Monday, October 30, 2006

Expanded Sevierville visitor center is celebrated

Officials took part in a ribbon cutting ceremony in Sevierville Tennessee to open the newly expanded Sevierville Visitor center which also includes a Great Smoky Mountains Association gift shop and new offices for the Friends of the Smokies.

Even though the Great Smoky Mountains Association gift shop which is located near I40 at 3099 Winfield Dunn Parkway has been already open for months, they have waited until now to officially open the joint venture which should benefit all that are involved.

In order to improve the visibility of the visitor center, the visitor center plans to increase its marketing via billboard ads and to remove a hill that block the center form view of motorists.

We encourage everyone to check out the center and help support these great organizations. Both the visitor center and the store are open from Monday through Friday form 8:30 to 5:30, Saturday from 9:00 to 6:00 and Sunday form 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Smoky Mountain Park Rangers guided hike in North Carolina

Don't miss this limited opportunity to go hiking Sunday, November 5th with a national park ranger so you can enjoy the fall weather and learn about the history of the Hazel Creek area on the north shore of Fontana Lake in North Carolina.

Because of limited funding, guided hikes by rangers are not common and this hike is also limited 20 participants because of the limited seating on the pontoon boat that will take you from the Fontana Village Resort Marina to the trail.

The entire round trip hike on the hazel creek trail is 4 miles and hiking shoes or boots are suggested as the trail ranges from easy to moderate. Hikers will enjoy about 4 hours on the trail which will include visiting what was the former sawmill town of Procter which was built in the early 1900s and even be able to see historic maps and photos of the area.

After lunch which will be eaten on the trail, anyone who wishes to can visit the historic Proctor Family Cemetery.

Hikers should brink plenty of water and pack food as there are no facilities or food available on the hazel Creek trail. The Fontana Village Resort Marian does have restrooms and you will find snacks and drinks for sale. Jackets and rain gear are also strongly recommended.

Hikers under be at least 13 years old and reservations are required by calling the Great Smoky Mountains Association at (865) 436-7318, extension 22 next Monday October 30th from 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. A credit card is required at the time of the reservation to pay the $15 per person fee for this hike through the Smoky Mountains.

For those taking the hike, they should be promptly at the Ranger station by 9:00 am. The actual hike will take approximately 4 hours and the returning boat will get you back to the marina by 3:30 pm.

Directions to the Fontana Village Resort Marina: located near Fontana Dam just off Highway 28, 33 miles west of Bryson City, N.C. and 95 miles west of Asheville, N.C. Turn right off of Highway 28 at the sign for Fontana Dam then follow the signs for the boat dock.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Salvage Work to Begin in Elkmont

The Wonderland Hotel in the historic area of Elkmont in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park as about to undergo a $65,419 Salvage job on November 1st to preserve all of the historically treasures that remain in the ruins of the hotel.

The Wonderland Hotel collapsed in fall 2005 and many other buildings remain in a similar state of disrepair in the Elkmont area of the Smoky Mountain National Park. In order to salvage any building materials and fixtures that are historically significantly such as Doors, windows, bathtubs, hardware such as door handles, etc, the entire hotel much be carefully dismantled.

The company brought in do the salvage work is the Moran Construction of Abingdon Virginia who will separate the historical material for preservation have the non significant material removed for disposal outside of the national park. Material that is going to be preserved will be moved to at the Department of Energy's Office of Scientificant and Technical Information Storage facility in Oak whois is where the Park's archival storage area is located.

The work slated to start November 1st and to be finished by December 8th 2006 should have no impact on the campgrounds, hiking trails and any of the other public use areas in Elkmont. Since the work is to be performed mostly by hand, excessive noise should not be a significant issue but in the interest of public safety, the hotel are will be closed off to visitors while the work is in progress.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is conducting a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in regard to the remains buildings which should be published by March of 2007.

The more than 70 remaining buildings left in the Elkmont district of the National Park have been a controversy for quite some time. While the park services job is to preserve the natural environment as well a preserve historical artifacts, many of the campers, hikers and local residents whom I have personally interviewed did not feel as though many of the buildings did not have any real historical significance.

The Ogles Cabin in winter in the Roaring Fork
Ogles hsitorical cabin in Roaring Fork TN

When compared to historical significance of the buildings located in Cades Cove, Roaring Fork, and Cataloochee, many of the buildings in Elkmont - especially those that are a crumbling or a pile of rubble - can't measure up the workmanship, historical significance or beauty. When as I felt tat the buildings in Elkmont held limited value, I do realize that the park is not just for the enjoyment and recreational use for the next 20, 50 or even hundreds of years but let's hope for hundreds of years. Even buildings that may not be as historically significant now will be in hundreds of years.

The real issue is money. The park service needs all the help it can get and even though great organizations such as Friends of the Smokies raise money and do volunteer work for the park, there is just not enough money and hands to do everything that needs to be done.

In my opinion if it is a question of persevering animal and plant habits or saving dilapidated poorly built cookie cutter summer cottages - the cottages go.