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Commentary – Parkway Too Ready to Close Road to Peaks

I find it discouraging the Blue Ridge Parkway Service deems it unnecessary to keep the Parkway open from Roanoke’s Rt. 460 to easily access the Peaks of Otter Recreation Area.  This is especially harmful to the survival of the Lodge, where staff are let go and winter revenues are essentially reduced to near zero.

The facilities at the Peaks are a major attraction during the other three seasons of the year, and could also be in winter.  After a snow event, even a slight attempt to clear the road from Bear Wallow Gap to Rt. 460 would result in greater access possibilities from Roanoke. This represents only a scant 15 mile stretch of road with much of that at elevation under 2000 feet. Minimal closures are understandable in the most difficult weather conditions.  However, continued and extremely prolonged closures seem to be the norm even after extended periods of warm and charitable weather.

The Park Service will suggest that Rt. 43 from Bedford and the nearly inaccessible section of Rt. 43 from Buchannan are available to service the Peaks of Otter recreation area, but neither of the Rt. 43 approaches is reasonable from Roanoke and precarious from Buchannan at best.

I have suggested to Representative Goodlatte that the Federal Government, in cooperation with the State Highway Department, be funded and directed to provide road ice prevention and snow clearance activities to this important section of the Parkway.

The State is seemingly oblivious to the potential for loss of the facilities and the potential tourism revenue and the jobs it fosters. This negligence obviously denies lodge revenues and visitor access to the Peaks.  I contend access to this valuable recreation area should be a primary focus for the Federal employees receiving our tax dollars if the lodge is to remain viable. And if Governor McDonnell wants to improve increased revenue to rural Virginia, look no further than keeping the Parkway open in winter, at least from Roanoke to the Peaks.

An open Parkway would also bring the benefits of winter park access to a great many more tourists who would enjoy the beautiful environment and vistas of a winter wonderland – a wonderland that is presently seen almost exclusively by Park Rangers!

– Gary Shelton Carter,

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