Environment and Outdoors

File photo: Appalachians Against Pipelines

A Montgomery County judge today found  the  tree-sitters protesting the Mountain Valley Pipeline in  contempt  of  court, and he ordered fines of $500 a day for each day they remain in the trees. The tree-sitters had been ordered to come down by last Monday. Montgomery County Sheriff Hank Partin says his department will “continue  to  plan  and  coordinate – so the situation can be resolved quickly and in a safe manner  for  all  parties  involved”.  He did not indicate enforcement was imminent, but he did say he will ensure the court order is enforced in what he called “due time”.

SHERIFF’S STATEMENT: “Last week the Montgomery County Circuit Court issued a temporary injunction ordering three persons to vacate trees located on Yellow Finch Lane, by Monday. Some of the individuals who were not in the trees chose to do the right thing and leave. Today, Circuit Court Judge Turk found the tree-sitters in contempt of court and are being fined $500 a day for each day they remain in the trees.We have been and continue to plan and coordinate, to ensure we have all the necessary resources available, so the situation can be resolved quickly and in a safe manner for all parties involved. It was our hope the tree-sitters would choose to leave on their own to avoid unnecessary confrontations. However, we will ensure the court order is enforced in due time.”

The readers of Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine have once again chosen Roanoke as the Top Adventure Town in the large town category – besting such well known outdoor destinations as Chattanooga and Asheville. 2020 is the 5th time in 9 years that Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine readers have voted Roanoke a Top Adventure Town. Floyd won in the Tiny Town category, Bedford took home the Small Adventure Town honors. Catherine Fox is Vice President of Public Affairs and Destination Development for Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge. She says having outdoor amenities is perhaps more important this year than ever as people seek safe spaces to recreate.

(VVBR news release) ROANOKE, VA – Thanks to the support of so many who cast their vote over four rounds of competition, Roanoke is the winner of the Large Top Adventure Town category, defeating Chattanooga, TN and Asheville, NC in the finals. The 2020 victory marks back-to-back Top Adventure Town titles for Roanoke in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. It’s the 5th Top Town title in the past 9 years of the competition for Roanoke as established by Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine!

With over 1,000 miles of trails and greenways, the Roanoke Valley in Virginia’s Blue Ridge has established itself as a premier destination for outdoor recreation and adventure. Roanoke is the largest city on the iconic Appalachian Trail, one of the best hiking trails in the world, and the only IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) Silver-Level Ride Center on the East Coast, establishing Virginia’s Blue Ridge as America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital. Many visitors from around the country plan trips to Roanoke for experiences like hiking or mountain biking.

In addition to the trails for hiking and biking, you can get on the water in Virginia’s Blue Ridge with paddling trips along the Roanoke River Blueway and Upper James River Water Trail, two amazing local blueways, or boating and fishing at Smith Mountain Lake and Philpott Lake in Franklin County.  You’ll also find multiple access points for the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most visited units in the National Park System and “America’s Favorite Drive,” and thousands of acres to explore in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests.Check out this Top Adventure Town Highlight Video –

“Roanoke in Virginia’s Blue Ridge is the perfect location to be a Trailsetter and find all kinds of unique outdoor adventures, said Landon Howard, President of Visit Virginia’s Blue Ridge. “We’re thrilled to be named a Top Adventure Town byBlue Ridge Outdoors Magazine and appreciate everyone who cast their vote in support of Roanoke!”

Congratulations to nearby Virginia destinations that won their respective categories – Floyd, VA (Tiny Town), Bedford, VA (Small Town), and Charlottesville, VA (Medium Town).

Due to COVID-19 precautions, only advance tickets will be sold for this years “Illuminights” event at Explorer Park which means no walk-ups. Volunteers are needed as well. WFIR’s Rob Ruthenberg has more.

Over the past several months, local outdoor recreation areas have seen up to a 200 percent increase in usage. Roanoke County’s Explore Park will host a full day of expanded activities on Saturday while also raising money for Roanoke Outside Foundation’s Project Outside, which will work to maintain popular outdoor areas. WFIR’s Rachel Meell has the story:

For more information about Explore Park or Adventure Saturday, click here.

(Public domain photo)

Roanoke, VA – National Park Service officials announced today that a small section of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Roanoke, Virginia is open after temporary repairs were completed to mitigate a small slope failure.  The parkway has reopened from Milepost 115.5 (Explore Park entrance) to Milepost 121.4 (U.S. 220). Park visitors and drivers in this section should anticipate a shifted lane alignment, warning signs, new pavement markings and a regulatory speed reduction to 35 mph.

The Parkway motor road will remain closed to all uses south of Milepost 121.4 (U.S. 220) to Milepost 135.9 (Adney Gap) due to a full road failure roughly one hundred and fifty feet (150′) in length near milepost 128. This complex road failure will require a closure of at least 12 to 18 months. Visitors are reminded that, due to the hazardous nature of this slope failure, this section is closed to all uses including motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrian

(Public domain photo)

A stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway that’s been closed from Explore Park to milepost 121 – Adney Gap – after a slope failure following heavy May rain will now be repaired and then reopened. The National Park Service says it should take ten days and be completed before the peak of the Fall leaf season – expected late next month. However the Parkway from  121 to Adney Gap milepost 136 is closed for a full road failure and will take 12 to 18 months to repair. (see full release below)

Roanoke, VA – National Park Service (NPS) officials announced that work began todayto mitigate a slope failure that resulted in the closure of the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Explore Park entrance (milepost 115.5) to U.S. 220 (milepost 121.4)The work, which will be completed under a full parkway closure, is expected to take about 10 days, and will allow for the section of parkway from U.S. 24 to U.S. 220 to reopen for the busy fall season. The road will remain closed to all uses south of U.S. 220 (milepost 121.4) to Adney Gap (milepost 135.9).

