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Virginia State Parks 75th anniversary documentary coming to PBS

New Blue Ridge PBS production to be broadcast statewide

Visitors to Grayson Highlands State Park feel like they are on top of the world. Located near Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia’s two highest mountains, Grayson Highlands State Park offers scenic views of alpine-like peaks of more than 5,000 feet. This is just one of the 35 state parks that Blue Ridge PBS visits in “Virginia State Parks: 75 Years and Still Growing.”(Roanoke, Va.)—"Virginia State Parks: 75 Years and Still Growing," a new documentary premiering June 11 at 7 p.m. on Blue Ridge PBS, invites viewers to share in the natural beauty and compelling stories behind many of Virginia’s most spectacular public treasures. Blue Ridge PBS and Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) are partnering on this statewide public television initiative, visiting all 35 state parks to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Virginia’s award-winning state parks system.

"We are crisscrossing the commonwealth for this spectacular documentary, from the Blue Ridge mountains to the coastal beaches," said Julie Newman, Blue Ridge PBS executive producer. "Our Emmy Award-winning production team has filmed wild ponies grazing on mountain grasses in Grayson Highlands State Park, dolphins playing in the surf off of False Cape State Park, and so much more."

 

"From our tremendous natural and cultural treasures to the many outdoor experiences that renew the mind, body and spirit, Virginia State Parks really do have a lot to offer," said State Parks Director Joe Elton. "I’ve heard from many state park visitors who are eager to see ‘Virginia State Parks: 75 Years and Still Growing,’ a documentary that will inspire public television viewers to get out and experience Virginia at its natural best."

"The scenery and stories in this documentary are so magnificent that we are sharing ‘Virginia State Parks: 75 Years and Still Growing’ with public televisions across the entire state of Virginia," said James Baum, Blue Ridge PBS president and CEO. "This new broadcast program will entertain, educate and inspire Virginians for years to come."

"Virginia State Parks: 75 Years and Still Growing," features interviews with park rangers, interpreters, historians and people who love Virginia’s parks, including some of the record 8 million people who visited a state park in 2010.

The hour-long documentary begins with a look back at the depression-era origins of the Virginia’s state parks, including the involvement of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Civilian Conservation Corps. On June 15, 1936, after years of planning and hard work, Virginia became the first state to open an entire park system on the same day. Six new state parks opened at the same time: Douthat, Fairy Stone, Hungry Mother, Seashore (now called First Landing), Westmoreland and Staunton River.

One of the most compelling stories in the documentary is how the entire state park system nearly closed in the late 1940s due to segregation issues. In 1948, Maceo Conrad Martin, an African American from Danville, Va., tried to enter Staunton River State Park and was refused. Martin subsequently took the matter to court. A couple years later, in 1950, Prince Edward State Park for Negroes (now known as Twin Lakes State Park) was opened to provide “separate but equal” opportunities for African Americans.

"It’s a magnificent civil rights story that has nearly been lost, because it hasn’t been told," said Zoe Rogers, DCR visitor services specialist.

"We’ll see how the park system grew through the years, and how the parks and the people they served changed with the times," added Newman. "While the park system has seen a lot of changes over 75 years, one thing has remained constant. Virginia state parks bring us face-to-face with some of the state’s most breathtaking vistas, cultural treasures and natural wonders."

In 2001 Virginia state parks received a prestigious National Gold Medal Award for excellence, in recognition of the system’s many recreation opportunities, conservation efforts and environmental education programs. "Virginia State Parks: 75 Years and Still Growing" highlights the many park opportunities awaiting visitors today, and looks into the future at what is needed to protect Virginia’s natural wonders, including new parks under development.

"Virginia State Parks: 75 Years and Still Growing" is made possible in part with support from Alpha Natural Resources, the Norfolk Southern Foundation and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.

Visit BlueRidgePBS.org for more information about "Virginia State Parks: 75 Years and Still Growing," including a video trailer about the program.

Download a copy of the press release

Photo caption

Grayson Highlands.jpg
Visitors to Grayson Highlands State Park feel like they are on top of the world. Located near Mount Rogers and Whitetop Mountain, Virginia’s two highest mountains, Grayson Highlands State Park offers scenic views of alpine-like peaks of more than 5,000 feet. This is just one of the 35 state parks that Blue Ridge PBS visits in “Virginia State Parks: 75 Years and Still Growing.”

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