National park to restore views at overlooks

The views in the Smokies might get a little easier to see after a contractor cuts back encroaching trees from 34 of the most-popular roadside vistas along the main roads of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Park officials say that this will be the first major vista-clearing initiative in decades.

“In each case we will have a park staff person assigned to guide the contractor in determining which trees should be removed entirely and which will be trimmed or thinned,” acting park facility manager Charlie Sellars said.

The park plans to start maintenance on a seven-year cycle.

Motorists can expect to see this initial vista management under way from April 1 through Aug. 1 along Newfound Gap Road, Clingmans Dome Road, Lakeview Drive and Cataloochee Road. No roads are expected to be closed to complete the work, but the overlooks being cleared will be closed as needed to accomplish the work safely.

When park roads were first constructed, the forests had been extensively logged and often burned in pre-park days, leaving unobstructed views in every direction, but 75 years of forest recovery has resulted in many of the scenic overlooks becoming obscured by maturing trees.

To keep trees from growing back, herbicides will be applied to the stumps of the taller-growing tree species to prevent their re-sprouting. Lower-growing shrubby species, like rhododendron and mountain laurel, will not be cut so that eventually these low-growing native species will shade out and discourage the re-growth of the taller trees with less work by park crews.

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