March 23 Update

Mitchell News Journal The Mitchell News Journal will be closed to the public through April 3. They will be able to be reached by phone from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

Blue Ridge Parkway- Blue Ridge Parkway Announces Modifications to Backcountry Camping Permits

(NC/VA) – The Blue Ridge Parkway is announcing additional modifications to its operations in support of federal, state, and local efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. As of March 22, 2020, and in order to best provide for social distancing as called for in state and CDC guidance, the Parkway will impose a 10-person maximum use permit at all backcountry camping locations.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is limiting the allowable camping permits at established backcountry campsites located at CCC Camp (Rock Castle Gorge, Milepost 167.1), Basin Cove (Bluffs North and South, Milepost 244.7), and John’s River Road (Milepost 296.9) to total occupancy of 10 people or less respectively.

New backcountry camping restrictions are as follows:

Groups of campers larger than ten (10) people are prohibited.
No More than six (6) people are allowed to occupy any one campsite.
Camping at Johns River Road will be limited to 2 sites (10-person total area capacity)
Camping at Basin Cove will be limited to 8 sites (10-person total area capacity)
Camping at CCC Camp will be limited to 8 sites (10-person total area capacity) Camping more than three (3) consecutive nights in any camping area is prohibited.

Permits may be acquired by phone only from district offices closest to backcountry site location. More information related to backcountry camping on the Blue Ridge Parkway is available on the park website.

The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners at the Blue Ridge Parkway is our number one priority. The National Park Service (NPS) is working with federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor COVID-19. We will notify the public when we resume full operations and provide updates on our website and social media channels.

Outdoor spaces at the Blue Ridge Parkway remain accessible to the public in accordance with the latest federal, state, and local health guidance.

The NPS encourages people who choose to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway during this pandemic to adhere to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local public health authorities to protect visitors and employees. As services are limited, the NPS urges visitors to continue to practice Leave No Trace principles, including pack-in and pack-out, to keep outdoor spaces safe and healthy.

Leesa Sutton Brandon
Partnerships & Public Information
Blue Ridge Parkway (VA/NC)

Fire on the Mountain Blacksmithing Festival– After much consideration and an abundance of caution for the health and safety of all attendees, vendors, demonstrators and our community, we have decided that it is appropriate to postpone the 2020 Blacksmith festival at this time.
Based on the mandates issued in Governor Roy Cooper’s Executive Order 117 prohibiting mass gatherings until at least April 13 and the Center for Disease Control’s recommendation to cancel mass gatherings through May 10, the consensus is that there is simply too much uncertainty to feasibly move forward. We are working with partners to determine the next steps to keep a presence with the 2020 festival.

Please allow us time to formulate the next steps and procedures for vendors and the festival itself. We will keep you up to date via email and social media as soon as we have made further decisions. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

North Carolina Public Schools – News Observer North Carolina public schools will remain closed through May 15 in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

The state’s 1.5 million students have been home since last week when Gov. Roy Cooper ordered all K-12 public schools closed through at least March 30. But Cooper announced a new executive order Monday extending the closures, saying it’s needed to promote public health and safety.

The closure means students will be at home for two months. Cooper also said he’s not ready to give up on reopening schools yet. Most North Carolina public schools have classes scheduled until June 12.

Kansas has closed all of the state’s public schools for the rest of the school year.

The governor’s order comes as the number of cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina has risen to more than 300 with many more expected. In addition to the school closures, Cooper’s new executive order bans gatherings of more than 50 people and ordered some businesses such as gyms, movie theaters and nail salons to close by Wednesday.

Cooper’s announcement raises questions for students, parents and public school employees.

A prolonged closure makes it challenging for school districts to pay hourly workers such as bus drivers, custodians and cafeteria workers. Some cafeteria workers and bus drivers are getting paid as part of the programs created to feed students who now can’t eat at school.

Cooper’s order closing school buildings applies to in-person instruction. Some schools will reopen to serve as emergency childcare centers for people such as healthcare and public safety personnel.

School districts have begun providing online resources for parents as they move toward digital classes for students. But the lack of home internet access and computers for all students is slowing the switch.

Other parents are upset that schools aren’t moving fast enough to provide remote learning. In particular, families of high school seniors are wondering how the closures will impact graduation requirements and getting into college.

Families are also asking about testing requirements. The State Board of Education voted Monday to request a federal waiver from giving the state end-of-grade and end-of-course exams.

The state board will also ask the General Assembly to waive testing requirements for schools

Blue Ridge ParkwayBlue Ridge Parkway Announces Closures to Park Restrooms and Camping Shelter

(NC/VA) – The Blue Ridge Parkway is announcing additional modifications to its operations in support of federal, state, and local efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. As conditions change in our nation and region, the Parkway will continue to implement operational changes that help ensure the health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, partners, and local communities.

As of March 23, 2020, the following areas are closed until further notice:

  • All public restroom facilities on the Blue Ridge Parkway; and the
  • Paul Wolfe A.T. Shelter located near Afton, Virginia. Effective immediately, backcountry campers and A.T. thru-hikers with reservations for this location are authorized to use a tent outside the shelter to provide for social distancing.

We will notify the public when we resume full operations and provide updates on our website and social media channels.

Park trails and the Blue Ridge Parkway motor road remain accessible to the public in accordance with the latest federal, state, and local health guidance, where not otherwise closed. The NPS encourages people who choose to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway during this pandemic to adhere to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local public health authorities to protect visitors and employees. As services are limited, the NPS urges visitors to continue to practice Leave No Trace principles, including pack-in and pack-out, to keep outdoor spaces safe and healthy.

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