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Officials Celebrate Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th Birthday

Fri October 15, 2010 - Southeast Edition

LOW GAP, N.C. (AP) What started as a Depression-era highway project was celebrated Sept. 10 as an economic engine and a landmark to conservation.

Dignitaries from North Carolina and Virginia, including the governors of both states, came to Low Gap to celebrate the 75th birthday of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the 469-mi. road that runs from Cherokee, N.C., to Waynesboro, Va.

“The Blue Ridge Parkway demonstrates the importance of conservation,” said Virginia’s Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell.

McDonnell announced that Virginia Green, a program that promotes environmentally responsible practices among tourism businesses, has added 75 new businesses to mark the anniversary.

In prepared remarks, Gov. Perdue saluted the ingenuity that went into building the parkway, which saw construction begin on Sept. 11, 1935, initially employing more than 100 workers near Cumberland Knob.

“The Southern edge of the parkway started as no more than a bushwhacked footpath by an engineer for the North Carolina Highway Commission,” said Perdue, according to an advance copy of her remarks.

The Sept. 10 ceremony marked the start of a weekend festival celebrating the parkway.

Approximately 17 million people drive on the parkway every year, and both Perdue and McDonnell said the highway is an important component of each state’s tourism economy.

Among the other dignitaries at the ceremony were North Carolina’s senators, Democrat Kay Hagan and Republican Richard Burr. Along with Virginia’s two senators, Democrats Jim Webb and Mark Warner, Burr and Hagan have introduced a bill that would authorize the National Park Service to acquire up to 50,000 acres of land surrounding the parkway.

“This extraordinary roadway is an important part of the western North Carolina landscape, economy and way of life,” Hagan said.