On May 22, 2020, NPS officials announced heavy rain created multiple road hazards in the Roanoke, Virginia, area of the Parkway that required a road closure from milepost 112.4 to milepost 135.9, from U.S. Route 24 to Adney Gap. The section from Milepost 112.4 to 115.5, at the Explore Park entrance, opened earlier this summer and remains open.  The largest hazard is a full road failure roughly one hundred and fifty feet (150′) in length near milepost 128. This complex road failure will require a closure of at least 12 to 18 months. Visitors are reminded that, due to the hazardous nature of this slope failure, the section of parkway from U.S. 220 (milepost 121.4) to Adney Gap (milepost 135.9) is closed to all uses including motor vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.

 Updates to the road status will be made when available on the park website at, via press release and on social media at

The Roanoke Outside Foundation has announced a $100,000 campaign to raise money to support and develop outdoor assets and businesses in the Roanoke Region. “Project Outside” is a described as a community fund to support outdoor capital improvement projects, maintain key outdoor assets, and to help launch and support businesses in the outdoor sector. Pete Eshelman is the Foundation’s director; he says Project Outside will be an ongoing fundraising and grant campaign – targeted towards the larger outdoor parks and amenities in the Roanoke Region:

(release from Roanoke Outside Foundation) the Roanoke Outside Foundation, a program of the Roanoke Regional Partnership, announces a $100,000 campaign to raise money to support, develop, and foster outdoor assets and businesses in the Roanoke Region.  Project Outside is a community fund created by businesses, governments, and individuals to support outdoor capital improvement projects, maintain key outdoor assets, and help launch and support businesses in the outdoor sector. It is a partnership between the Roanoke Outside Foundation and land managers (i.e. local governments, ATC, NPS, etc.) of identified regional outdoor assets. Project Outside funds will be used to fill maintenance funding gaps in projects or initiatives and pool resources to tackle new outdoor infrastructure projects. 

“We have to ensure that we don’t love our outdoor assets to death,” said Pete Eshelman of the Roanoke Outside Foundation. “The COVID-19 pandemic has made that even more apparent with local recreation areas seeing an upwards of 200% increase in usage. “While it seems that we should be celebrating the fact that more people in our region are getting outside and enjoying all the natural assets we’ve worked so hard to promote, it’s actually generating even more wear and tear. Parks, rivers, greenways, and public spaces don’t bounce back on their own and unfortunately, our region isn’t currently investing in these areas at a rate that will allow us to capitalize on our community strength.”

The goal is to raise $100,000 this year, and then keep it going. This is our time to invest in our community strength – the outdoors – to continue positioning the Roanoke Region as a preferred place to live, work, play, and visit.  A 2018 study by Roanoke Outside, “Roanoke Region Outdoor Impact, Infrastructure, and Investment Study” identified opportunities for improvement, enhancement, and trouble spots. The key area of concern, echoed by local land managers, was adequate funding for maintenance of key regional outdoor assets. Corporate supporters are leading the charge with $50,000 already pledged from Anthem, Carilion Clinic, Freedom First Credit Union, Haley Toyota, Hydro Flask, Member One Federal Credit Union, and Orvis.


Officials at Smith Mountain Lake State Park say the visitors this summer have uniformly been on their best behavior when it comes to social distancing. Park Manager Brian Heft says park the visitor count for the summer is about 14% higher than last year, and even though it may be an outdoor destination, there are social distancing regulations that still apply — and on a few occasions, they have had to turn aside visitors planning to hit the beach. More from WFIR’s Evan Jones:


It has been a banner year at Virginia’s state park system – but state officials report more littering and damage than normal. That’s at least partly true at Smith Mountain Lake State Park, as WFIR’s Evan Jones reports.

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia’s state parks have experienced a surge in visitors during the coronavirus pandemic. But their popularity has led to an increase in littering and alcohol use as well as environmental damage and people taking dangerous risks to post photos on social media.

The Richmond-Times Dispatch reported Thursday that state parks saw 120,000 more visits than they did last June.

Melissa Baker, director of Virginia State Parks, said some of the problem could stem from visitors who “don’t understand the purpose of the facility,” though the park system is “very thankful that people are finding us that weren’t our standard users before.”

At Buffalo Mountain Natural Area Preserve in Floyd County, heavy trail use and hikers going off the trail have caused erosion and had an adverse affect on fragile, rare plants.

Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserves experienced attempted looting of a Civil War-era quarry trench.

Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve was closed in July and won’t reopen until at least October because visitors were using a boardwalk to jump onto fragile dunes at the edge of the Chesapeake Bay. The jumping compromised the pilings holding up the boardwalk.