Fancy Gap visitors' center expands

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

FANCY GAP — Construction on a visitor’s center project took wing as an Eagle Scout project in downtown Fancy Gap Tuesday.
Building the 20 benches facing the Pickin’ Porch off U.S. 52 is specifically a final service project for Ian Robertson-Gouge and a community service project for the rest of Troop 286, said Scoutmaster Allen Robinson.


Don Foster, head of the Blue Ridge HOST organization and Boy Scout leader, brought the need for work on the visitors’ center to the attention of the Eagle Scout candidate.
“Don came to me and said, ‘You know, Ian, I’ve got a great project for you,’” the scout recalled. “’We need something down at the HOST office.”
Plans already had been made, so the scouts just had to tackle construction of the hefty benches.
Robertson-Gouge spent his afternoon at the future home of the visitors’ center, with help from his brother, Drew, and Michael Largen. The Eagle Scout candidate likely stayed at it much of the evening, because Tuesday was his last day to complete the project, Robinson said.
Work on the visitors center will probably proceed quickly from here, as Blue Ridge HOST and community members prepare to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway in September.
Robertson-Gouge sees the potential benefits in the creation of a HOST building to hand out tourist information and serve the public in what will become a park-like area.
Tourists may well pull in while driving by when events are going on, the scout said. They may look around the vicinity of the visitors center and go to the dress shop across the road or the restaurants.
“It’ll be good for everybody,” Robertson-Gouge said.
He also knows HOST plans to use the facility as a staging area for tours to the historic rock churches that were under the ministry of Rev. Bob Childress. The Pickin’ Porch has already been the site of several musical happenings.
When the benches are done, they’ll probably hold 80 people — maybe up to 120 if they squeeze in, the scout said.
Construction work actually started in advisor Joe Bunn’s garage, where the scouts began building the boxes for the seats.
On Tuesday, the scouts continued with the installation by putting the posts in the ground and surrounding them with a dry concrete mix that will set with the next rain.
Using an auger on the back of a John Deere tractor owned by Bunn made the digging go much faster, Robertson-Gouge explained.
The scouts will have other opportunities to help, Scoutmaster Robinson said. “We’ll probably have three or four more Eagle Scout projects up here by the time this place is finished.”
Other assistance could come from the scouts in the form of work on a landscaping plan drawn up by Treasure Potts’ Charles Barnhardt, a platform for dancing or perhaps a shelter over the electronic kiosk that stands next to the pickin’ porch.
Robertson-Gouge is the fifth Eagle Scout candidate under Robinson’s leadership and the 29th for the troop.
Troop 286 often goes for the larger service project, Robinson explained. “It is a leadership final exam of everything they do in scouting.”
The Fancy Gap visitors’ center also got a boost Monday after a presentation by Foster and Barnhardt to the Industrial Development Authority.
IDA members agreed to provide financial support for the landscaping for the visitors center, according to Bernie Deck, the IDA’s executive director.
Barnhardt will put in the plants and trees at his cost and will continue to water the plants.
“The total cost is expected to be somewhere around $10,000 depending on other possible contributions,” Deck said. “I think the really neat part is that folks in Fancy Gap, [property owners] the Prices, Barnhardts and Blue Ridge HOST members contributed more than two-thirds of the total cost to make this happen.”
Landscaping plans include a concrete walkway, handicapped ramp, mulch and split rail fences. Plantings will beautify the 12-by-24-foot visitors' center and its 10-by-24-foot porch. “This is the beginning of Fancy Gap becoming the tourism destination of Carroll County," Barnhardt said.