The reopening follows guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local public health authorities. Nationwide, the National Park Service is using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis.
“We recognize this closure has been extremely difficult for our local residents — as well as park visitors from across the country — who seek the park as a special place for healing, exercise, recreation and inspiration,” said Smokies Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We are approaching this phased reopening with that in mind, as we balance our responsibility to protect park resources and the health and safety of everyone.”
Park managers will examine each facility and service to ensure operations comply with current public health guidance, and these operations will be regularly monitored. Managers will also continue to work closely with the NPS Office of Public Health to ensure public and employee spaces are safe and clean.
These efforts will be supported by the implementation of new safety measures, including disinfectant fogging operations for restrooms and public buildings, installation of Plexiglas shields at visitor centers, personal protective equipment requirements for maintenance workers, new safety protocols for emergency services staff and reduced group size limits.
A return to full operations will occur in phases, and services may be limited. Between May and October, the park typically has more than 1 million visitors each month who travel from across the country. In light of the current crisis, it’s more important than ever for the public to avoid crowding, avoid high-risk activities, practice Leave No Trace principles and follow local health orders when visiting the park. Park managers will monitor the situation to ensure that visitor adhere to CDC guidance and take any additional steps necessary to protect the health of visitors, volunteers and employees.