Spruce Pine reaps tourism gains from Blue Ridge Parkway

250px-Downtown_Spruce_Pine_NCSource: Asheville Citizen-Times

The owners of the Orchard at Altapass took North Carolina to court when the state proposed acquiring 200 acres of the apple orchard to create the Blue Ridge Parkway in the 1930s.

The owners at the time ran a wholesale apple business and did not see the benefit of having the scenic road come through the middle of their land, said the orchard’s current owner Bill Carson.

“They knew it was inevitable that it was going to go through, but they argued that it would cause more damage than good,” he said. “I don’t know if they ever thought the traffic would be much up there.”

More than 70 years later, the parkway has not destroyed the orchard. In fact, said Carson, it may be the thing that saved it.

Although apple growing in the region has declined, the orchard’s location on the Mitchell-McDowell county line on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Carson’s transformation of the orchard into a place to experience local culture and history, has helped the Historic Orchard at Altapass become a stop for 60,000 parkway visitors each year, about half of which Carson estimates are nonlocal travelers.

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