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Youth crew begins work at Craggy Flats Bald Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway

RomanticAsheville.com and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation team up for “I Love Craggy” donation matching program to raise funds for trail rehab and new visitor center exhibits. (Photo credit: Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation)

A rehabilitation project for one of the most popular trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway is underway! A crew with the American Conservation Experience is repairing Craggy Flats Bald Trail, which has become deeply rutted, leading to erosion. To help raise funds for this much-needed project and the replacement of exhibits at the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and RomanticAsheville.com Travel Guide are teaming up for a three-week “I Love Craggy” matching donation program. Every gift designated for the improvement projects up to $5,497 (the elevation at Craggy Gardens) will be matched dollar for dollar by RomanticAsheville.com through August 31.

RomanticAsheville.com is such a fantastic resource for finding and learning about the natural wonders in Western North Carolina,” said Carolyn Ward, CEO of the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. “Now they are helping in this philanthropic effort, and we are so grateful.”

The hike to Craggy Flats Bald, accessible from the picnic area and Visitor Center, is particularly popular in June when rhododendrons are in bloom. Heavy visitation has taken a toll on the trail, leading to damage to the habitat and areas of erosion as deep as two-feet. Because the trail is so degraded, it is also difficult for National Park Service staff to access the area with the equipment needed to maintain the bald, which served as a grazing area for livestock before the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The rare plants, wildlife, habitats, and natural features found here make it a designated North Carolina Natural Heritage Area.

“This location is home to the globally rare Southern Appalachian Grassy Bald plant community. It is a popular hiking destination and one that deserves careful management to protect this unique habitat,” said John Slaughter, Acting Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway. “We so appreciate the opportunity to work in partnership with private individuals and the Foundation to protect this area and provide a safe and high quality experience for this well-loved site.”

“Craggy Gardens has been one of my favorite places to explore since I was a child,” says Mark File, owner of RomanticAsheville.com. “I hope this project ensures that many future generations will be inspired by this magical place.”

The trail work extends from the historic shelter built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937 across the bald to the stone overlook at Craggy Knob. The crew with the American Conservation Experience will spend four weeks removing encroaching vegetation, eliminating braided trails causing damage to the landscape, and repairing areas that contribute to erosion. It will be a valuable learning experience for these young adults (ages 18-25) who are exploring outdoor careers in the field of conservation. The trail will remain open to hikers during the rehab initiative.

The Craggy Gardens Visitor Center hosts 85,000 visitors annually. Inside the circa-1952 building, the 10-year-old faded and outdated exhibit panels will be replaced by displays that tell the story of the plants and animals in this unique and harsh high elevation environment. The work will be accomplished in two phases with the main exhibits slated for installation in late fall this year. David Williams of Wingin’ It Works is collaborating with the National Park Service to design the interpretive panels.

The Foundation is raising a total of $30,595 to repair the trail and create new exhibits. Donors supporting the project include the Asheville BMW Riders Club, which raised $13,600 for the initiatives during its annual High Pass Boogie motorcycle ride in May.

Those who give $100 or more will have their names added to a short-term donor recognition board at Craggy Gardens Picnic Area, milepost 367.6. In addition, the first 50 people to contribute $100 or more will receive RomanticAsheville.com’s 2018 Beautiful Blue Ridge wall calendar.

For more information or to donate, click here.

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