The Haywood County Tourism Development Authority donated $15,000 to the Parkway to cut trees that have grown up at several overlooks over the decades, all but obscuring the views at some. The Haywood County tourism board felt the project was a good use of money, improving the experience of tourists on the Parkway by opening up views. The regular trimming of trees at scenic overlooks has not been a priority for the Parkway, which cites federal budget cuts to the park service as the culprit for the lack of overlook maintenance.
Scotty Ellis, the director of the Haywood County tourism board, presented a check to Parkway Superintendent Phil Francis at the Cold Mountain Overlook earlier this month.
Just before the check passing, a tourist pulled into the overlook desperately wanting to take a photograph of Cold Mountain. But because of overgrown trees blocking the vista, the tourist had to stand atop his vehicle, Francis recounted.
“The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of Haywood County’s top attractions,” Ellis said. “It appeals to a wide array of people, from families to motorcyclists to outdoor enthusiasts. But it’s hard to see the vistas these days. Hopefully, our contribution will enable visitors to enjoy the wonderful views and take photos more easily.”
Haywood County boasts 46 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway with 20 overlooks.
The idea to fund tree trimming at the overlooks originated with the tourism board. James Carver, owner of Maggie Valley Restaurant and a tourism board member, said he often heard from tourists who were disappointed by the lack of views at overgrown Parkway overlooks.
Francis said the funds will permit Parkway staff to spend time reducing the height of plants and trees at the overlooks as well as installing more low-growing flora that require less maintenance in the future.
“The Parkway attracts 21 million visitors every year, and the number one thing they come for is the views,” Francis said. “And this will result in a lot more beautiful sights at the end of the day.”
The Parkway plans to use Haywood County as a model for this type of program with the aim of getting more counties to do the same.
“We’re excited that we are able to do this for the visitors to our county and the section of the Parkway that runs through it, but we hope other counties follow our lead and do the same for the Parkway in their areas,” Ellis said.
The TDA board has budgeted another $15,000 — generated from occupancy taxes collected by lodging accommodations in Haywood County — for the Blue Ridge Parkway and its Haywood County overlooks in the 2007-08 fiscal year.