An infrastructure project on the Blue Ridge Parkway is having an impact on the roadway’s first restaurant, The Bluffs at Doughton Park.
The Bluffs closed in 2010 after a run of more than 60 years. But local support — along with funding from the state and the Appalachian Regional Commission — provided nearly $1 million to bring the restaurant back.
Now the current operator says he needs that local help again to keep it going.
Cal Ledbetter took over the day-to-day oversight of the historic restaurant in May. He remembers visiting the Blue Ridge Parkway as a kid and still marvels at the area’s natural beauty and heritage.
The parkway rehabilitation project brought double-lane closures on either side of the business. But there’s still access to the restaurant via North Carolina Highway 18. Ledbetter says it has served as a lifeline.
“The first-time visitors are fewer here, because it’s really people that have some connection," he says. "We don’t have the luxury of the drive-by parkway traffic that, you know, is a quintessential part of the parkway experience.”
Ledbetter says he’s added more retail to the store since taking over, providing basics like deodorant and first aid kits to hikers who might be passing through.
The nearly $100 million, three-year infrastructure program will include a staggered series of closings along a 75-mile stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway as crews work to repave the roads and also address such issues as drainage, overlooks and signage.