From the North Carolina Department of Transportation, shared May 24:

RALEIGH — Some of North Carolina’s most scenic routes are set to benefit from nearly $5 million in improvements, thanks to recently awarded federal grants through the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Scenic Byways program intended to fund enhancement projects along designated scenic byways.

Two separate projects will target the Graveyard Fields overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway; and a third project will fund conservation efforts along more than two dozen scenic byways across the state.

Blue Ridge Parkway – Graveyard Fields overlook

A $261,336 grant will pay for improvements to the popular Graveyard Fields overlook, located at milepost 418 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Western North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a designated North Carolina Scenic Byway, in addition to bearing the National Scenic Byway and All-American Road titles.

The project includes expanding parking at Graveyard Fields from 17 to 40 spaces. Currently, parking capacity is exceeded at the site almost every day of the week during the busy summer and fall seasons. The expanded parking area will alleviate congestion and improve pedestrian safety.

The grant will also pay for the construction of a restroom facility, new interpretive signage and trail improvements to make the site more accessible to visitors.

Outer Banks National Scenic Byway

The Outer Banks National Scenic Byway will benefit from a $2 million grant that will fund the construction of eight miles of paved off-road walking and biking paths along N.C. 12 on Hatteras Island. The Outer Banks National Scenic Byway is a designated North Carolina Scenic Byway, in addition to bearing the National Scenic Byway title.

The paths will provide a safe alternative to vehicle travel for the more than 2 million annual visitors who use N.C. 12 to access the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Additionally, the project is intended to enhance economic development by providing a unique way to experience the history and culture of Outer Banks villages.

Construction of the paths will also complete a portion of the area’s official pathway plan and a recommendation in the Outer Banks Scenic Byway’s Corridor Management Plan.

Scenic Byways conservation project

A $2.7 million grant will pay for the conservation of parcels of land adjacent to more than two dozen N.C. Scenic Byways, including the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Outer Banks National Scenic Byway.

The funding will allow for the identification and acquisition of high-priority properties along various byways, as well as the creation or implementation of byway corridor management plans. All projects support the goals of local, state and national government agencies and non-profit organizations, as well as existing byway corridor management plans.

Most of the projects will build on nearby protected lands to form ribbons of preserved land that enhance travelers’ experience by expanding recreational opportunities and conserving significant scenic, cultural and historical assets that support the byway’s designation. The project will employ GIS-based conservation planning to target the most important and vulnerable private lands within byway corridors.

Byways that are part of the conservation project include:

  • Appalachian Medley
  • Black Mountain Rag
  • Blue-Gray Scenic Byway
  • Blue Ridge Parkway
  • Brunswick Town Road
  • Cherohala Skyway
  • Colonial Heritage
  • Crowders Mountain Drive
  • Devil’s Stompin’ Ground Road
  • Drovers Road
  • Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway
  • Historic Flat Rock
  • Indian Heritage Trail
  • Lafayette’s Tour
  • Nantahala Byway
  • North Durham Country
  • Outer Banks National Scenic Byway
  • Pisgah Loop
  • Pottery Road
  • Sandhills Drive
  • South Mountains Scenery
  • Tar Heel Trace
  • Upper Yadkin Way
  • Waterfall Byway, and
  • Whitewater Way.

These North Carolina Scenic Byway improvement projects are among 94 projects in 39 states that received funding through the USDOT grant program. A schedule for the three projects has not yet been determined.

About the Scenic Byways program

The 55 routes designated as North Carolina Scenic Byways have been carefully selected to embody the state’s diverse beauty and culture and provide travelers with a safe and interesting alternate route. More information about the program can be found here.

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Kathleen O'Nan is a contributing reporter to Carolina Public Press.

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