THE BLUE RIDGE:
A SOCIO-CULTURAL ASSESSMENT OF INHOLDERS
ALONG THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
by Kent Anderson
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
CHAPTER TWO: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
CHAPTER THREE: THE PEOPLE OF THE BLUE RIDGE
CHAPTER FOUR: THE GROUNDHOG MOUNTAIN INCIDENT
CHAPTER FIVE: CONCLUSIONS
PHOTOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTATION INDEX
Who are the people of the Blue Ridge Parkway? How each opposing party answers this question determines the basis for virtually all future courses of action and explains much in the way of Park Service and inholder behavior. To the National Park Service, it appears that the primary people of concern of the Blue Ridge Parkway are the millions of tourists and motorists who use the Parkway as a leisurely drive along the crest of a beautiful range of mountains. These are the people for whom the Parkway exists and the people first in the minds of NPS officials when decisions are made regarding the scenic highway. As a small part of this study, a number of tourists were interviewed and a public opinion poll was compiled. Tourists were questioned at such popular stopping points as Mabry Mill, The Fences, and the Overlook on Groundhog Mountain. Admittedly, this is not a scientific sample, but, nonetheless, here are the results of that poll:
l. Have you noticed the scattered homes and farms along the Parkway during your travels?
YES NO NOT SURE 14 0 0
2.Do you think these homes and farms significantly detract from the vista of the Parkway?
YES NO NOT SURE 1 13 0
3. Have you noticed the smaller access roads that connect to the Parkway?
YES NO NOT SURE 14 0 0
4. Do these access roads appear hazardous to you?
YES NO NOT SURE 3 11 0
In view of these figures, it would seem advisable for the Park Service to seek out further opinions of tourists along the Parkway on matters of concern to inholders. The leaders of various environmental groups and wilderness societies presume to speak for countless tourists for whom the National Park Service functions, but what the actual opinions are of average tourists is a subject for greater scientific sampling.
To the inholders, they, themselves, are the people of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Since they are the people who live and work on and near the Parkway, they feel that their daily living and their basic rights as citizens should not be relegated to a secondary status in the eyes of a Federal agency. While the perceptions about the people of primary concern along the Parkway may differ sharply, the ultimate aims of the two groups are very similar. Neither inholder nor ranger wants to see fast-food franchises springing up along the Parkway. Both truly love the beauty of the area and both, unfortunately, perceives their group as best able to preserve, protect, and maintain the unique nature of the Parkway and its surrounding mountains.
As of this writing, the second Draft Land Acquisition Plan for the Blue Ridge Parkway has just been released. Unfortunately, for the timing of this report, this newer draft cannot be addressed specifically. Even though time did not allow this researcher to examine this draft, from the sketchy information available, it appears the draft will include the creation of a local citizens board to determine what is compatible or incompatible land-use near the Parkway with respect to any future attempts by the Park
Service to condemn land. If these citizens boards are, indeed, instituted, this structure would go a long way toward furthering communication and cooperation between Park Service and inholder. Such a formal apparatus of inholder input and, more importantly, the placement of an actual land-use power in the hands of the local citizenry would seem to be much more productive than the usual haphazard communications links such as public meetings and workshops which have often turned into unpleasant shouting matches in the past. This structure has the potential to guarantee that, not only would the voice of the inholder be heard, but that his power to determine land-use would be felt.
Many of the proposed acquisitions on the new draft are the less-than fee acquisitions of the scores of direct access roads in Southwest Virginia between Meadows of Dan and Fancy Gap. Perhaps, the most persistent question heard by this researcher in talking to inholders was "Why?" in regard to the necessity for all these road closings. There was almost unanimous agreement among the people closest to the roads that they were not at all hazardous nor did they pose a future threat to traffic safety. No one could recall a serious accident at any access point. It appears that the Park Service's rationale for all the proposed closings is that they are "potentially" hazardous. The 1961 Act (quoted in Chapter Two) which authorized the "elimination of hazardous crossings and accesses"; however, did not include the word potentially. This is a crucial point because had that word appeared in the actual mandate, We NPS would have much greater justification for that part of its current plan of action. The present Governor of Virginia, John Dalton, has criticized the Park Service on just this point, the presumptive use of the idea of "potentially hazardous" access roads. It would seem a truly hazardous crossing or point of access onto the Parkway would necessitate a proven record of accidents or near-accidents. There are some inholders who are so mistrustful of the NPS that they are convinced that the proposed road closings supposedly for the reason of safety is merely an excuse for the Park Service to gain eventual acquisition of the land behind the road. In other words, a loss of direct access to the Parkway will, hopefully, create more "willing sellers". Such speculation, though, is beyond the scope of this report to accurately investigate.
There is a definite retrenchment in land acquisition by the Park Service along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The "targeted" acreage has been reduced, the primary method has been reversed to that of less-than-fee acquisition, and other reforms appear to be proposed for the future; perhaps, even including a final legislative boundary for the Parkway beyond which no future acquisition could occur by administrative means. In spite of this lull in activity, though, much of what the National Park Service still proposes for the Parkway seems needless and costly such as the closing of private access roads and the conversion of those state roads which cross the Parkway into underpasses. Some inholders still fear that the current decline in acquisition is merely a lull before a storm, a new storm of NPS aggressiveness and a return to the abuses of years past. Much needs to be done to assure the inholders that their land and heritage will not be needlessly threatened, both psychologically and in terms of actual land loss. The inholder must be brought into the decision -making process regarding the use of land along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It appears that the initial steps on this long road have been taken and, in a comparative sense for relations between the Park Service and inholders, the near future looks brighter than the past. 1
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