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Wednesday, 24 February 2010 17:50

Federal bill aims to save Parkway views at risk from development

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A bill before Congress could help save views along the Blue Ridge Parkway by setting aside $75 million over five years to buy adjacent land threatened by development.

Blue Ridge Parkway Protection Act was introduced in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Parkway this year, and out of growing recognition that the disappearing viewsheds along the Parkway are undermining what makes the scenic journey special.

“The Blue Ridge Parkway offers some of the most spectacular mountain views in the nation, and this legislation will preserve those views for our children and grandchildren,” U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler, D-Waynesville, said.

Shuler cited the important role of the Parkway for locals, who use it to reach recreational outposts and favorite outdoor spots, as well as its source of tourism revenue.

“It is imperative that we protect it,” Shuler said.

The funding should be enough to protect 50,000 acres. Land would only be bought from willing sellers, allowing the Parkway to buy land when it goes up for sale rather than seeing it get snatched up by developers.

An economic study by professors at Warren Wilson and UNC-Asheville directly linked declining views with a drop in Parkway visitation, and in turn a loss of dollars for communities along the Parkway’s route. The Parkway is an economic driver for the region, generating about $2.3 billion in economic activity in both states annually.

“This legislation calls for a wise investment in the long-term health of the Parkway and the tourism economies of communities near this national treasure,” said Reid Wilson, executive director of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina, which works to protect land along the Parkway.

The act was supported in the Senate by Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan of North Carolina, as well as a Virginia delegation and other House representatives from both states as well.

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