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The GSMNP wants your feedback on projects that would improve traffic and recreation in the Smokies

The park is looking to get feedback on four projects in Wears Valley, Metcalf Bottoms and along the Spur.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park will be collecting public feedback over the next month on four planning projects that will improve visitor access, traffic, recreation and safety in the Sevier County portion of the park.

The projects are planned for Wears Valley, Metcalf Bottoms, the Spur, as well as a future planning project for the Foothills Parkway between Wears Valley and Pigeon Forge

The GSMNP said it is encouraging people to share their ideas, concerns and observations with them to help focus the planning efforts and identify potential issues moving forward.

The first two projects focus on establishing a network of mountain bike trails in Wears Valley along the Foothills Parkway Section 8D corridor and improving access and safety to Metcalf Bottoms.The projects aim to improve traffic flow from that section of the parkway to Little River Gorge Road.

Currently, Metcalf Bottoms is accessibly from U.S. 321 in Wears Valley down a narrow two-lane road that the park said was never designed to serve as a primary entrance to the park or support its current level of traffic. The park said it's led to an increase in traffic through the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area as well as an increase in safety incidents from large recreational vehicles attempting to drive over the one-lane bridge above Little River.

The park is looking at a few different options to alleviate these issues, including closing Wear Cove Gap Road at the park boundary to visitor traffic, widening the road and building a two-lane bridge, or constructing a new connector road entirely. 

The projects would also expand mountain bike trail networks, saying currently there are more than 800 miles of trails, but less than 8 miles of those are open to biking.

The other two projects would address safety and traffic along the section of U.S. 441/321 known as the "Spur" from Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge, as well as explore the feasibility of a Spur Greenway that connects to the two towns with a pedestrian and bicycle trail. 

Traffic along this section is notoriously high during peak vacationing seasons, and a study showed a need to address existing safety issues and congestion management. 

The park identified four main sections of the Spur where roadway improvements should be considered: the southbound/northbound bypass intersection, Wiley Oakley Drive Crossover Bridge, the Huskey Grove Road on-ramps, and the Gum Stand Crossover Bridge.

The park wants to improve these sections by expanding merge lanes at bridges and intersections to provide traffic relief, and adding a high-level overpass across the Spur or additional bridge. 

Other ideas being considered include adding wildlife crossings, adjusting roadway alignments, widening shoulders, improving drainage, mitigating rockfall, and adding message boards, speed monitoring signs, traffic cameras, and other roadway technology.

The GSMNP is also exploring the possibility of creating a Spur Greenway that would connect with existing and future greenways within the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg communities. The project would create a multi-use pedestrian and bicycle trail between the two towns and would encourage visitors to be active and enjoy the park outside their vehicles.

You can submit your feedback on these projects online at this link until May 22. Here are a few of the questions they are asking people to consider:

  • What options should be considered to address deficiencies of Wear Cove Gap Road?
  • Would visitors and residents benefit from a new connector road into Metcalf Bottoms?
  • Is mountain biking an appropriate use for the Foothills Parkway corridor in Wears Valley?
  • What type of mountain biking experience would you prefer?
  • What type of visitor amenities should be provided in a mountain biking area?
  • If mountain biking trails were constructed with parking and restrooms, would you be willing to use them regardless of whether they were operated by the Park or by a concessioner?
  • Should the number of users be controlled or managed to ensure mountain biking trails do not become overcrowded?
  • How could safety be improved on the Spur?
  • Should one or more flyover bridges be considered along the Spur if identified as the best manner to address safety and congestion at side road intersections?
  • Would a Spur Greenway provide you with an enjoyable visitor experience?

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