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Gatlinburg Parkway will be fully open through downtown this weekend, restricting visitors to sidewalks

Pedestrians had been able to walk in the outside lanes of Parkway the past two weekends to reduce crowds on the busy sidewalks.

GATLINBURG, Tenn — Update May 20, 2020

The Gatlinburg City Commission voted not to extend the sidewalk extensions for the coming weekend, May 22-24. All lanes of the Parkway will remain open.

The past two weekends, the outside lanes of the Parkway through downtown were closed to allow pedestrians to spread out from the sidewalks to help promote social distancing.

A city spokesperson did not provide an explanation for the decision.

Update May 14, 2020

Gatlinburg officials will once again close one lane of the Parkway through part of downtown to allow visitors more room to spread out to increase social distancing.

City leaders are calling the move a "sidewalk extension" and will increase signage to encourage people to use the closed lane to move through the crowded area.

The closures will be in effect from noon on Friday, May 15, until 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 17.

A city spokesperson said they've also added large banners to on the side of a parking garage and at the convention center to remind visitors to follow CDC guidelines for social distancing, facial coverings, and the use of hand sanitizer.

Original story

The Gatlinburg City Commission unanimously approved closing one lane of a portion of the Parkway through downtown this weekend to allow more room for pedestrians.

The sidewalks of Gatlinburg were crowded in some areas this weekend, making it hard for people to maintain a safe social distance from each other, especially in areas where people waited for food.

With more businesses allowed to reopen this weekend, city leaders want to close the outside lanes of Parkway between traffic light 6 (Cherokee Orchard Road) and the Reagan Drive intersection to allow pedestrians to use that extra space. The closure would take place from noon on Friday, May 8 until 2 p.m. on Sunday, May 10.

Credit: Grace King
Gatlinburg leaders closed the outer lanes to promote social distancing on May 8, 2020.

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Barricades will be installed along the lanes to separate the pedestrian and vehicle traffic. Five crosswalks will also span Parkway in this section for safe crossing for pedestrians.

Police officers will be on hand for crowd control and to direct some traffic onto alternate routes on what will be a busy weekend with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park partially reopening on Saturday.

Mayor Mike Werner called this an experiment to see how it worked so the closure is set for this weekend only at this time.

"I think that we're being responsible as a city to do this," he said. "We're going to learn from it."

Parkway runs through most of Gatlinburg, past attractions like Ripley's Believe It or Not and the entrance to Anakeesta.

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"As most City of Gatlinburg facilities reopened this past week, including public restrooms at the McMahan/Parkway Garage and Gatlinburg Convention Center, safety precautions and sanitization procedures have been implemented to help keep the community, residents, employees and visitors safe," according to a press release.

The city has purchased foggers to help with sanitizing and disinfecting facilities and will regularly clean municipal facilities to help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.