Millions needed to fix backlog repairs in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Millions of dollars are needed to fix a long backlog of repairs needed in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Published: Aug. 10, 2020 at 11:29 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 10, 2020 at 11:55 PM EDT
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GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) - Millions of dollars are needed to fix a long backlog of repairs needed in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

When President Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act, many in Great Smoky Mountains became excited that many of the issues that faced the park for years could soon be fixed.

The park is still waiting on final word on how much money they’ll get and what projects will be approved to get started on first.

Over all the park has a list of $200 million is repairs needed to roads, trails, camping and picnic facilities, according to park officials.

“So whether you visit the Smokies by car, or you visit a campground, or it’s a picnic area for a day use or out in the backcountry. There are maintenance needs that affect your visit,” said park spokesperson Dana Soehn.

A top priority for the park is $41 million to be dedicated to improve the park’s water and waste water systems. They’ve identified 13 water and wastewater systems that need to be fully replaced. Soehn says over the years the park has applied what they call band-aid fixes to get by.

“That allows us to kind of limp along and keep our visitor services open. But this is going to be that shot in the arm that we need to make long lasting sustainable changes,” she said.

The park service also looked into replacing Sugarlands Visitor Center. The facility was built 50 years ago, designed to support the 5 million people who visited then. Now with 12.5 million people visiting the Smokies, they’re looking at an all new facility with plenty of space, restroom facilities, and also technology improvements.

“We want to make sure Sugarlands Visitor Center remains that information center for everybody that’s entering the park so they can have a better park experience by receiving up to date trip finding information,” said Soehn.

Soehn says they’ve listed $162 million in road repairs that have been neglected since the park was built.

How to do that is still being decided as the $9.5 billion dollars is being divided up.

Smokies officials think they’ll have a good chance to get a lot of money due to the amount of visitors coming to the Great Smoky Mountains.

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