Get out of the road or get towed, Roanoke County police warn hikers

25 cars have been towed from the McAfee Knob area since Labor Day
Published: Oct. 23, 2020 at 11:15 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Anybody who’s hiked McAfee Knob will tell you, the views from the summit are breathtaking. The views from the parking lot, not so much.

“It’s a very frustrating parking situation,” said Roanoke County Police Sgt. Spencer Hoops.

For Hoops, there’s one view he really hates to see: cars parked along the shoulder, or even in the road, on Route 311.

“It’s barely wide enough for two cars to pass, much less for vehicle traffic to be parked on the road,” he said.

Since Labor Day, Roanoke County police have had to tow 25 cars near the McAfee Knob trail head. Fourteen of those were last Saturday alone.

“Officers often times will exhaust every effort to locate an owner of that vehicle,” said Hoopes.

The sergeant says this isn’t just about driver safety. The real concern is what could happen in an emergency. If Route 311 is blocked, in whole or in part, it can mean major detours for first responders.

In some cases, “we’ll have to go all the way to Montgomery County, and come back around through Blacksburg Road, through Newport road to get to the other side,” said Hoopes.

This isn’t a new problem, but with more people looking to get outside during the COVID era, it has gotten worse. The Roanoke Appalachian Trail club announced earlier this year it’s raising funds to expand the current parking lot, but those changes won’t be ready this fall.

Hoops says that means people headed to McAfee need to keep a few things in mind: “Try to carpool if you’ve got multiple people with you. There are places at the bottom of the mountain. There are larger Park-and-Ride areas off Exit 140.”

Otherwise, Hoops warns the view when you get back to the parking lot may be an empty spot where your car used to be.

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