Blue Ridge Parkway Communications Center Building
The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation provided funding for a new Communications Center Building for the Blue Ridge Parkway which opened in the spring of 2012. The building, located behind park headquarters in Asheville, serves as the hub for all radio communications for the Parkway. At the same time, the 30-year old microwave communications system was replaced with a state-of-the-art microwave and land mobile radio infrastructure, giving the Parkway a modern and reliable radio telecommunications network that will provide critical support for visitors and staff for many years to come.
The Communications Center was previously located in the basement of the VA Hospital in Asheville. Being the conduit of information between departments, the remoteness from Headquarters caused delays in communication with the rest of the staff during an intense incident. Moving the center next door to Headquarters allows the Park Superintendent or the Chief Ranger to easily walk over to the center and be informed in real-time.
The Communications, Law Enforcement and Maintenance staffs were all heavily involved in the design of the new building, which not only serves the current needs of the Parkway, but allows for future needs and growth. The facility, with its own generator, provides a safe and secure environment for the staff and is large enough to serve as the Emergency Operations Center during a major incident. The extra capacity also allows the Parkway to handle dispatching for other agencies. The Parkway currently handles some of the dispatching for Mount Mitchell State Park, Kings Mountain National Military Park, the VA hospital and the adjacent U.S. Forest Service offices. They are also talking to several other smaller parks about providing this service.
The building was constructed by SmartBuilders of Asheville, a member of the Western North Carolina Green Building Council. The building is designed to efficiently use energy, water and materials, as well as reduce the impacts on human health and the environment over the entire life cycle of the building, and is constructed with SIP panels from Eco Panels. The Park staff has gone to great lengths to make sure that new radio and microwave towers are not readily visible from the motor road, and have installed a mono-pole that is disguised to look like a pine tree at the headquarters’ communication site.
Whether preserving the visual integrity of the landscape or providing protection for visitors on the Parkway, the new state-of-the-art Communications Center will have lasting impacts for years to come.
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