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Originally published: 2012-09-20 15:42:44
Last modified: 2012-09-20 15:42:44

Grandfather, BR Parkway observe dual anniversaries

Matthew Hundley / (matthew.hundley@averyjournal.com)

On Grandfather Mountain, September 2012 marks a historic date for one of the mountain’s most recognizable attractions, the Mile-High Swinging Bridge, which was constructed to span the mountain’s southern peaks 60 years before. One of Grandfather’s closest neighbors, Blue Ridge Parkway, also marked a milestone this September, celebrating the 25-year anniversary of the construction of Linn Cove Viaduct, an engineering marvel that opened up a panoramic section of the High Country while preserving and showcasing the natural features of Grandfather Mountain.

In recognition of both occasions, Grandfather Mountain hosted an anniversary celebration on Tuesday, Sept. 11, featuring events, guided hikes and programs at locations all over the mountain. The celebration culminated with a commemoration address by Blue Ridge Parkway Superintendent Phil Francis and Grandfather Stewardship Foundation Vice President Harris Prevost at Grandfather Mountain’s Top Shop, which greets visitors on their way to visit the Mile-High Swinging Bridge.

Prevost took the podium to recount the Mile-High Swinging Bridge’s history, which began as soon as Hugh Morton inherited the mountain. A road and bridge to Linville peak were both additions that Morton envisioned for the mountain from the outset. Prevost recounted that Morton’s motivation in the endeavor to stretch a bridge to the peak was centered on his 90-year-old grandmother, who had loved the views from the summit.

“Mr. Morton had in the back of his mind his 90-year-old grandmother when he built the bridge,” Prevost said. “She loved the views from Linville Peak and she thought she would never see them again. When the bridge was completed, she crossed the bridge and she once again, after 30 years, saw her beloved views.”

According to Prevost, the bridge got its name at a dinner party, when Charlie Parker, state director of travel and tourism at the time, suggested that the bridge’s elevation should also be the name. The Mile-High Swinging Bridge stuck. 

Prevost noted that the bridge consistently ranks, along with the views, as one of the top reasons guests give for visiting Grandfather Mountain. 

“If you were to pick a focal point of Grandfather Mountain, you would, no doubt, be standing on the bridge,” Prevost said.

Prevost compared Grandfather Mountain’s transition since Morton’s death to crossing a bridge, making the changes that Morton envisioned. 

“Just as Hugh Morton’s grandmother crossed the Mile-High Swinging Bridge and was deeply touched by the beauty she saw, Grandfather Mountain has crossed its bridge, and we too are very happy with what we see,” Prevost said.

Francis also addressed the gathering and gave a brief history of the long planning and construction of Linn Cove Viaduct and Blue Ridge Parkway’s connection to Grandfather Mountain. 

“The visitor experience that we are charged with providing, in addition to protecting the natural and cultural resources and the wildlife therein, is dependent upon, not only what we do within the park boundaries, but also our neighbors,” Francis said, noting the value that attractions like Grandfather Mountain add for guests on the Parkway. “Many of the lodgings, many of the gift shops, the gasoline stations and other visitor attractions that make for an outstanding visitor experience are provided by our neighbors.” 

Francis emphasized Blue Ridge Parkway’s dedication to supporting the relationships with attractions like Grandfather Mountain.

“We want to focus on making sure that we have strong bridges to our local communities and to our partners, because only together can we provide that wonderful experience that I enjoyed growing up, and so many of you have enjoyed. It is important that we provide that for our future generations,” Francis said.

Music before and after the commemoration speeches was provided by Trevor McKenzie and Mark Freed, who entertained the audience with traditional bluegrass music on guitar and banjo.