Pandemic presents budget challenge for Swain

County governments are in the midst of planning for their 2020-21 fiscal budgets that have to be approved by the end of June, but the COVID-19 Pandemic is going to throw a wrench in their ability to project revenues for the remainder of the year.

National parks, forests respond to COVID-19

Operations have shifted on public lands in Western North Carolina due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cades Cove reopens

Cades Cove has reopened following a two-month closure for repairs at Bote Mountain Tunnel.

The locked gate: Road closure decisions complex in the Smokies

Lisa Hendy is an early riser, and when it comes to dealing with snow days in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that’s a good thing. 

As chief ranger, Hendy’s responsibilities are many — but one of them is deciding when, if and for how long to close the roads when the weather gets bad. 

Smokies shatters visitation records: Congestion issues prompt park to seek community input

The Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains logged a collective 3.7 million visits to park entrances in North Carolina west of Asheville last year, an 8.5 percent increase over 2018. 

The Smokies overall demolished visitation records, with preliminary numbers showing 12.55 million visits in 2019 — a 9.9 percent increase over the 11.42 million seen in 2018. Foothills Parkway West accounted for about 67.7 percent of the 1.3 million additional visitors after a new 16.5-mile section of the road opened in November 2018, making 2019 the first full year it was open. More than 1.5 million people drove on the 33-mile section that includes the new piece of road.

Smokies visitation tops 12 million

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park saw a record 12.55 million visits in 2019, an increase of 1.13 million over 2018, which was also a record-breaking year.

National parks battle invasion

The National Park Service is embarking on a system-wide effort to crack down on invasive animal species following the conclusion of a three-year research endeavor conducted by a panel of experts in fields ranging from park management to emerging technology. 

The Park Service reached out to members of the group in 2016, asking them to review the agency’s existing approach to invasive animal management and to look at the results of data collected from park units across the country. Combining panel members’ expert knowledge with data results and information gleaned from questions to park staff, the group produced an internal report to the Park Service as well as a scientific paper published this month in the journal “Biological Invasions.”

Time to face reality regarding the Smokies

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park — for all its grandeur — is facing serious challenges, and it’s going to take those who cherish it the most to protect this acclaimed natural and cultural resource for future generations. If that means instituting entrance fees, then we’ll support taking the necessary steps to make that happen.

Free at a cost: Entrance fee prohibition creates challenges for the Smokies

Growing up in West Asheville, Daniel Pierce was a frequent visitor to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The park was — and still is — free to enter, and to Pierce that was normal. 

“I’ll never forget the first time I went in a national park that charged an entrance fee,” said Pierce, who now holds a doctorate and is a history professor at the University of North Carolina Asheville who specializes in Smokies history. “I was just horrified by the thought that you would have to pay to go into a national park.”

Learning in the real world: Smokies outdoor education center turns 50, plans expansion

As it nears the end of its 50th anniversary year, the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont has its eyes set on the half-century to come. Within five years, the nonprofit aims to build out a second campus to supplement its existing facilities in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Walker Valley. 

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