A Look back at… The Blue Ridge Parkway, #2

Blue Ridge Parkway Construction, 1939

Works Projects in North Carolina, 1933-1941: Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)
North tunnel portal from station, 1939
North Tunnel Portal from station 306 (9-16-B), Blue Ridge Parkway Construction, 1939. Non-textual Materials Unit, Negative Collection, N.91.2.12. Courtesy of the North Carolina State Archives. Retrieved via the Internet from http://www.archives.ncdcr.gov/exhibits/wpa/ccc_86_blueRidgeTunnel.htm on Friday, April 16th, 2010.

April 13, 1933

The headline “Watauga Would be Included in New Park Area” reported in this week’s edition of the Watauga Democrat newspaper that “[p]rovision for a great ‘Daniel Boone National Forest Park,’ embracing approximately 240,000 acres of land now owned by the Federal Government and located in a dozen northwestern North Carolina counties, the upper Blue Ridge area, is made in a bill introduced in the General Assembly by Representative F.H. Coffey, of Caldwell County, and placed on the calendar.” According to the article, this section of territory included “a large and scenically beautiful boundary of land, mountains, lakes, woods and waters and resorts owned by Federal and State governments and individuals” which were “more suitable for parks and forests than for agriculture.” The sponsor of the bill, Mr. Coffey, “reports that Col. W.D. Adams, Old Fort; Hugh McRae; Mr. Coffey himself and numbers of others have large acreages which they plan to turn over to the government for improvement,” and “the government is ready to begin reforestation, construction of roads and trails and making other improvements as soon as the area is embraced in the park area, as contemplated in the bill he introduced.” The proposed park area was to be “administered by the U.S. Forest Service for park and forest purposes, for tourist and recreation uses; hunting and fishing would be allowed, except in game refuges; regulated timber cutting, mining, stock grazing and shrub gathering would be permitted,” in a mixed-use arrangement. Although the proposed name “Daniel Boone National Forest “ was later used further west, the boundaries proposed by this bill did not materialized as envisioned by Representative Coffey’s bill. The concept, however, and the roads and trails proposed by this bill, may be antecedents of the creation of the Blue Ridge Parkway soon after.

March 29, 1934

“Park Committee Passes Through in Pall of Fog,” reported a front-page news story, subtitled “U.S. Officials and Others Journey Through from Roanoke to Get First Hand View of Terrain Proposed for Park Highway. Many Boone People Greet Visitors and Accompany them to Grandfather Mountain.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the “group of engineers and landscape architects sent out from Washington” to survey the proposed area for “the sixteen million dollar project, which has been approved by the Federal Government,” encountered “fog [which] was described as being so thick that only a partial view of the rugged scenery could be had from the [Blowing] Rock, and Grandfather Mountain itself for the most part was obscured.”

Other front-page news items of this week’s newspaper dealt with the ending of certain employment projects of the New Deal and the anticipated beginning of other work-creating programs. “Easter Sunday to Bring End to All CWA Employment” reported that “Easter Sunday, April 1, will mark the cessation of an emergency program through which the Roosevelt administration provided necessities of life to millions of Americans for almost a year at a cost of almost $1,000,000,000. Relief workers will no longer be Federal employees after April 1st. They will receive benefits through local sources under President Roosevelt’s new three-point long-term relief policy, which has been underwritten by Congress with a $950,000,000 appropriation.” Even as this program, the CWA (Civil Works Administration) was ending, other work projects were commencing, which would be critical to the building of the Blue Ridge Parkway and other area construction. “Must Apply for CCC by Friday” was the headline of an article announcing that “[a]ll applications for admission to the Civilian Conservation Corps camps must be in by Friday evening, according to Miss Theodosia Watson, county CWA administrator, who explains that Watauga County’s allotment is only eighteen [jobs] and that forty-three applications have already been received.” The item continues that “none who has hitherto served with the CCC need apply, and that successful applicants must of necessity be single men.” A further stipulation included that “it must be shown that applicant has needy dependents, before aid in this connection can be tendered.”

With limited employment opportunities in Watauga County and the vicinity, the ongoing planning of the Blue Ridge Parkway may have been anticipated by many families and unemployed individuals in the area as a possible source of jobs and income, even as the planning of the route and acquisition of land for the roadway transferred familial farm lands from long-held local holding over to the ownership and control of the Federal Government.

Published in: on April 16, 2010 at 8:57 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wow, thanks for these interesting views into Parkway history in Watauga County. I’m enjoying reading them. Please continue posting. We are working on a large digital project about Parkway history at UNC-Chapel Hill that will also include newspaper clippings. It is fascinating to see these reports from an area farther removed from the centers of Parkway lobbying in Asheville.

    • Well, thanks for your reading and for your commentary! I have, in the past, periodically done a column for our local newspaper, the “Watauga Democrat,” based on the back issues of same paper as archived on microfilm (which we conveniently have in the Library where I work). It’s been kind of stop-and-start, depending on my time availability otherwise, but I was asked to do the Parkway thing as part of the town of Boone’s observance of the larget “75th Anniversary of the Parkway” (perhaps arbitrarily chosen, of necessity) celebration. I’d started the blog a while back to make the earlier incarnations of the column available online. Glad that it is of interest! Does the UNC project contain any Parkway history photos which might be included, either in the public domain or with proper permission / attribution, in the printed newspaper column and blog on this end? I would appreciate it! (There may only be a few more Parkway-specific features, up until June, but I may continue the more general column, and incorporate Parkway matters in Watauga County). Thanks, again!

  2. Hi, we won’t have the Parkway project fully online until 2011, so it probably won’t help for now; additionally, many of our photographs are coming from the Parkway headquarters in Asheville. Requests for print-suitable copies of those pictures would have to be directed to the Parkway headquarters. I will be presenting information about the new digital project at next week’s Parkway 75th symposium at ASU. Will you be there?

    • Ah, I see! Thanks for the information. I had though about contacting the Park Service or appropriate agency in Asheville, but haven’t yet done so.

      I’m afraid that I won’t be able to attend the symposium in Boone, but some of the other members of our local 75th Anniversary committee will be there, I’m sure.

      Sounds fascinating!

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