Historically speaking, Asheville owes a great debt and much of it’s identity to 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway that provide our fortunate residents and guests a “view of God’s country.” Much of the reason Western North Carolina was chosen came as a direct result of R. Getty Browning, chief locating engineer with the N.C. Highway Commission.
Getty, an avid outdoorsman from Western Maryland saw in the Western North Carolina countryside a glimpse of his home and it claimed his heart It is said that he actually tracked much of the territory of the parkway and brought these personal experiences of his journey to bear in his attempts to fire up the federal officials to choose this location for the parkway project. In his absolute belief that the path through Asheville was the more scenic, beautiful route he concentrated on that pitch in his discussions with Ickes, then Secretary of the Interior, rather than the tourism theme. He didn’t stop there and in the following years he was actively involved in acquiring the land for the new national park. Browning Knob, which can be seen from the parkway as it meanders through Waynesville, was named in his honor. Regretfully, he did not live long enough to see the parkway’s completion in 1987 but he was confident that his long held dream would come to pass.
As we near the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway it is important to remember that its current location was not always inevitable. The federal government had made the decision to build a scenic road to bring connection to two national parks that had recently been created but the route itself was of secondary importance. The federal government was using funds for infrastructure projects in an effort to combat the fautering economy during the Great Depression.
Hard lobbying of the chamber of commerce, Citizen Times newspaper, state highway officials & well connected politicians all joined forces to bring this parkway to Asheville. Hard work, effort, passion and vision paid off in November of 1934 when Ickes, Secretary of the Interior, adopted North Carolina’s route, completely bypassing Tennessee.
Patti and Gary Wiles