ROANOKE, VA, – Some much-needed money is finally in the works for some of our region’s most prized possessions.
On Wednesday Congress approved $3 billion for America’s National Parks and conservation efforts and President Trump is expected to sign the bill soon. People in Southwest Virginia said the Blue Ridge Parkway needs a big chunk of it.
Senator Mark Warner helped lead this modern-day Civilian Conservation Corps bill, highlighting the parkway is his defense of the bill.
“The Blue Ridge Parkway has accumulated over five hundred and eight million dollars in deferred maintenance issues, that’s over one million dollars per mile of the parkway,” Warner said.
Nearly $2 billion of the money is earmarked for our Nation’s parks. Who gets what hasn’t been determined yet, but Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation CEO Carolyn Ward said the parkway needs it.
“I mean there are lots of places along the road itself that are damaged and in disrepair and Roanoke knows that better than any town along the parkway,” Ward said.
The Roanoke Mountain Overlook remains closed since it was damaged by Hurricane Michael in 2018. And just this last spring, storms washed the road out on a section of the parkway, closing it from the Explore Park to Bent Mountain.
Scott Ramsburg with Roanoke County said the parkway was originally closed to Route 24 in Vinton, cutting Explore Park’s parkway entrance off following the washout. In the weeks since the National Park Service has re-opened the parkway from Route 24 to Explore Park but it still impacts park operations and Ramsburg said Roanoke County supports funding.
“The Blue Ridge Parkway is the lifeblood of Explore Park,” Ramsburg said. “We have noticed a huge impact when the Blue Ridge Parkway is closed in anyway and visitation to the park and folks being able to experience those outdoor amenities.”
It’s almost leaf-peeping season and local businesses need everything they can get in this economic downtown. Ward said money spent on the parkway is money spent on everyone.
“It’s got more visitors than Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon combined, it’s also the number one in economic impact for local towns and communities,” Ward said. “So the parkway brings in $1.2 billion to these little towns that surround it.