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Blue Ridge Parkway gets big federal grant

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National Park Service
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Humpback Rock along the line between Augusta and Nelson Counties

The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation has been awarded two federal grants totaling more than $900,000. Randi B. Hagi reports.

The northern terminus of the Blue Ridge Parkway lies at the top of Afton Mountain, and the road wends its way southward through 12 Virginia counties. Its fundraising partner, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, was recently awarded $393,000 for the Virginia portion of the path, and another $518,000 for North Carolina.

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CAROLYN WARD: The Blue Ridge Parkway receives more visitors than Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon combined.

Carolyn Ward is the foundation's CEO. She said the funding on both sides of the border will go towards their Gateway Community Initiative, through which they collaborate with counties and towns along the Parkway to improve visitors' experiences. One example is the Bluffs Restaurant project – the diner dished up fried chicken and ham biscuits from 1949 until it closed in 2010 and fell into disrepair. The foundation raised money for its renovation, and the Bluffs reopened last spring.

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National Park Service
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Onion Mountain overlook near Franklin, NC

WARD: It's a wonderful example, really, of why we started this Gateway Community Initiative … the local community of Alleghany County, in Sparta – they had seen a decline in their lodging when the restaurant closed … What they realized is there was nobody up on the Parkway telling those millions of visitors, "hey, that little road right there takes you down to Sparta, and that's a great place to go visit!"

Funding for the grant was provided by the American Rescue Plan Act.