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Archive for National Park – Page 2

Public Perception of Park Closing Could Hurt Local Economy

Steve Morse, economist and director of the Hospitality and Tourism Department at WCU is predicting that this fall season could be one of the best for hotels and other local businesses in the mountains due to several factors such as: favorable travel conditions and a drop in hotel and gas prices . October is traditionally the most busy tourist season for “leaf lookers” here in the Great Smoky Mountains. Dr. Morse, as well as many business owners here in the mountains do fear that not enough people know that while the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along with its trails and facilities are currently closed due to the government shut down, highway 441 from Gatlinburg to Cherokee still remains open.

Record Rainfall May Dampen Fall Color Show

mfec4S8 In the yearly tradition that is the Western Carolina University foliage forecast, given by Kathy Mathews, this years forecast has been delivered. Abundant rainfall during one of the wettest summers in Western North Carolina history may portend a dampening of the intensity of the fall color show this year unless autumn brings vastly drier conditions, predicts Kathy Mathews, Western Carolina University’s fall foliage forecaster. Mathews went on to explain; “With record rainfall during July, the trees in the mountains look healthy and green at the moment, and that’s a good thing for the trees. But leaf-lookers need to keep their fingers crossed for some drier weather in the next couple of months in order for us to see the development of vibrant fall leaf color.” Leaf looking tourists may be in for some disappointment this year, which will possibly affect the local businesses in our area. “There always will be plenty of color in the yellow and orange hues,” Mathews said. “However, if the days remain cloudy throughout September, there won’t be as much of a pop of bright reds on the leaves.” The red pigments called “anthocyanins”, are manufactured by leaves mainly in the fall in response to cooling temperatures and excess sugar production caused by lots of sun, Mathews said. “Dryness also causes production of more red pigment,” she said. “Studies have shown that trees stressed out by dry soils and nutrient deficiency produce more red pigment in the fall. Ample sunshine and dry weather is the combination necessary for brilliant fall foliage.” Another factor in the annual fall color show is temperature. “Cool nights in September, with temperatures dropping into the low 40s, release the yellow, orange and red colors because chlorophyll degrades faster at lower temperatures,” Mathews said. “Temperature may work in our favor this year, as we have seen relatively cool summer months. If this trend continues, colors may be more vivid despite the rainfall.” And there is an upside to all the rainfall, even if it means less-vibrant fall colors, the leaves should hang around longer, “With healthy, well-watered trees, we should not see much early leaf drop,” Mathews said. The color change should begin at the higher mountain elevations in late September and continue through mid-November in the lower levels of WNC. Regardless of when the peak is and how intense the hues are, visitors always can find good fall color somewhere in the WNC mountains, with more than 100 tree species in the Southern Appalachians. That means not only many different colors of leaves in the fall, but also a lengthy fall color season, Mathews said.

New Park Deputy Superintendent Announced

New Park Deputy Superintendent Patty Wissinger

New Park Deputy Superintendent Patty Wissinger

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson announced that Patricia M. Wissinger has been selected as the next Deputy Superintendent. She replaces Kevin Fitzgerald, who retired earlier this year. Wissinger is currently the superintendent of Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Atlanta, one of the busiest recreation areas in the United States. She is scheduled to report to her new assignment in mid-September.

“Patty brings a broad base of park operational knowledge and experience to the Smokies having served as a Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, Division Chief, and in the Regional Office,” said Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. “Patty has been recognized for her leadership with partners as well as employees and I look forward to having her on our team.”

Wissinger has extensive experience in building partnerships, major museum design and construction, land acquisition planning, viewshed management, road and bridge construction projects, exhibit design, educational outreach, general management planning and managing large national park visitor services. She was recognized with numerous awards including Southeast Region Superintendent’s Award for Science and Resource Management Excellence and, under her leadership, Chattahoochee River NRA was recognized for Excellence in Interpretation and Education.

“ Words cannot express how excited I am to join the staff, partners, volunteers and the communities of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the crown jewels in our nation,” Wissinger said. “I feel like the most blessed person in the National Park Service right now. This park is unsurpassed by its natural beauty, diversity of resources, and cultural heritage. In my opinion, it is absolutely the most beautiful place on earth. I am so proud to join the committed cadre of citizens who together will protect this incredibly special place as we also connect it to a new generation of Americans to preserve and enjoy.”

 

Fatal Car Wreck in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

 

James Edward Bigmeat Jr.

James Edward Bigmeat Jr.

A fatal car accident claimed the life of a Cherokee man on Friday, August 9th in the Great Smoky Mountains Park close to Park Headquarters near Gatlinburg. According to officials with the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, 44-year-old James Bigmeat Jr. of Cherokee, North Carolina was traveling north on U.S. 441, also known as Newfound Gap Road, when he ran off the roadway and collided into a tree. Also with him in the vehicle was his wife Angela Murphy, who is also from Cherokee. Angela Murphy, age 34, sustained injuries and was transported by Gatlinburg Emergency Medical Services to the University of Tennessee Medical Center according to a news release from the national park, where she was listed as being in stable condition as of Sunday morning. The cause of the collision is under investigation, but Park Rangers believe excessive speed was a contributing factor.

Fontana Lake filled to the Brim

This weekend marked the second time in 13 years, both of which have occurred this calendar year, that the sluice tube was opened to lower the level of the lake due to excessive inflow from the feeder rivers to the lake.  Between the operation of the generators and the opening of the sluice tube 128,000 cubic gallons per minutes of water were passing through the dam. The spectacle of the millions of gallons of water flooding from the sluice tubes was a major spectacle for visitors over the weekend, one twice seen this year. Fontana Dam was constructed in the 1940’s for two reasons, one was to generate electricity for the making of the first atomic bomb, the second was part of the flood control on the Tennessee River flood plain.

