During the week of October 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, October 19 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.; Tuesday, October 20 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:15 p.m.; Thursday, October 22 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.; or Thursday, October 22 from 6:00 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 here by October 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 October 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.
The Great Smoky Mountains isn’t the only park to see a sharp increase in visitor traffic over the last several years. Nearly all of our parks are being crushed by visitors. A large section in the final chapter of my book, Ramble On: A History of Hiking, offers several solutions on how we can handle the problem of crowds in our national parks.
Ramble On: A History of Hiking
Exploring Glacier National Park
Exploring Grand Teton National Park The Smoky Mountain Hiker is the author of the Smoky Mountain Hiking Blog and the online trail guide, HikingintheSmokys.com
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