Published On: Wed, Dec 2nd, 2009
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Park to Start Work on New Oconaluftee Visitor Center

 Submitted by Bob Miller

National Park Service

 

EBCI tribal elder Jerry Wolfe smudges the site where the new Oconaluftee Visitors Center will be constructed during a groundbreaking ceremony in June.  (Photo by Scott McKie B.P./One Feather)

EBCI tribal elder Jerry Wolfe smudges the site where the new Oconaluftee Visitors Center will be constructed during a groundbreaking ceremony in June. (Photo by Scott McKie B.P./One Feather)

      Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent, Dale Ditmanson, has announced that the Park’s partner organization, the Great Smoky Mountains Association, is seeking a contractor to begin work on a new Park visitor center early next year.  The new center, which will be located about two miles north of the Cherokee, NC entrance, will be the first major Park facility to be constructed entirely with donations.

      “The Smokies is exceedingly fortunate to have two excellent partner organizations.” Ditmanson said. “Between the Great Smoky Mountains Association funding the construction of this new 6,500 square foot center and the Friends of the Smokies equipping it with interpretive media no expenditure of federal funding will be necessary.”

      In addition to the main visitor center, the Park’s plans call for a restroom/vending machine structure of about 1,200 square feet and an information kiosk.  The center is expected to be a model of energy efficiency and sustainability by incorporating geothermal wells to reduce heating and cooling costs and a cistern system to capture rain water to flush toilets and for landscape irrigation.

      The new center will replace a 1,700 square foot stone building that was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930’s as a Ranger Station, but has served the information needs of up to 350,000 visitors annually. The old building will be retained as office and meeting space.

      Park managers expect construction to begin early in 2010 so that the center will be ready to open early in 2011.  The Great Smoky Mountains Association has plans and specifications available to prospective contractors who may have the interest and capability to take on the project.  A mandatory pre-bid conference is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on December 8 at the Fairfield Inn in Cherokee to brief prospective contractors on the details of the project.  General information about the project is available at: http://www.thegreatsmokymountains.org/about_us and scroll to the bottom of that page.

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