forests: the Pisgah and Natanhala could be used as a corridor for the Parkway.
By the time the United States was thrown into the midst of another world war, two-thirds of the project was completed. From that point forward, work on the project would be sporadic at times and the Parkway would not be completely finished until 1987 with the addition of the Linn Cove Viaduct.
At 469 miles long, the BRP meanders by various popular scenic attractions in both North Carolina and Virginia. Altogether, it travels through 29 counties in the connecting states. The 81,000 of Parkway land passes through the Blue Ridge, Black Mountains, Craggies, Pisgahs, Balsams, and the Great Smokies. In varied degrees of elevation, the Parkway ranges from 650 feet at the James River in Virginia to almost 6,500 feet just south of Mt. Pisgah.
According to the NPS, scenic overlooks, visitor center exhibits, restored historic structures, and developed areas are available on the Parkway so visitors can acquire a taste of what the region was like before European settlement as well as cross sections of Appalachian culture.
Locally, there are several scenic and tourist oriented attractions for visitors during weather permitting days and seasons of Parkway travel including the Jumpinoff Rock (mile post 260), the Northwest Trading Post in Glendale Springs (mile post 258.6) and Moses H. Cone Memorial Park (mile posts 292 to 295) which provides outdoor recreational opportunities.
For more information on the BRP and upcoming events celebrating the byway’s illustrious history, please visit www.blueridgeparway75.org.