More than 285 million people visited America's National Parks in 2009, up about 10 million from the previous year. In spite of three weekends when entrance fees were waived, well publicized visits by the First Family to the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, and the release of Ken Burn's PBS special, The National Parks: America's Best Idea, our parks failed to break the all-time record set in 1987. But, the parks did well, considering the economic downturn and last year's downward trends in the tourism industry.
Perhaps Governor Bob McDonnell can loan the Park Service some snow removal equipment so they can open as the leaves begin budding out. After all, these two jewels of the Blue Ridge are vital parts of Virginia's tourism, job creation, and economy - far more important than opening a few rest areas.