In honor of the Wilderness Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson 50 years ago, the Great Smoky Mountains national park (GSMNP) will be hosting a celebration from 9:30am to 2pm Saturday September 27th at the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg Tennessee.
This important Act to Protect Wilderness areas has allowed 109 million acres in 44 states to be protected in areas that are "untrammeled by man" so that it may continue "retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvement or human habitation."
The Wilderness Act Celebration in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will feature speaker Ed Zahniser, son of Howard Zhaniser who was widely regarded as the "Father of the Wilderness Act." And will kick off at 9:30 am with the Showing of the films "Wild By Law" and "Sanctuary" in the Sugarlands theater.
At 11:00 am there will be an hour long panel discussion on how wilderness principles have guided park management through the years. The discussion will be moderated by former Great Smoky Mountains national park backcountry specialist, George Minnigh and will include long-time GSMNP volunteer, Ray Payne, President of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, historian Ed Fleming, and Bill Hart.
At 1:00 pm Keynote Speaker Ed Zahniser will speak about his father's role in getting the Wilderness Act written and passed, as well as his family's relationship with one of the founders of the Wilderness Society, Knoxville attorney, Harvey Broome.
The celebration continues tomorrow Sunday, September 28th at 8:30 am when the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club will be lead a hike from Clingmans Dome to Silers Bald. This scenic portion of the Appalachian Trail is part of the famous 1966 "Save Our Smokies Wilderness" hike led by Harvey Broome and others, during which more than 500 hikers came to or passed over Silers Bald.
This is a strenuous hike that steadily climbs around 1,200 feet in elevation and only those prepared with proper clothing and in excellent physical condition should attempt this hike by meeting at Sugarlands Visitors Center in the west side parking area near the restrooms.