The Blue Ridge Parkway brings thousands of visitors to the area each year to admire its beauty and recreational offerings. It also has been an outdoor playground for Appalachian students, faculty and the community of Boone for generations. However, high usage and careless behavior occurring in some areas leaves irreversible impact.
The student volunteer Blue Ridge Parkway Corps (BRPC) works with Blue Ridge Parkway staff to educate the public about trails, the environment, and the biology of sensitive areas in order to preserve and protect the area for all to enjoy.
William Coleman, Communication Major: Rough Ridge is a very popular area. On a sunny weekend, especially in the Fall monthes, you can encounter hundreds of people throughout your four-hour shift there. People are constantly coming and going.
Caitlin Lamb, Sustainable Development Major: We, as the Blue Ridge Parkway Corps, we kind of monitor the trail. Rough Ridge is in need of protection because it's a really sensitive environment. It's high climate. It's got some really unique plants and wildlife that really need to be maintained and protected due to the high traffic of the area.
Bridgett Stout, Parks & Recreation Major: Human presence—just being here and talking to people about why these plants are so fragile—does a better job than just signage. If somebody's here and actually cares about these plants, it makes more of an impact on them than just reading a sign.
Alex Schwartz, Graduate Student, College Student Development: The Blue Ridge Parkway Corps has a few different purposes. We're a joint effort between Appalachian State University and the Blue Ridge Parkway—the National Park Service is who manages them. Our philosophy is to protect it through educating the public. On top of that it provides opportunities for Appalachian State University students to give back to the area, be ambassadors of the school. I think the Blue Ridge Parkway Corps' creation just shows a real commitment to giving back to the local community and because Appalachian students are really using this outdoor resource, and using the Parkway, it just shows a willingness to be involved with it and be invested with it, not just as someone who uses the area but as a person who protects it and is invested in its longer-term existence and being there for others to use.
William Coleman: As volunteers, we maintain a presence out there that the National Park Service can't always provide. We obviously live in a very unique part of the state and that's one of the reasons why I came up here. To have the opportunity to combine recreation with education and communication with the community—I think that it's been an incredible experience. It's given me a position of leadership and I've made a lot of friends and it's just a really cool way to get involved.