Monday, September 13, 2010

Blue Ridge Parkway 75th Anniversary Celebration

September 10th and 11th I had the pleasure of attending the festivities to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of The Blue Ridge Parkway. A wide array of events, ranger lead family activities, educational opportunities for school groups, displays, celebrations, music, and speeches were scheduled over a three day period.

This complex event was extremely well planned and managed by a National Park Service Incident Command Team made up of employees from the Blue Ridge Parkway. They had the daunting task of coordinating numerous partners, special guests, and volunteers who participated and conducted programs. Everything from shuttle buses to bathrooms and food services were available to make the public’s access to venues at the Blue Ridge Mountain Music Center and Cumberland Knob smooth and efficient.

Some of my personal highlights from the weekend included:

It was a pleasure spending time visiting and swapping stories with Dean Richardson who was a park ranger on the Blue Ridge Parkway from 1948 until his retirement as the Bluffs District Ranger in 1984. Dean was my first supervisor on the Blue Ridge Parkway from 1981 to 1984 and taught me the ropes of how to be the best ranger I could be. His wealth of knowledge and experience on the history of rangering is unsurpassed and endearing.

I was able to rekindle my friendship with Dr. Harley Jolley and present him with a signed copy of my book A Park Ranger’s Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks. Dr. Jolley is a renowned historian of The Blue Ridge Parkway, Pearl Harbor survivor, CCC enrollee, former park ranger, college professor, and author. It is always a pleasure to spend time with Harley Jolley.
Dr. Harley Jolley with the official Commemorative Plaque for the 75th Anniversary

On one of the panel discussions that were open to the public I had the pleasure of hearing some of the remembrances of R. Dillard Teer who in 1937 at the age of 17 worked on the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Gillespie Gap area. Mr. Teer was the son of one of the owners of a construction company that first started work to build the Parkway. He was extremely entertaining, humorous, and full of information about the challenges of building a roadway through the mountain terrain of the Southern Appalachians with the technology of the 1930s.

Carlton Abbott, the son of Stanley Abbott the first Superintendent and main designer of the Blue Ridge Parkway, gave a fascinating presentation on the origins of the parkway concept and tales of growing up with his Dad. During his entertaining and well organized presentation I learned many new facts about the early days of what would become the park I eventually worked in for 27 years.

Even though this weekend was a celebration commemorating the Blue Ridge Parkway the tragic events of 9/11/2001 were not forgotten. On Saturday morning the day’s events were commenced by a Remembrance of those who lost their lives during this tragic attack on our way of life. The very moving featured speaker at this ceremony was the Reverend Dan Matthews, Rector Emeritus of Trinity Church in Manhattan, New York. His personal recounting of that morning’s events stirred the audience to their core and tugged at their hearts.
Reverend Dan Matthews addresses the audience during the 9/11 Remembrance

It was a pleasure to spend time visiting with many of the park rangers that I worked with during my career. Their hard work and dedication to duty are what made this memorable event happen in its organized and efficient manner. We should all be pleased that these individuals are still out there protecting and preserving our National Parks.
Park Rangers who worked at the 75th Anniversary Celebration
Here are some other scenes from the weekend:
National Park Service Ranger Honor Guard

Crowd at the 75th Anniversary Ceremony

One of the antique Tin Can Tourist exhibits of camper in the 1940s

Community Tent at the Blue Ridge Music Center

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