The Haywood County Tourism Development Authority is looking for ways to help the Blue Ridge Parkway trim its chronic overgrowth troubles.
The parkway doesn’t have the money or resources to regularly trim trees that encroach upon its many overlooks, a persistant problem over the years further exacerbated by federal budget cuts. The natural vantage points are one of the top tourist draws along the parkway.
The Haywood tourism agency feared the overgrown overlooks would mean less visitors traveling the scenic road, and several years ago came up with the idea of paying to cut the trees itself. But budget concerns of its own have prevented the tourism entity from sticking with its tree-cutting campaign consistently.
At its meeting last Wednesday, the tourism board talked about a couple of different approaches it could take in the coming year to cut the overgrowth.
The county tourism agency is considering giving the parkway money to hire seasonal workers for two months. The parkway could use its existing seasonal maintenance staff and simply extend their contract by an additional two months to focus on overlook clearing. For those two months, the workers would focus specifically on the appearance of Haywood County’s nearly 70 overlooks.
“The parkway hires those people (seasonal employees) to start in May, and what we might consider doing is paying to bring them on in March and pay them for March and April,” said Lynn Collins, director to the tourism agency.
The total cost for the additional months depends on how many seasonal employees the parkway hires, Collins said. The tourism agency would give the parkway $6,500 per employee and must give the parkway a commitment by January.
Agency officials also contemplated working with Haywood Community College’s forestry students or friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway to the makeover and maintain the overlooks.