The most visited park in the National Parks system, the 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway winds along the ridges of the Appalachian mountains in Virginia and North Carolina. According to popular myth, the Parkway was a New Deal "Godsend for the needy," built without conflict or opposition by landscape architects and planners who traced their uniform vision along a scenic, isolated southern landscape. The historical archives relating to this massive public project, however, tell a different story, which Anne Mitchell Whisnant relates in this history of the seventy-year development of the beloved roadway.
Highlighting the roles of key players and stakeholders, Whisnant explores the design and routing of the road; relations among landowners, business interests, and government agencies; environmental impacts; and historical and cultural representation and interpretation. She reveals what the Parkway's seemingly unruffled scenery tends to obscure: the road owes its appearance as much to the negotiated resolution of conflicts as it does to the natural features of the mountains or the work of landscape designers. Whisnant concludes that our debates over how best to preserve and manage the Parkway for the public good within a changing regional and national context will continue for some time to come.