Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Taking issue with the 2010 Smokies Trip Planner

I just came across the 2010 Smokies Trip Planner on the GSMNP website today. After the 17-page PDF file opens up, the first topic at the top of page one is Tips on Auto Touring in the National Park.

As everyone knows, traffic congestion is a major issue in the Great Smoky Mountains, especially on the Cades Cove Loop Road. In fact, Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson stated in the 75th Anniversary issue of Smokies Life Magazine that he and park officials are looking for ways to solve the traffic problems that plague the Smokies. In the article he floated the idea of banning cars in Cades Cove and using a circulator bus system. Although he considers this solution impractical for a couple of reasons, at least the problem is recognized at the top of the food chain.

All of which brings me back to the 2010 Smokies Trip Planner. I really don't understand why the Park continues to encourage people to auto tour in the Smokies. I'm not trying to take away anyone's right to drive on any road in the Smokies, but I do think it's ridiculous that the Park goes out of it's way to encourage people to jump in their cars and clog up the roads.

In addition to the planner that can be picked up at visitor centers, there are auto touring booklets that can be purchased, and there's a page on the Park website dedicated to auto touring.

This really doesn't make sense to me. This is actually a no brainer. I know the impact on traffic would likely be only minimal, but why go out of your way to make it worse?

Here's a suggestion I just thought of as I was concluding this post: Why not blaze a couple of new trails that explore the interior of Cades Cove?

You could have trailheads leading from the parking area just before the one-way loop, as well as from the two cross roads; Hyatt and Sparks Lane. The trails could explore the open fields as well as some of the historical structures in the area. This would give people the opportunity to get out of their cars and have a much more meaningful experience with Cades Cove.

Would this cut down on congestion? I think it would - but it probably wouldn't make a significant difference. However, combine this with other solutions such as shuttle buses and the park could put a dent in the problem (if there's anyone from the park service reading this, please comment on the feasibility of new trails in Cades Cove).

I've often wondered why there weren't any trails in the interior of the Cove anyway. I would love to be able to explore this portion of the park.

HikingintheSmokys.com Detailed information on trails in the Smoky Mountains; includes trail descriptions, key features, pictures, video, maps, elevation profiles, news, and more.


Unknown said...

Why don't they just charge admission to Cades Cove or Clingman's Dome?

The Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

Because it's against the original agreement. Here's the historical background from the park website:

The land that is today Great Smoky Mountains National Park was once privately owned. The states of Tennessee and North Carolina, as well as local communities, paid to construct Newfound Gap Road (US-441). When the state of Tennessee transferred ownership of Newfound Gap Road to the federal government in 1936, it stipulated that “no toll or license fee shall ever be imposed…” to travel the road.

At that time, Newfound Gap Road was one of the major routes crossing the southern Appalachian Mountains. It’s likely the state was concerned with maintaining free, easy interstate transportation for its citizens. North Carolina transferred its roads through abandonment, so no restrictions were imposed.

Action by the Tennessee legislature would be required to lift this deed restriction if Great Smoky Mountains National Park ever wished to charge an entrance fee.


Having read this again, and maybe you're alluding to this already, but the original stipulation seems to imply that the agreement only applies to Newfound Gap Road. So, if I'm reading between the lines in your comment correctly, I would have to say I don't know. You may have a point....


Unknown said...

Yeah I know about the agreement to Newfound Gap Road. Just thinking about the other roads that aren't used for through traffic, but are heavily used anyway. ...And could maybe provide some more funding.