Visitor Experience Stewardship
The park is situated within a day's drive of one third to one half of the population of the United States and was visited more than 12.5 million times in 2019, making it the most-visited national park in the country. Park service staff want every visitor to have a high-quality national park experience. Providing a high-quality visitor experience is more challenging due to recent increased visitation. Since 2009, annual visitation to the Smokies has increased by 32%, resulting in overflowing parking lots, a rise in traffic jams, roadside soil erosion, vegetation trampling, and unsanitary conditions around busy bathrooms.
The park has not begun a formal visitor experience stewardship planning process. The park will be continuing to work to understand the impacts of increasing visitation on: 1) park resources, 2) staffing, operations, and infrastructure, 3) the visitor experience, and 4) gateway communities and partners.
The park seeks to engage with the public as the basis for any future planning efforts. Efforts are currently focused on the most congested sites in the park. The park seeks input on solutions to the congestion issues visitors are experiencing. Through this process, the park will develop a deeper understanding on the variety of ideal experiences at these sites which will help guide potential implementation of any congestion management solutions in the future. Some of the solutions proposed through this engagement will likely be appropriate for piloting in the near-term, while other solutions may require a lengthier planning effort.
Dana Soehn 865-436-1207
Great Smoky Mountains National Park seeks public input to guide the development of solutions to improve visitor experiences and alleviate park congestion. Park staff will work hand-in-hand with stakeholders, gateway community members, and visitors. The goal of this work is to develop solutions that will improve visitor experiences and access, reduce congestion and sustain the tremendous economic engine that the park provides to our local communities.