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Iconic stretch of Blue Ridge Parkway closing for months

Best Kept Secrets: Ashe County N.C.

Spend a relaxing day in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Ashe County, N.C., located in the far north-western corner of the state. Its 427 square miles is home to countless picturesque views and dozens of quaint towns.
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Spend a relaxing day in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Ashe County, N.C., located in the far north-western corner of the state. Its 427 square miles is home to countless picturesque views and dozens of quaint towns.

CORRECTION: Due to incorrect information from the National Park Service, the original version of this story had the wrong year when the Linn Cove Viaduct was completed.

The iconic Linn Cove Viaduct that wraps around Grandfather Mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway will close for three months of road resurfacing and bridge repairs, the National Park Service said this week.

One of the parkway’s most popular tourist draws, the seven-mile stretch is scheduled to close on March 1 and reopen by Memorial Day weekend. The viaduct is 18 miles southwest of Blowing Rock and about 105 miles northwest of Charlotte.

Crews will remove and replace the asphalt pavement, waterproofing membrane and joints on the bridge. They will repair the supporting structure, stone curb, railing and drainage features, the (Asheville) Citizen-Times and other media outlets reported.

The stretch also will be closed to cyclists and hikers, including the trail areas beneath the viaduct, the Watauga Democrat reported.

The last part of the 469-mile parkway to be completed, the viaduct was designated a national civil engineering landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Finished in 1987 for almost $10 million, the viaduct is 1,243 feet long and has 153 segments, each weighing 50 tons, according to the park service.

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Workers assemble the Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway. One of North Carolina’s most iconic road projects, the viaduct will be closed for resurfacing and bridge repairs from March 1 to May 24. Charlotte Observer historical photo

Original plans had the stretch carving through parts of Grandfather Mountain, which drew heated and sustained opposition, most notably from Hugh Morton. He inherited Grandfather Mountain from his grandfather, Hugh MacRae, in 1952, and made its preservation his primary focus.

Morton donated conservation easements for more than 3,000 acres of the mountain to the Nature Conservancy, which conserves land and water worldwide. He sold additional acres and conservation easements to the conservancy, while promoting the mountain for over 50 years through his photography. He died in 2006.

Opposition to the original plans was so intense that Gov. Dan Moore stepped in to negotiate a compromise route. National Park Service landscape architects and Federal Highway Administration engineers agreed the road should be elevated, or bridged, where possible to eliminate massive cuts and fills.

The result, according to the National Park Service, was “the most complicated concrete bridge ever built, snaking around boulder-strewn Linn Cove in a sweeping ‘S’ curve.”

The viaduct provides direct access to Grandfather Mountain and its state park hiking trails.

“Naturally we’re a little sad to see it closed, but these are necessary repairs,” Frank Ruggiero of the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation told the Citizen-Times. “People can still access the mountain from U.S. 221. We’re a little sad people won’t get the whole High Country Experience this spring, but hope they come back when it’s done and enjoy the ride in the clouds.”

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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