Diversity in Guiding Grant, BRP Visitation in 2020, and Lees-McRae honored as Gold Bicycle Friendly University

NRAC, Climbing 4 Change, and Appalachian Mountain Guides Launch Diversity in Guiding Grant

Late this morning, the New River Alliance of Climbers (NRAC) announced its partnership with Climbing for Change and the Appalachian Mountain Guides Association in creating the Diversity in Guiding Grant. The board of directors unanimously approved the funding for the project towards the end of 2020, making it a reality in 2021.  

“It is our sincerest hope that this will help put BIPOC climbers into positions of leadership in our climbing community,” NRAC stated on their website. 

The grant will cover the travel costs, a portion of required gear, and all of the necessary American Medical Group Association membership fees for two recipients. Also included are two slots in Appalachian Mountain Guides’s Single Pitch Instructor course and test. The course will be held at one of our favorite climbing and adventure areas and the newest National Park & Preserve, the New River Gorge.   

For more information on this grant, applying, and other active grants visit www.climbing4change.org/apply 

Blue Ridge Parkway Tops NPS Visitation with Over 14 Million Recreational Visitors in 2020

Blue Ridge Parkway managers announced this week that nearly 14,099,485 recreational visitors made their way to the Parkway in 2020, making it one of only three National Park Service (NPS) sites that received more than 10 million visitors last year. Despite the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic and road closures, the 469-mile route offered plenty of trails, overlooks, and open spaces where people could safely get outside to recreate responsibly. 

“The 2020 visitation reminds us that the Parkway’s 1930s design approach, to maximize scenic views and recreational access, continues to be relevant today for those looking for respite and renewal,” said Blue Ridge Parkway Acting Superintendent Alexa Viets. “Our commitment to providing these experiences, while protecting the health of those who work and visit the parkway, continues as we plan for the 2021 visitor season.”

With the start of the pandemic lining up with the beginning of their traditional visitor season last spring, there was a 6% decrease in visitation in 2020 from 2019 Parkway records. There has been a slight and steady increase in visitation, though, since last September. Even though the Parkway remains open all year round, weather permitting, their traditional visitor season starts in the spring and goes until fall.

As they eagerly anticipate more visitors this year, the NPS urges visitors to plan ahead and continue safe recreational practices, including proper social distancing and mask-wearing. 

Click here for more information on safety guidelines and regulations and planning a trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway

Lees-McRae is the Smallest College to be Named a Gold Bicycle Friendly University 

The work that Lees-McRae has put into promoting and enabling safe, accessible, bicycling on their campus has been recognized by the League of American Bicyclists, a grassroots advocacy organization that encourages better and safer bicycling in America. The organization honored Lees-McRae with a Gold-level Bicycle Friendly University award, making them the smallest educational institution in the U.S. to receive the Gold-level designation. 

Lees-McRae, with only around 1,000 students, was able to rank alongside larger institutions by focusing on campus accessibility and education about the benefits cycling can offer. Along with promoting biking through campus culture and infrastructure and their champion men’s and women’s cycling teams, the institution created the only Cycling Studies minor in the country. 

“It is so energizing to have Lees-McRae among our cohort of 212 Bicycle Friendly Universities across the country,” said Bill Nesper, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists, in a press release. “The 2020 class of 38 Bicycle Friendly Universities, which includes Lees-McRae, has had to address a crisis unlike any we’ve seen in our lifetimes. Amidst the pandemic, we are grateful each of these institutions has acknowledged the benefits to the well-being and health of its students, staff, and faculty in being a Bicycle Friendly University. These colleges and universities are leading by building healthy environments where people can safely get around while improving the well-being of their community by enabling access to sustainable transportation options.” 

Lees-McRae will also be dedicating the entire month of March to celebrating cycling. Bike Month will celebrate the college’s status as a Bicycle Friendly University with events and activities to promote biking on campus. Other continued projects include the installation of more secure bike parking, bicycle aid stations, more campus safety signs, and skills clinics run by their C.R.A.N.K Crew (community, riding, advocacy, nature, knowledge). 

Their new status comes just a few weeks before Blue Ridge Outdoors’ Top Adventure College contest, a reader-driven contest they were the first “small school” to win in 2019. Check back next week to see if the designation gives them a lead in this year’s 2021 contest! 

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