Richard Louv, author of the widely acclaimed Last Child in the Woods, will be the keynote speaker for the symposium, “Imagining the Blue Ridge Parkway for the 21st Century,” hosted by Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment in cooperation with Blue Ridge Parkway 75 Inc.

The symposium, held in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway, will take place at The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center Oct. 14-16.

“The conference focuses on sustaining the communities, environments, and economies along the parkway corridor,” said Paul Winistorfer, dean of the college. “Virginia Tech and the college are proud to be partners with the 75th Anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway Board of Directors, and we are grateful for the financial support from the Norfolk Southern Foundation, Roanoke County, the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, and the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area to help make it happen.”

Bob Smith, associate dean for outreach at the college who chairs the symposium, emphasized that the conference is not just geared for government officials, policy makers, academics, tourism and community leaders, and business people affiliated with the parkway but is open to anyone with a love and interest in the future of the parkway.

“The symposium, which will be the leading program on linear parkway issues nationally, includes some of the foremost authorities on the matters that impact communities along the parkway’s 469-mile route,” Smith noted. “Discussions not only will center around how to work together for a sustainable future but also will have relevance to linear parks and greenways elsewhere across the country.”

Louv, whose book woke up Americans to the fact that fewer children were engaged in the outdoors and that action was needed to save kids from what he calls “nature-deficit disorder,” will speak Friday evening about his work to build a movement to connect today’s children and future generations to the natural world and the restorative power of nature.

A limited number of seats are available for non-conference participants, who can attend this special session by registering online.

Peter Jenkins, one of the nation’s most popular and celebrated explorers and authors, especially known for his book, A Walk Across America, will kick off the symposium Thursday afternoon, Oct. 14. When not wandering the earth, this father of six lives on a farm in Tennessee.

Gerard Baker, former assistant director for American Indian Relations at the National Park Service and featured in Ken Burn’s outstanding film series, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” will give the Friday luncheon address. He grew up on his father’s cattle ranch on the Mandan-Hidatsa Tribe’s reservation in North Dakota and served as superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Memorial during his park service career.

The conference sessions will explore how the social, environmental, and economic implications affect the parkway sustainability. Speakers include Ricky Cox, an associate of the Appalachian Regional Studies Center at Radford University; and David Gantt, chairman of the Buncombe County, N.C., Board of Commissioners, as well as Rupert Cutler, a former U.S. assistant secretary of agriculture for conservation, research, and education; executive director of Virginia’s Explore Park off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Roanoke; founding executive director of the Western Virginia Land Trust; and board member of the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.

Carlton Abbott, an architect who has assisted the parkway in various projects and is the son of the landscape architect who designed the parkway and was its first superintendent, will talk about the whole purpose of the parkway and how it was created. The parkway’s chief of planning, Gary Johnson, will highlight the community’s role in conserving the corridor. Other topics will open up discussion on viewshed protection, tourism, cultural assets, economic concerns, challenges and success stories of parkway businesses, new technologies that will leverage parkway resources, visitor needs, green infrastructure planning, parks and neighbors, and shared responsibilities of government with partner organizations and citizens.

  • For more program details, visit the Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment’s Blue Ridge Parkway Symposium homepage.
  • Individuals interested in attending the symposium may register online. Businesses, organizations, government agencies, and other parties interested in being an exhibitor may also register online. Exhibitor registration includes two individual registrations and an 8 foot by 8 foot exhibit space for $850. The deadline for individual and exhibitor registration is Friday, Sept. 24.
  • For registration information, e-mail Virginia Tech Continuing and Professional Education or call (540) 231-5182.                                                  
  • Read more about the parkway, the symposium, and other signature events for the 75th Anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
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