Oconaluftee Visitor Center
Park Friends and Neighbors,
The Great Smoky Mountains Association and the Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains have come forth with financial donations to improve visitor services at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. The Park is proposing to use the donations for new buildings to properly accommodate visitor services at the North Carolina entrance to the Park.
An Environmental Assessment process is underway to evaluate the location of new structures that include a visitor center and restroom building. The Environmental Assessment will also study the reconfiguration of the current parking lot. The process is required to meet the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act, for federal decisions on proposed improvements.
The need for an improved visitor facility at Oconaluftee has long been described. The facility was originally constructed between 1937 and 1941 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The building was never designed to be a visitor center, and its early functions included a Ranger Station and a Federal Magistrates Court. Currently, the facility serves as one of two gateway visitor centers for the Park and is the only one located in North Carolina and serves approximately 350,000 visitors a year.
The current space allocated for meeting basic visitor servicing obligations is only 1,100 square feet. The required amount is 8,000 square feet. Within the tight space, the staff attempts to meet the needs of the visiting public and tell the Park story. Functions that are carried out are: Parkwide orientation, visitor education, Great Smoky Mountains Association sales, backcountry registration, and restroom accommodations. The existing visitor center building will remain for continued administrative use.
During the summer of 2007, University of Tennessee Department of Anthropology and archeologist from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, will undertake archeological investigations at the proposed building sites. The Environmental Assessment is anticipated to be completed in the fall of 2007.
Thank you very much for your interest in the Oconaluftee project. We encourage you to browse this website for public meeting dates, newsletters, project schedule and project information.
Dale A. Ditmanson, Superintendent