Knoxville Breaking News, Weather, Traffic, Sports | WBIR.com

Second Lady Karen Pence to visit Smokies on Tuesday

Second Lady Karen Pence is scheduled to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Tuesday as part of the administration's "Opening Up America Again" effort.

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — Second Lady of the United States (SLOTUS) Karen Pence will visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Tuesday.  

According to a White House press release, the Second Lady will highlight mental health awareness during her visit. 

Pence will reopen the road to Clingmans Dome. The road has been closed to motor vehicles since December when it shut down for the winter. The road normally reopens to traffic on April 1. The entire park was closed March 24 to stem the spread of the coronavirus and the road has remained closed to cars since the park reopened May 9.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) has been in the spotlight as the first large national park to reopen to visitors after closing due to the pandemic.  The park is reopening in phases, with visitor centers and many secondary roads still closed.

Credit: WBIR
Karen Pence, Second Lady of the United States

The GSMNP's initial reopening phase has come with warnings from park leaders for visitors to expect traffic jams.  The park has also pleaded with visitors to take it upon themselves to avoid overcrowding and not to approach wildlife, especially as the many seasonal workers and park volunteers have not yet returned to help ensure people behave appropriately.

RELATED: May 12, 2020 - Traffic and crowding concerns in understaffed Smokies

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt visited GSMNP a couple of weeks ago.  Bernhard made his first visit to the Smokies on May 5 and met with staff as they prepared to reopen May 9. Bernhard spoke of the importance of parks as a place of refuge, recreation, and their impact on local economies.

RELATED: May 5, 2020 - Dept. of Interior visits Great Smoky Mountains National Park as it prepares for phased reopening

"I believe America's parks were America's best idea and that's certainly reaffirmed any moment you can have some opportunity to experience the outdoors with our without other people," said Bernhardt on May 5.

Karen Pence and Vice President Mike Pence have been married since 1985.

LINK:  Karen Pence bio at WhiteHouse.gov