Storm Damage Causes Trail Closures in Cosby and Big Creek Areas

Great Smoky Mountains National Park managers report that several trails in Cosby and Big Creek are closed due to extensive damage from the wind and rain during a late afternoon storm on Thursday, June 13. Other trails in the area may be closed as the park is continuing to assess the damage. Gabes Mountain Trail and Snake Den Ridge Trail in Cosby, and Baxter Creek Trail and Big Creek in Big Creek have been closed due to scores of downed trees. The trails are impassable by foot or horse. In addition to trail closures, the Park has also closed “B” Loop of Cosby Campground due to damage. There is no estimate for reopening the trails or the campground at this time. “We are in the process of assessing the condition of all of the trails within the storm affected area,” said acting Chief Ranger Steve Kloster. “Hikers and equestrians may want to confirm trail openings by contacting the Park’s Backcountry Office or by visiting our website before planning routes through this section of the Park.” The storm which hit hardest on the Northeastern most section of the park was the tail end of a storm system which hit the Midwest through much of Thursday. Air monitoring stations at Clingmans Dome and Look Rock recorded over sixty mile per hour winds during the time of the storm. For the most up to date closure information, visit the Park’s website at www.nps.gov/grsm or call our Backcountry Office at 865-436-1297.

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Urges Citizens to be on the Lookout for Outdoor Marijuana Growing

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is requesting help from the citizens for identifying possible outdoor marijuana grow locations across Jackson County. Outdoor grows are popular due to our wooded areas across Jackson County and large acreage of National Forests. Anyone noticing frequent trips by potential suspects carrying water, plastic buckets, or other growing materials into or around our county without noticeable valid reasons can be investigated. Any suspicious activities will be investigated. Please make reports to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Crime Stoppers at (828) 631-1125 or email at crimestoppers@jacksonnc.org, and may remain anonymous.

 

 

Jackson County to be Awarded Grant from NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund

During Monday nights regularly scheduled meeting of the Jackson County Commissioners, County Manager Chuck Wooten annoucned that Jackson County has been awarded a $435,000 grant from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. The grant is a State 1 to 1 match of County funds, meaning the cost for this portion of the Greenway Project is estimated at around $870,000. County Manager Wooten said that even though the money has yet to be officially awarded, he expects the money to be in hand to begin the project in the next few months. County Manager Wooten went on to say, “We do not have the letter in hand that officially notifies us of that but we have received the calls and have been told that it was approved in the current funding cycle. That means that funds should be available on July first, so both those projects are shovel ready. It’s Just a matter of our engineers updating the documents for bidding and we should be ready to go to bid soon and see some construction begin on that in early summer. I think that’s an exciting project, we have been waiting for a long time to see the Greenway move forward in Jackson County and I think the idea of a bridge at Locust Creek is going to be a homerun, it will be something the County can be really proud of”.

A Decrease In Tourism For The Smokies

Great SmokiesThe Great Smoky Mountains National Park has released tourism statistics. Total visitation for March of 2013 was down 23.8% as compared with March 2012. During March 2013 a total of 465,594 visitors came into the Park as compared with 611,326 in 2012, a decrease of 145,732 visitors. Visitation for January through March 2013 was 983,664 visitors which, is 250,334 less than in 2012, and 47.4% below the five year average. It has been the lowest visitation for January through March in over 5 years. The sharp decrease is likely due to the closure of a section Newfound Gap (Hwy 441) between Gatlinburg, TN and Cherokee, NC due to a January 16 landslide. The landslide cut off direct road access between the northern and southern sections of the park. The road work was completed on Monday, April 15 and is now open to all traffic.

Visitation for Entrances:
Gatlinburg:                 158,953
Townsend:                 90,299
Oconaluftee:              46,717
Outlying Areas:          169,625

WRGC Tours 441/Newfound Gap Reconstruction Site

 

The backfill stage has begun with much more to go.

The backfill stage has begun with much more to go.

The National Park Service hosted media outlets today, giving them access to areas of Newfound Gap road that are still closed to the public due to the ongoing reconstruction efforts to repair the extensive damage done during a recent landslide. WRGC was there to take pictures and get further details on the status of the project from park officials. We were able to speak at length with Dana Soehn, Management Assistant for the National Park Service, as she showed us first-hand the progress that is being made. “The back fill will be a reinforced slope design,” Soehn said. “That’s layers of crushed stone with a geo-synthetic fabric material layered about every three feet or so, that will add stability to the new slope.” She went on to say that the design of the fill portion of the project will allow for drainage hopefully avoiding further washouts in the future. As for the record rains the led to the landslide Soehn commented, “This was out third wettest rain on record. Just on this event alone, over that four day period, we had over thirteen inches of rain in this area.” Repairs are going to require 4,000 truckloads of crushed stone as fill material that will be coming from Nantahala Talc & Limestone in Swain County at a cost of two million dollars. The contractor, Phillips & Jordan, who was awarded the contract last week, has a completion date of May 15th, and an incentive of $18,000 dollars a day for early completion up to $500,000. According to Soehn, they have been working on the site since Friday and already have 1500 pieces of equipment in place to assist in the rebuilding effort. WRGC is commited to continue bringing you updates on this story as they become available.