Parkway upkeep suspended after fatal mowing accident

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Throughout my 40 years with the National Park Service, I have been grateful for mutual support provided by staff, visitors, and community members aligned with a common interest, such as the events held to celebrate the Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th anniversary in 2010.
As superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway, I request your support and understanding of reasons for the unkempt appearance of the parkway.
Earlier this spring, the Blue Ridge Parkway family suffered a tragic loss as a mowing accident took the life of employee Dana Bruce.
Immediately following the accident, investigators from the National Park Service and Occupational Safety and Health Administration conducted thorough reviews.
Final reports from those reviews are not yet available, but we are already modifying the way we do business to ensure that we address employees’ safety.
Mowing operations were immediately suspended throughout the National Park System until operational analyses, equipment inspections, and employee training are completed.
Parkway staff is reviewing equipment, standard operating procedures, and overall mowing policy.
These efforts are aimed at creating a safer work environment for parkway personnel.
Given the variety of terrain and equipment used, and the parkway’s 469-mile length, this is an extensive undertaking.
During this process, maintenance of the parkway landscape will suffer.
Grass and weeds are already higher than we or our visitors and neighbors are accustomed to. We understand the unkempt vegetation is attractive to snakes and ticks and we caution parkway users to be more aware of these native inhabitants.
We will resume maintaining the roadway landscape in phases through a slow and deliberate process, based on lessons learned in the accident investigation and subsequent analyses.
With employee safety as the top priority, steep slopes and embankments may no longer be mowed to previous standards and some roadside shoulders may receive less mowing.
Thanks to all of our partners, neighbors, visitors, and those who love the parkway for your support, understanding and patience during this period.
Phil Francis
Blue Ridge Parkway
Asheville, N.C.