Blue Ridge Parkway recognized with commemorative quarter

Posted on Jun 8, 2015

The Blue Ridge Parkway, now in its 80th year, is the most visited of all the National Park Service destinations.

In Blowing Rock, it is easy to take the scenic roadway for granted, as so many of us use it to commute to Boone or Deep Gap.

We’ll soon receive a reminder of just how special the parkway is, a reminder that we might find when a cashier hands us our change at the grocery store.

The U.S. Mint announced this week that the Blue Ridge Parkway will be commemorated with a special quarter-dollar coin as part of its ongoing series honoring “America the Beautiful.” The coin will have the standard image of George Washington on the obverse (heads) side and an image of the Blue Ridge Parkway on the reverse (tails) side.

“We are thrilled that the Blue Ridge Parkway is featured on the new quarter,” said Rita Larkin, communications specialist with the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. “The new coin is a great representation of an incredibly beautiful and enriching place that helps define our state. Just think, these coins will travel all over the world as mini-ambassadors for the Blue Ridge Parkway.

“We also hope it will inspire more people to visit and experience the parkway and become involved in its care.

The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation is the primary private fundraiser for the parkway, completing projects ranging from historic and cultural preservation to environmental protection and enhanced visitor amenities.”

According to a news release from the U.S. Mint, “Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic byway with natural attractions, a unit of the park system with numerous recreational opportunities and a cross-section of Appalachian mountain history. Stretching 469 miles along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains through North Carolina and Virginia, it encompasses some of the oldest settlements of both pre-historic and early European settlement in the U.S. It was established as a national site in 1936.

“The reverse design depicts the grace and curvature of the road hugging the side of a mountain, with the North Carolina state flower in the foreground. Design candidates were developed in consultation with representatives of Blue Ridge Parkway.”

The Blue Ridge Parkway commemorative quarter is one of five to be released this year in the ongoing National Park series, also referred to as the “America the Beautiful” series. The others 2015 quarters commemorate Homestead National Monument of America, Kisatchie National Forest, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge and Saratoga National Historical Park.

“It is an honor to be selected as the national park in North Carolina featured in the United States Mint’s America the Beautiful Quarters Program,” said Mark Woods, Parkway Superintendent.  “The nationwide circulation of this newly-minted Blue Ridge Parkway Quarter will introduce many to the unique features of this historic designed landscape, and provide many who already enjoy the Parkway a reminder of some of the elements that make this park so special.”

The Blue Ridge Parkway quarter features the state flower, the dogwood, in the foreground and a winding stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway leading into a tunnel with the Appalachian Mountains in the background.

The image was designed by Frank Morris and engraved by Joseph Menna.

The release of the Blue Ridge Parkway quarter is approximately in the middle of the America the Beautiful Quarters series. When it concludes in 2021, the series will have honored 56 different scenic and historic sites.

All of the quarters commemorating the Blue Ridge Parkway will be minted at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, Pa.

According to the release, a Blue Ridge Parkway Quarter Launch and Coin Exchange event will be held at Pack Square Park in Asheville, beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 25. Attendees will be able to purchase up to a maximum of 10 rolls of the new quarters at their face value of $10 per roll.

Grammy Award-winning musician David Holt will reportedly emcee the quarter launch event, which will also include a flag presentation by an Asheville-area Girl Scout troop

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The Mount Jefferson Challenge

Posted on Jun 8, 2015

What’s new for this year’s Mount Jefferson Challenge?

The date and time.

Rather than the traditional October race date, which conflicts with another High Country race, the Mount Jefferson Challenge, aka MOJE, has been reset to Friday evening, June 12, 6:30 p.m.

What’s not new?

The same challenging running race — a 3.3-mile ascent and 3.3-mile descent on Mount Jefferson, mostly within the Mount Jefferson State Natural Area.

The MOJE is a unique hill-climb event, because the race involves not only the ascent but also the descent. The MOJE starts and finishes at the Ashe County Civic Center in West Jefferson, which sits at the base of Mount Jefferson.

After the flat 1/10 mile start, the course makes one turn onto Mount Jefferson State Park Road, and the race is on to the summit — and back — with grades ranging from 5 to 16 percent on the natural area’s paved roads. The elevation increases 1,342 feet to the turn-around at almost 4,500 feet, which is an elevation change of 407 feet per mile.

