Wears Valley Mountain Bike Trail System
Great Smoky Mountains National Park (the Park) is proposing a mountain bike trail system within the Foothills Parkway Section 8D corridor in Wears Valley, Sevier County, Tennessee. The purpose of the proposed action is to enhance visitor experience by providing new recreational opportunities within the Wears Valley portion of Parkway Section 8D. Specific objectives for the proposed action include: 1) providing recreational development that is consistent with the purpose of the Parkway and compatible with future completion of the Parkway as envisioned by Congress; 2) providing park visitors unique opportunities to enjoy the Parkway outside motor vehicles; and 3) increasing the diversity of recreational experiences, including non-motorized opportunities, available to park visitors.
The proposed action is needed to take advantage of new and unique recreational opportunities that exist within the Wears Valley portion of Parkway Section 8D. Previous NPS planning efforts completed between 1968 and 1984 indicate that the Wears Valley portion of Section 8D should be one of the most highly developed along the Parkway based on its central location and other factors. Build-out of previous recreational development concepts for the Wears Valley area has not been achieved because Section 8E of the Parkway, which connects to the northern end of Section 8D and provides improved access to this area, was only recently completed and opened to the public in 2018.
Completion of the 8E milestone enabled Park managers to reinitiate recreational planning efforts for the Wears Valley portion of Section 8D. Additionally, community interest in exploring new recreational opportunities along the Parkway has increased in recent years. At the request of stakeholders, Park managers participated in three meetings from October 2018 through October 2019 with elected officials, community leaders, and a non-governmental organization to discuss potential recreational opportunities along the Parkway. Based on previous planning efforts, recent completion of Section 8E, and stakeholder interest, the Park determined it would be appropriate to reinitiate recreational planning efforts for the Wears Valley portion of Section 8D. After reviewing previously identified recreational development concepts, the Park identified mountain biking as a potentially compatible opportunity. Mountain biking is an underserved recreational use in the Park and there has been strong community interest in establishing a network of trails specifically designed for mountain bike use.
While more than 800 miles of trails exist in the Park, fewer than 8 miles are designated for biking. Public roads within the Park are open to biking, but no purpose-built mountain biking trails exist. Most of the Park's trails are in areas managed as wilderness where bikes are not permitted. The Wears Valley portion of the Parkway could provide visitors new opportunities to experience the Park through mountain biking because it is within the Park's general development zone and transportation management zone and is not managed as wilderness.
Dana Soehn 865-436-1207