Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cyclists and the Blue Ridge Parkway: Let's get the facts

I received a rather urgent list serve email from the Boone Area Cyclists. It was forwarded by the League of American Bicyclists. It stated:
"The National Park Service is asking for feedback on its Draft Management Plan, a 684 page document that will set management policy for the Parkway for the next twenty years and beyond. The proposal favored by park management (option B) could restrict future encouragement and promotion of bicycling and hinder the Parkway’s ability to evolve to meet the growing demand for active transportation."

Embedded in that email was a click-and-go form email.  Cyclists were being prompted to forward their stance against language in the Draft Management Plan that hindered the future use of the parkway by cyclists.

This form of political action concerned me.  I wasn't prepared to stamp my approval on a topic without being more informed.  I made a few calls to the Blue Ridge Parkway office and was eventually connected to Dawn Godwin, Community Planner for the BRP.

We had a long conversation and I was able to attain more detailed information regarding the parkway. Following are some facts you can use to draw your own conclusions on parkway use.

1) The complete Draft Management plan can be found at the following link: 

2) Regarding the potential for bike lanes being added to the parkway: Based on federal land ownership, the parkway owns on average 800 feet from the center line of the road on either side - 400 ft. where passing through forest service property. The parkway does not own enough land to extend the parkway for additional riding lanes

3) Following is a brief history of the parkway and statement of public use:

The Blue Ridge Parkway was established for scenic driving and recreational purposes with a focus on the automobile. Over time, visitation trends have changed with an increased variety of uses, with both recreational vehicles and bicycles enjoying a scenic recreational experience.  Both types of use have been accommodated on the Parkway.  There is nothing in the GMP Preferred Alternative that precludes any existing uses from continuing, or precludes the consideration of new uses.  There are many activities that occur on the parkway - hiking, horseback riding, motorcycle use, running, bird watching – such uses are allowed where appropriate given resource protection and safety concerns.  All uses of the Parkway motor road are currently and will continue to be managed under federal laws and NPS policies.

The parkway is National Register eligible because of its designed landscape, age, and contributing features and is world renowned as an example of rural parkway design.  NPS managers are required by law to manage eligible properties as if they were currently on the National Register of Historic Places. The historical significance of the parkway motor road prism is based upon the design and spatial relationship of the travel lanes, grass shoulders, paved ditches, and cut and fill slopes. Keeping this relationship intact is critical to protecting the character and historic integrity of the Parkway, which NPS staff are charged with maintaining under the Organic Act, National Historic Preservation Act, and other NPS laws and policies.

Decisions about cultural and historic resources, like all parkway resources and other day-to-day park management decisions, are dictated by NPS and Department of Interior (DOI) laws and policies, the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, and other law and policy.  The General Management Plan provides overall direction for that management, but is designed to provide general guidance while allowing flexibility for management within the parameters of law and policy.

4) Following is a link to the transcript of an interview with BRP Superintendent Phil Francis, speaking on cycling-related issues: 

I'm still at the front end of my investigation regarding future use of the parkway.  But I'd suggest being educated will allow me to be a better citizen and cyclist in our community. Please join me in learning more before taking a stance.

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