According to race organizers, “The MOJE showcases a jewel of the North Carolina mountains. The paved road to the near summit, two paved parking overlooks and summit hiking trails, all of which are accompanied by no park entrance fee, makes Mount Jefferson State Natural Area a must-see destination. Your drive/hike on Mount Jefferson, when combined with a visit to the revitalized, thriving and pedestrian-friendly West Jefferson, which hosts numerous eateries and shops, makes for a great evening, day or weekend trip.”

For more information and to register for the race, visit, or call (336) 877-8888.

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Hooked on Riverfest

Posted on Jun 8, 2015

On Saturday, June 13, Riverfest returns for its 15th year, bringing awareness to the fragile ecosystems of our High Country rivers through a fun-filled day of swimming, watermelon eating, hayrides and more.

Riverfest was started in 2000 by the Watauga River Partners, now a chapter of the Blue Ridge Conservancy, an organization committed to protecting and preserving the scenic rivers of the High Country.

“We’re continuing to protect and preserve over the years because it’s so important,” WRP board member Joan Hearn said. “Our main goal is to bring awareness to the public how importation it is to protect our rivers.”

Highlights of the festival will include rides on the Fish Mobile, which is a hayride that travels alongside the river, a Watermelon Eating Contest, a River Parade presented by Lexi Danner at Elkland Arts Center, a raffle featuring a Perception kayak, wetland tours and more.

According to fellow WRP member and event organizer Wendy Patoprsty, Riverfest will feature about 30 to 40 booths of other conservation-minded organizations. Each booth is dedicated to a different aspect of the river, whether it be education, preservation or conservation.

“We’re trying to bring a lot of the different conservation-minded organizations together, so it’s also a great way for us to network together and see what everybody is up to,” Patoprsty said.

Some of the organizations include Grandfather Mountain State Park, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, the Appalachian Water Project, Valle Crucis Community Park and the Blue Ridge Conservancy.

Each booth will bring something unique to the festival. For example, Kelly McCoy from RiverGirl Fishing Co. will bring a live hellbender salamander, a subspecies that is nicknamed the “snot otter” because of its large size and “slimy” appearance, Patoprsty said.

However, McCoy will not be the only representative bringing live native animals. Genesis Wildlife will be present with live raptors, such as red-tailed hawks and an owl, as well as reptiles and other animals, including a mink.

Other booths will feature educational topics that cover not only the river, but the ecosystem as a whole. For example, Patoprsty said there will be a pollinator station presented by the Watauga County Beekeepers.

Festivalgoers will also learn about erosion, native and invasive plants, water conservation, pollution reduction and more. A wetland tour will be available for those who want to learn about the river and its abundant wildlife firsthand.

Attendees are able to put their newfound knowledge to use with some take-home items, such as water conservation kits, which include low-flow spigots. Kids will be able to take home an activity book presented by Mandy the Mayfly, played by volunteer Joan Hearn, who will also be available for pictures and autographs.

“This is just one of the events to make the public aware of how important the river is, all while having fun, too,” Hearn said. “Educating through having fun sometimes goes a longer way than preaching.”

The Farm to Flame food truck will provide food for purchase, and Italian Icees, new this year, will also be available. The WRP will be selling brown bag lunches for $5.

The money raised at the event will go toward the WRP’s many projects, such as the Shade Your Stream vegetation workshop.

Riverfest takes place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Valle Crucis Community Park (2892 Broadstone Road in Valle Crucis). Attendance is free, and ample parking is available.

Patoprsty said that the event would not be possible without her army of WRP volunteers, particularly Caroline Gandy, Dick and Joan Hearn, Laura England, Janie Poe, Teresa Buckwalter and Mariel Gampe.

Watauga River Partners is a nonprofit, volunteer-only organization comprised of High Country residents with a passion for protecting and preserving the area’s scenic streams. In May 2015, the WRP officially became a chapter of the Blue Ridge Conservancy, as the two organizations have the goal of conserving the pristine natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, including its farmlands and rivers.

For more information, contact Wendy Patoprsty at (828) 264-3061, or email

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NCDOT: Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Cycling Photo Contest in May

Posted on May 28, 2015

To celebrate National Bike Month in May, the Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation is holding…|By webmaster
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