During the week of Oct. 19, Great Smoky Mountains National Park invites the public to provide input on how the park can improve visitor experiences and alleviate congestion at some of its busiest destinations. The public can participate through virtual interactive workshops, online forms, or direct mail.
“We look forward to working hand-in-hand with our local communities and visitors from across the country to thoughtfully address growing challenges associated with extremely high visitation,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Congestion at the most visited park in the nation is complex, but we believe by working together, we can find solutions that help us continue to protect the park and provide better experiences for millions of visitors.”
Providing a high-quality visitor experience has grown more challenging due to recent, increased visitation. Since 2009, annual visitation to the Smokies has increased by 32%, resulting in congested roadways, overflowing parking lots, roadside soil erosion, vegetation trampling, and long lines at restrooms and visitor center facilities. The park received a record 12.5 million visits in 2019 and has set monthly visitation records in June, July, and August in 2020.
The public is invited to attend facilitator-led, two-hour workshops online with park managers on the following dates: Monday, Oct. 19 from 2 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.; Tuesday, Oct. 20 from 6 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.; Thursday, Oct. 22 from 10 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.; or Thursday, Oct. 22 from 6 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.
Through the workshops, participants will learn about the current state of park visitation and be introduced to congestion management strategies used on public lands across the world. Participants will be asked to provide input on the following places in the park: Cades Cove, Clingmans Dome, Deep Creek, Big Creek, Rainbow Falls, Grotto Falls, Alum Cave, Chimney Tops, and Laurel Falls. In small online groups, participants will be asked to provide input on how the park might improve visitor experiences and alleviate congestion at these busy destinations.
Participants must register for the virtual workshop by filling out an online form at https://tinyurl.com/grsmves by Oct. 14. Once registered, participants will receive instructions and a link to join the online workshop.
The public may also submit input without participating in the workshops by sending comments through Oct. 31 to the following:
• On the web (preferred method) at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/grsmves-survey.
• By mail:
Visitor Experience and Stewardship
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
107 Park Headquarters Rd
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
For more information about visitation in the Smokies, please visit www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/management/VES.htm.
– National Park Service release