FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway Celebrates Its 25th AnniversaryRead the full article
April 17, 2013 - FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway (FRIENDS) has launched a two-year 25th anniversary celebration commemorating the volunteer-driven organization's founding in North Carolina in 1988 and in Virginia the following year.
"We believe the best way to celebrate a quarter century of service to the Blue Ridge Parkway is with a renewed commitment to America's most visited park," said Susan J. Mills, PhD, Executive Director of FRIENDS. "We also believe in aiming high and, over the next two years, increasing membership and service hours by 25 %."
According to recent Parkway data, approximately one-third of the Park's maintenance positions are unfilled and likely to remain so since the government's sequestration cuts have gone into effect. "Other national parks can charge an admission fee," Mills pointed out. "That's not an option for the Blue Ridge Parkway. So we need to enlist more volunteers to help maintain this treasure that is such an integral part of life in the Southern Appalachian Mountains."
FRIENDS is the only volunteer-driven organization focused on preserving, protecting and enhancing the Parkway. Currently 66 % of the Park's trails and overlooks have been adopted by volunteers. Over the next two years, FRIENDS hopes to reach 100 % of all trails and overlooks.
"Because the Parkway is our nation's most visited park, it takes a lot of wear and tear. Our volunteers give their time, talent and money to care for the Park. We just need more of them," said Board Chair Ken Randolph. He noted that for every dollar contributed to FRIENDS, the organization is able to generate four dollars in volunteer time and resources.
In recent years FRIENDS has instituted an Alternative Break Program with colleges and universities. This year FRIENDS' members will host students from Vanderbilt and Notre Dame Universities. "The students love it," Randolph said. "They like being outdoors, learning what it takes to maintain the Park and learning about the rich local arts and crafts culture that surrounds it."
A study conducted by North Carolina State University in 2010 estimated that the Parkway contributes $2.3 billion dollars in economic impact to the surrounding communities. "There are many reasons why the Parkway needs our protection and support," Randolph said. "Aside from its sheer beauty and precious ecosystem, this Park brings people from all over the country to the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. These visitors support small businesses by staying in local accommodations, eating at local restaurants, and purchasing goods and services. But they will only come if the Parkway is well cared for. That's why the work of FRIENDS is so important."
To open the season annually the Blue Ridge Parkway needs volunteers to help with site maintenance. FRIENDS Chapters located in the Parkway's surrounding communities will be clearing and maintaining trails, hosting campground clean-ups, and conducting Parkway overlook maintenance in April and May. Volunteer jobs include picking up fallen branches, removing hazardous trees, and clearing and refurbishing footpaths and steps. All ages are welcome!
FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway has a new website - have you checked it out? 25th Anniversary updates to the website will be appearing throughout our celebration.
Have you created YOUR PAGE on our website to "FRIENDraise"?
The new FRIENDraiser CREATE YOUR PAGE makes it simple for you to raise funds for YOUR Blue Ridge Parkway through FRIENDS. Click on CREATE YOUR PAGE on the home page of our website at www.FriendsBRP.org or scan this QR Code to visit the page.
Do you have a loved one you would like to honor or remember? Maybe you are celebrating a milestone such as a birthday, anniversary or activity. Or maybe you just want to support a favorite FRIENDS program. The FRIENDraiser Creator is simple and fun to use; just set a FRIENDraiser goal, add a bio and a picture. Once you have set up your page, be sure to send it out to your email contacts, Facebook friends, Google Plus friends and Twitter followers. This can all be done conveniently right from the FRIENDS website.
Visit our website today and view a list of FRIENDraiser pages created by FRIENDS just like you. You can check out how Tim Peagram is progressing on his 469 mile hike along the Parkway. Then consider donating $1 or more to support Tim and FRIENDS' work!
FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway is the only volunteer-driven, not-for-profit organization solely dedicated to protecting, preserving, enhancing and celebrating the nation's most visited national park. Its more than 10,000 members work to ensure the Park's future through stewardship and fundraising activities that include individual and corporate memberships, corporate sponsorships, volunteer service projects, and educational programs. To learn more about FRIENDS and how to get involved, go to www.FriendsBRP.org or call us at 800-228-PARK (7275).