As I mentioned in a previous post, the National Parks Second Century Commission was scheduled to conduct its fifth and final meeting in Great Smoky Mountains National Park beginning today. The three-day meeting was scheduled to run through Thursday, June 4.
Oddly, there’s no mention of the meeting in the local press or on the Great Smoky Mountains website. Nor has there been any updated information on the Second Century Commission website, including a meeting agenda similar to what's been provided for prior to the previous meetings in Yellowstone, Gettysburg, etc.
I don’t believe the meeting has been canceled. Park Superintendent, Dale A. Ditmanson, was quoted in a National Parks Conservation Association press release dated May 28: “The staff and partners at the Smokies are honored to host the commissions’ final meeting in the same year that we celebrate the park’s 75th Anniversary.”
I really don’t understand why this hasn’t received more press than it has. After all, the goals of the commission are fairly lofty. From the series of five meetings, the Commission will be creating a report that outlines how park services can be expanded to reflect cultural changes, and to establish a 10-year program to repair and enhance the parks through a mix of public and private funding.
The attendees at these meetings aren’t chopped liver either. The Commission consists of nearly 30 national leaders and experts, including scientists, historians, conservationists, academics, business leaders, policy experts and retired National Park Service executives, and is being led by former Senators J. Bennett Johnston Jr. of Louisiana and Howard H. Baker Jr. of Tennessee.
What’s really strange, even disheartening, is that the Commission is supposed to hear comments from the general public and to take into account local issues that impact national parks.
How can anyone attend if no one knows that the meeting is even occurring, or where it’s being conducted? Has the report been finalized already and is this last meeting merely a matter of going though the motions? Is the Commission afraid of too much negative feedback regarding local issues in the Smokies?
Why isn’t the Knox News Sentinel, the Maryville Daily Times, or even the Asheville Citizen-Times covering this?
I just think that it’s strange that this event has been ignored the way it has been.
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