Headaches at Hebron
by Anna Oakes
For years, locals and visitors have traveled to Hebron Rock Colony " an area of Boone Fork Creek with large boulders and a number of small waterfalls " via Old Turnpike Road, a narrow, curvy gravel road off of Shulls Mill Road. With no parking area or road shoulders, motorists simply park on the road near a trailhead marking a half-mile path to the creek.
Highway Patrol First Sgt. Gary McClelland said he directed officers to begin towing last year after a rash of complaints from area residents about vehicles blocking the roadway.
"It's a major problem," McClelland said. "Let's say there's an emergency in one of those houses " we can't even get patrol cars in there at times. It's a safety issue. When life and death can be just a matter of seconds, you don't have time to hike down to the falls and ask someone to (move a vehicle)."
Currently, no signs are posted along the road advising motorists not to park there. However, signs indicating no camping, no trash and no alcohol are posted on a tree at the trailhead " an apparent acknowledgement of the crowds that use the access area.
"For three or four years the (Department of Transportation) went out and put up 'no parking' signs," McClelland said, but they were "taken down by people who are using that area."
McClelland said the Highway Patrol tried ticketing in the past, but that it doesn't solve the immediate problem of vehicles blocking the roadway. Plus, a ticket will cost motorists more than the towing bill, he said.
"I'd much rather see someone pay a tow bill than go to a funeral," he added.
McClelland said the Highway Patrol has a rotating list of towing businesses it utilizes for towing when complaints are received about the area. He said he feels towing is the only thing the Highway Patrol can do to address the problem at this point.
"Maybe people will get the message and they'll quit," he said.
Hebron Rock Colony is also accessible from the Boone Fork Trail, with parking available at the Blue Ridge Parkway's Julian Price Memorial Park picnic area. However, the hike from the parking area to Hebron is about 1.5 miles " a greater distance than the Old Turnpike access.
Hebron is a popular area not only for locals and students, but also for tourists. High Country Host, which staffs the visitor information center on Blowing Rock Road, frequently receives questions about area swimming holes from visitors, said Loraine Tyrie, director of operations at the center.
"(Visitors ask about) swimming holes where they can put their toes in the water (and) great waterfalls without having to walk too far," Tyrie said. "We have a great list of all those things for them."
That list includes Hebron Rock Colony, she said, but recently an upset visitor told High Country Host about towing from the area. Now, visitor center staff members have been told to make visitors aware of the situation "to warn them that that could possibly happen," she said. "We want them to be considerate of other people's property."