November 16, 2011

The closures, caused by the need to rebuild stone guard walls, are expected to last until summer.

Portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina were closed Monday and will remain so until next summer because of renovation work on the scenic highway's historic stone guard walls.

The nearest section to Roanoke that is closed is a 2-and-a-half-mile stretch just south of the Virginia-North Carolina border between mileposts 217.8 and 220.4. The road is closed to all traffic, which includes vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians.

Other closed sections in North Carolina are from milepost 226.3 to milepost 229.7 and from milepost 232.5 to milepost 236.9. Detours will direct travelers around closures via North Carolina 18 through Sparta and Laurel Springs.

The stone walls are a picturesque feature of the parkway and were built during the late 1930s in the early days of the road's construction. Decades of freezing and thawing cycles have caused severe deterioration of the walls. About 32,000 linear feet of walls will be reconstructed.

Through October, parkway visitation in Virginia and North Carolina is up nearly 800,000 visitors over the same period last year, a 6percent increase. Visitation was down dramatically in 2010 due to lengthy weather-related closures during the winter of 2009-10. More than 13.5 million people have visited the parkway this year, with North Carolina attracting more visitors than Virginia by more than a 2-to-1 ratio.