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NC's Blue Ridge Parkway Featured On 2015 Coin

U.S. Mint

Last year 14 million people visited North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Parkway. This summer the Parkway’s reach will greatly expand. It will be featured on a soon-to-be-released 2015 quarter.

The picturesque and mountainous Blue Ridge Parkway is 469 miles long and connects the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Two hundred fifty-two miles of the parkway are in North Carolina. It’s the North Carolina portion of the Parkway that will be featured on a 2015 quarter as part of the U.S. Mint’s America the Beautiful Series.

“Back in 2008 new legislation was passed to create the U.S. Mint’s America the Beautiful quarters’ program,” said U.S. Mint program specialist Megan Sullivan.

“The quarters began issuing in 2010 and the last one will go out in 2021. There will be a total of 56 quarters, one for each state, one for each of the five territories and one for D.C.”

In addition to North Carolina, the series’ 2015 coins include national sites in Nebraska, Louisiana, Delaware and New York. Each state submitted a preferred site and three alternatives. 

“The Blue Ridge Parkway was the preferred site for North Carolina. The three alternatives were Cape Hatteras, the Great Smoky Mountains and White Water Falls,” Sullivan said.

The North Carolina quarter is the 28th coin in the series. It will be released on June 22 and shows the state’s flower, the dogwood, alongside a curved mountainous road that leads to a stone tunnel, a distinct feature of the North Carolina side of the parkway. There are 26 tunnels along the entire stretch, with 25 of them in North Carolina.

Credit U. S. Mint
New quarter featuring North Carolina's Blue Ridge Parkway.

"These charming and picturesque tunnels were created by Italian and Spanish immigrant stonemasons from the Roosevelt public art project and they deemed that the beautiful, charming tunnels were the thing that everybody knows the parkway by and represents it the best," said New York-based artist Frank Morris, who designed the new coin.

Morris said it was a challenge to compress the parkway’s grand landscapes and tunnels onto such a small space. Fortunately, he was familiar with the subject. He had traveled the parkway many times.

“Two months after I got back from that last trip, the mint called with this assignment and so I felt the beautiful sunsets, vistas and atmospheric light and blue smoky mountains were all stuck inside my head when it came to sit down and draw. It was good timing,” Morris said.

Credit U.S. Mint
New York artist Frank Morris designed the 2015 quarter that features North Carolina's Blue Ridge Parkway.

And Blue Ridge Parkway officials think he captured the essence of the site on the coin.

“We’re excited to be a part of the series and I think the design on the quarter looks like the Parkway in North Carolina with its rock tunnels and showy blooms,” said a Parkway spokeswoman, Leesa Brandon. “Hopefully, people will look at the coin and say, ‘I’ve never been there and maybe I should visit.’”

But the ceremony to mark the coin’s release won’t be along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Instead, it’ll be at a park in Asheville. A spokeswoman says a venue that could accommodate 500 people is needed. That’s one thing the Blue Ridge Parkway doesn’t have.