New License Plates Help Protect Shenandoah National Park

Not long ago, most vehicles in Virginia wore the same standard white-and-blue license plates. Today, Virginians can choose from over 200 plate options. College sororities, bowlers, parrotheads, and even the Virginia Society of CPAs have specially designed tags.

Virginia boasts the highest customized plate rate in the county, with over 16% of vehicles sporting personalized or specialty tags. For $35, you can show your support for breast cancer research, Tibet, the Redskins, greyhound adoption, and now Shenandoah National Park.

“The new Shenandoah license plate is one of the most direct and visible ways for Virginians to show their love and support of the park,” says Susan Sherman, executive director of the Shenandoah National Park Trust. The vibrantly colored plates feature lush mountains and the iconic black bear.

Shenandoah National Park Trust introduced the specialty plates to help the cash-strapped national park provide critical visitor services. Decades of insufficient funding for Shenandoah has resulted in a backlog of maintenance projects totaling tens of millions of dollars.

The park relies on Shenandoah National Park Trust to help support essential programs.

“I wish our organization didn’t have to exist,” continues Sherman. “Unfortunately, the national park system remains woefully underfunded. It depends on partner groups like us to help support the stewardship of parks.”

With over two million visitors annually, Shenandoah is one of the country’s most popular national parks. Not surprisingly, the new license plates have also been crowd-pleasers. The first 400 plates sold in less than six weeks. Now Shenandoah National Park Trust hopes to reach the 1,000-plate milestone. After 1,000 plates, $15 of the $35 fees go directly to the Trust to help fund park projects.

One of the top funding priorities identified by Shenandoah Park Superintendent Martha Bogle and the Trust board is the expansion of an Air Quality Learning Center. For years, Shenandoah has been listed among the Ten Most Endangered Parks because of air pollution, which clogs lungs and vistas. Natural views of 100 miles now extend only 24 miles on average—and less than one mile on the most polluted days.

Shenandoah license plates will also help fund a Teacher-Park Ranger Education Program. School teachers will spend two summers in Shenandoah working with park rangers to develop educational programs for their classrooms.

“Already the plates are re-energizing and reconnecting Virginians to their beloved Shenandoah,” says Sherman. •

Plates with Purpose

Interested in protecting other public lands in the region? Virginia also offers special license plates for the Appalachian Trail and the Chesapeake Bay, which benefit the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund respectively. Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway is currently seeking a Blue Ridge Parkway special plate for Virginia.