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First college chapter of FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway established at Appalachian

BOONE—The first college chapter of FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway has been established at Appalachian State University. The chapter is recruiting members who love the parkway and are willing to volunteer their time to help with projects organized by the National Park Service.

The National Park Service relies on FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway for volunteers and funding to help it operate at the level its visitors expect.

Due to federal budgetary shortfalls, the NPS was unable to fill 57 vacated staff positions this year. One in four unfilled staff positions has resulted in campgrounds, picnic areas, visitor centers and other facilities opening later in the spring and closing earlier in the autumn. Downed trees are cleared less frequently, vistas have become overgrown, restrooms are cleaned less often, and the mowing schedule is greatly reduced.

“The chapter was the brainchild of students in my public relations practices class,” said Heather Preston of Appalachian’s Department of Communication. “They chose the Blue Ridge Parkway as a client for the semester, so a student-run university chapter of FRIENDS was the ideal choice to help the Parkway accomplish its mission to preserve regional culture.”

“Having a Blue Ridge Parkway FRIENDS chapter on campus provides a great opportunity for student involvement with the parkway,” said Neva Specht, the university’s liaison to the Blue Ridge Parkway and a professor in the Department of History.

“As more faculty and staff work on parkway- related research, it makes sense that more students will be interested in volunteering for the parkway. I am especially excited that the idea for the chapter came from interested students. It shows how important the Parkway is to them and to the University.”

FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway Inc. is a nonprofit membership organization that has served the Blue Ridge Parkway for more than 19 years. For more information about the organization, visit or call (800) 228-PARK (7275).