Blue Ridge Parkway begins 75th Anniv. Celebrations
By Scott McKie B.P.
One Feather staff
With the simple passing of a torch, one historic unit of the National Park Service ended their 75th Anniversary year and another began. Dale Ditmanson, superintendent, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, passed a symbolic torch to Phil Francis, superintendent, Blue Ridge Parkway during a special 75th Anniversary Opening Ceremony for the Parkway on Friday, Nov. 13 at Ravensford Overlook at milepost 467.
Dan Brown, Blue Ridge Parkway 75, Inc. president, commented, “It is really exciting that after more than a year of planning we are finally kicking off the anniversary year with the event this weekend here in Cherokee and Asheville.”
He continued, “On this week of Veterans Day, as we look out over the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, from this lofty vista on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we should be reminded what a great country we all live in.”
Superintendent Francis thanked Dan Brown and commented, “He has done more than anyone could reasonably expect. He has been a tremendous leader.” He further stated, “The Parkway didn’t happen without a lot of sacrifice by a lot of people.”
Following the posting of the colors by the Cherokee High School JROTC Color Guard, EBCI tribal elder Jerry Wolfe offered an opening prayer and smudged the grounds where the celebration was held. Wolfe told the crowd he was born in a cabin that sat right where the Parkway road now runs.
Ray Kinsland, Cherokee Boys Club executive director, gave a brief history and an historical reflection on the Blue Ridge Parkway. “The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, have, I’m going to be honest, we have suffered from time to time with turf battles. We have had differences of opinion, but all three have worked together for the good of all, and I sincerely believe that each of those three entities is stronger because the other exists. I think its win, win, win.”
Big Cove Rep. Perry Shell said, “Our DNA runs deep here. Right below us is the new school, and when they did the archaeological excavations over there, they found evidence of continuous habitation for 11,000 years, and hopefully our people will be here for another 11,000 years.”
He went on to say, “I hope that this Blue Ridge Parkway is here for generations to come so that kid, our grandkids and those generations can enjoy the power and beauty that these mountains provide.”
State Rep. Ray Rapp, North Carolina General Assembly, acknowledged the Parkway’s economic impact to the area and said that conservation must be continued, “How do we protect this treasure – this national treasure we have here – for future generations?”
Lynn Minges, assistant secretary for Tourism, Marketing, and Global Branding with the N.C. Department of Commerce, said the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the centerpieces of tourism in the state. She spoke of the economic impact as well stating that the Parkway is responsible for bringing $2.4 billion into the state and helping to create over 27,000 jobs for North Carolinians.
Minges told the crowd that the official North Carolina Travel Guide for 2010 will feature the Blue Ridge Parkway on the cover.
Alisa Bailey, president and CEO of Virginia Tourism Corporation, said of the Parkway, “To me, it is a ribbon of a road that ties us all together. It is a ribbon of friendship.” She unveiled the new Virginia Travel Guide cover which also features the Parkway.
During the closing, Superintendent Ditmanson related, “Our year is truly indeed, winding down.”
He continued, “On this day, as I look at the Blue Ridge Parkway and you look at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with the Qualla Boundary in the middle, we can all be thankful for these three treasured landscapes of America.”
The Warriors of Anikituwah performed the Warrior Dance and the Friendship Dance during Friday’s event.
To view more photos of this event, follow this link:
To see a video: