Secretary Zinke Announces 19 New National Recreation Trails in 17 States

Thursday, May 31, 2018

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Continuing his work to expand recreational opportunities on public lands, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today designated 19 national recreation trails in 17 states, adding more than 370 miles to the national recreation trails system of more than 1,000 trails in all 50 states.

"By designating these new national trails, we acknowledge the efforts of local communities to provide outdoor recreational opportunities that can be enjoyed by everyone," said Secretary Zinke. "Our network of national trails provides easily accessible places to exercise and connect with nature in both urban and rural areas while boosting tourism and supporting economic opportunities across the country."

On Saturday, June 2, hundreds of organized activities are planned as part of National Trails Day, including hikes, educational programs, bike rides, trail rehabilitation projects, festivals, paddle trips, and trail dedications. Trails of the National Recreation Trails system range from less than a mile to 485 miles in length and have been designated on federal, state, municipal and privately owned lands.

"The network of national recreation trails offers expansive opportunities for Americans to explore the great outdoors," said National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith. "As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System, I hope everyone will take advantage of a nearby national trail to hike or bike."

While national scenic trails and national historic trails may only be designated by an act of Congress, national recreation trails may be designated by the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture in response to an application from the trail's managing agency or organization.

The National Recreation Trails Program is jointly administered by the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, in conjunction with a number of Federal and not-for-profit partners, notably American Trails, which hosts the National Recreation Trails website.

For more information on the newly designated trails, please click here.

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Clingmans Dome Tower Temporarily Closed June 4 through June 15

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower will be closed Monday, June 4 through Friday, June 15 to complete a rehabilitation project that began last year. Workers need to apply a final surface overlay along the tower ramp.

While visitors will not be able to climb the tower, the Clingmans Dome parking overlook area will remain open and offers outstanding mountain top views. The visitor contact station and store, the trail up to the tower, and all access to the trailheads in the vicinity will remain open. Visitors should expect some construction traffic in the vicinity of the contact station and along the trail.

Last year, contractors repaired deteriorated areas on the concrete columns and walls, stabilized support walls at the base of the ramp, and repaired stone masonry. This work has been made possible through funding received from a Partners in Preservation (PIP) grant. The $250,000 grant was awarded in 2016 to the Friends of the Smokies on behalf of the park after being one of the top nine, most voted for parks in the Partners in Preservation: National Parks Campaign.

Straddling the North Carolina and Tennessee state line at 6,643 feet, the tower is a prominent landmark and destination as the highest point in the park. The observation tower is a precedent-setting design of the National Park Service’s Mission 66 program, which transformed park planning, management, and architecture and fundamentally altered the visitor experience in national parks. Since 1959, millions of visitors have climbed the tower, where they can see distances of up to 100 miles over the surrounding mountains and valleys. Some minimal preservation work today on the tower will ensure that visitors continue to experience this unique structure spiraling up from the highest point in the park.

For more information about the Clingmans Dome Tower, please visit the park website at

About Partners in Preservation: Partners in Preservation is a program in which American Express, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, awards preservation grants to historic places across the country. Since 2006, Partners in Preservation, a community-based partnership, has committed $16 million in preservation funding to nearly 200 diverse sites in eight different cities across the country.

Through this partnership, American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation seek to increase the public’s awareness of the importance of historic preservation in the United States and to preserve America’s historic and cultural places. The program also hopes to inspire long-term support from local citizens for the historic places at the heart of their communities.

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Parkway Extends Linn Cove Viaduct Closure

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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Blue Ridge Parkway officials announced today the continued closure of the Linn Cove Viaduct, at Milepost 304, due to continued and heavy rainfall in the area. The final steps in completing an ongoing project at that location require a minimum of 48 hours of dry weather. Project managers will resume and complete the project as soon as conditions improve.

Heavy rainfall in the area has also closed the original detour route on a section of US 221 around the Viaduct due to a road washout. Variable message boards located on the Parkway at both the north and south approach of the Viaduct provide alternate route information using NC 105.

Visitors are encouraged to visit the Parkway’s website for real time road information and a map of the suggested route around the Viaduct.

Access to Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Price Park Campground, and the popular Beacon Heights, Rough Ridge and Boone Fork trail heads remains open. A section of the Tanawha Trail below the Viaduct remains closed.

The Linn Cove Viaduct closed in March of 2018 to undertake a comprehensive road maintenance project to remove and replace the asphalt pavement, waterproofing membrane and joints on the bridge and complete repairs to the supporting structure, stone curb, railing and drainage features.

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Greenbrier Barn Party Tops $2 Million for National Park in 20th Year

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

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Friends of the Smokies hosted more than 600 guests at the 20th annual Greenbrier Barn Party on Friday, May 11th. The event raised more than $211,000 this year in support of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and featured live music from The Chillbillies and a silent auction.

The Greenbrier Barn Party is co-hosted by Coach Phillip & Vicky Fulmer, Jake and Kat Ogle, along with Jim Ogle and Cheryl Houston. Special guests in attendance included University of Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt, and Steve Caldwell and Dan Brooks, coaches of the 1998 national championship team.

Over its 20 year history, the Greenbrier Barn Party has raised more than $2 million, helping to fund critical projects in Great Smoky Mountains National Park including treating hemlock trees, construction of the Greenbrier Picnic Pavilion and hiking trail reconstruction. Funds this year will also help Friends of the Smokies meet its $1.25 million fundraising goal to upgrade the park’s emergency radio communications system, a 25th anniversary signature project.

“For the 20th anniversary of this event to have a record-breaking year is a testament to our communities’ dedication to the national park,” said Jim Hart, Friends of the Smokies president. “We are so thankful for the generous support of our members and sponsors who are helping ensure the park’s preservation.”

The Greenbrier Barn Party is held in Pittman Center, TN at the barn of Jim Ogle, a former Friends of the Smokies board member. The event is presented by Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and Sugarland Cellars, and is sponsored by Anakeesta, Barnes Insurance Agency, Bearskin Lodge, Blount Partnership, Charles Blalock & Sons, Citadel Construction, Citizens National Bank, Crockett’s Breakfast Camp, Harper Bros. General Merchandise Store, Hollywood Star Cars Museum, Home Federal Bank, Hospitality Solutions, IHOP, The Island in Pigeon Forge, Johnson Family of Restaurants, KaTom Restaurant Supply, Parkside Cabin Rentals, Phillips and Jordan, Riverside Tower, Robert G. Campbell and Associates, Sevier County Bank, SmartBank, Stowers Machinery, and Trotter De Foe Architects.

Photos from Friday’s event and more information can be found at

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Smokies Invites Public Comment on Elkmont Wastewater Treatment Plant Project

Friday, May 11, 2018

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials invite the public to comment through May 31 on a draft environmental assessment (EA) for proposed upgrades to the Elkmont Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) in Sevier County, Tennessee. The plant serves the Elkmont Developed Area, which includes Elkmont Campground and other facilities nearby.

Treated effluent from the plant is currently discharged to the Little River downstream of the campground as authorized by National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit number TN0022349 issued by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

The purpose of the proposal is to provide a modern, efficient, and sustainable wastewater treatment system for the Elkmont Developed Area. The action is needed because the existing WWTP, which was originally built in 1959 and modified in 1969 and 2008, has exceeded its expected service life. The EA evaluates three alternatives:

Alternative A – The No Action Alternative provides a basis for comparing environmental impacts of the action alternatives.

Alternative B – Upgrade WWTP and continue discharging to the Little River.

Alternative C (Preferred Alternative) – Upgrade WWTP and install a land-based, subsurface effluent dispersal system.

Prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the EA assess the alternatives and their impacts on the environment. The EA also serves to integrate and coordinate compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act. The following impact topics are analyzed in detail: surface water, floodplains, aquatic life, vegetation, wildlife, wilderness, park operations, and archeology.

The public is encouraged to participate in the planning process by reviewing and providing comments on the Draft EA. Park Staff invite the public to comment on the proposed project using the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website and following the link titled “Elkmont Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade” at or by US Mail to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, ATTN: Environmental Planning and Compliance, 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.

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Smokies Visitors Spend $923 million in Gateway Communities

Friday, May 4, 2018

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A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 11,338,893 visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2017 spent $922,947,100 in communities near the park. That spending supported 13,942 jobs in the local area. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, with every dollar invested by American taxpayers in the National Park Service returning $10 to the economy.

“We are glad to work alongside our business communities in helping create lifelong memories and traditions that bring people to our area year after year,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “While our gateway communities benefit from visitor spending, they also provide a critical role in shaping the overall impression of a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Egan Cornachione of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. The report shows a $1.2 billion cumulative economic benefit to communities within 60 miles of the Smokies. According to the 2017 report, most park visitor spending near the Smokies was for lodging and camping (35 percent) followed by food and beverages (24 percent), gas and oil (11 percent), local transportation (11 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent), and recreation industries (9 percent).

Report authors this year produced an interactive tool. Users can explore current year visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage:

The report shows $18.2 billion of direct spending by over 330 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park across the nation. This spending supported 306,000 jobs nationally; over 255,000 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $35.8 billion. According to the 2017 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging and camping (32.9 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.5 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (10.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.0 percent), and local transportation (7.5 percent).

The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state. To learn more about national parks in North Carolina or Tennessee and how the National Park Service works with North Carolina and Tennessee communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to or

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