Design of the Blue Ridge Parkway:
Environmental Masterpiece or Standard Road?
The Blue Ridge Parkway has been touted as one of the world’s most scenic and environmentally sensitive roads. (Newton, 1971) Is this really true? The spectacular scenic qualities of the parkway, particularly its mountain vistas, are undeniable. However, it does not follow that environmental effects were insignificant. Sensitivity to view should not be equated with minimal environmental impact. This study examines some broad impacts of the design on its immediate environment. The thesis is that the Blue Ridge Parkway is poorly located in portions of North Carolina and that this routing adversely impacted geology, soil and plant habitat. Some of the impacts were recognized and ameliorated through design. Others, such as destruction of rare plant habitat, were not correctable. This view challenges conventional opinion that the Blue Ridge Parkway is a model of environmental road development. The paper also highlights areas of design strengths and weaknesses from which we can learn lessons.