GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Drivers saw lane closures today as crews began removing litter along the Spur between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
This five-mile section of roadway is traveled by over 10 million motorists annually, both north and southbound, and accumulates the largest amount of litter among the Park’s 384 miles of roads, the park said in a press release.
In 2020, the Park spent nearly $19,000 on litter removal just along the Spur.
“We need everyone’s help to eliminate unsightly trash along the roadways,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Littering is an unthinkable act and it is particularly grievous for this to occur in our beautiful National Park.”
For safety, single-lane closures were implemented to protect maintenance workers along the busy roadway.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the City of Gatlinburg maintenance crews are partnering to pick up litter.
Dana Soehn, spokesperson for the GSMNP, said cleaning up litter along that stretch of road is a year-round job, however, it’s not safe to pick up a lot with all the traffic on the busy road.
She said clean-up is also harder to do this time of year when they don’t have seasonal staff on the clock.
“Without the city of Gatlinburg, we would not have been able to accomplish this pickup today,” Soehn said.
“The City of Gatlinburg knows that the natural beauty of our area is one of the major reasons why millions of individuals make our community a destination each year,” said Gatlinburg City Manager Cindy Cameron Ogle. “The City is very concerned about the litter issues and is willing to work with the National Park to help keep our area beautiful for everyone to enjoy.”
Park administration said one of the main sources of trash along the Spur comes from people transporting unsecured trash loads from rental units or private residences to trash collection centers.
“So what we find is that entire trash bags can fly out of the back of the truck if it’s not secured, and all it takes is one car to hit that bag and it’s scattered all across this really busy roadways,” Soehn said.
Soehn said that’s not the only way trash makes it to the side of the Spur.
No matter how ‘unthinkable,’ people sometimes still litter in the mountains on purpose.
“In fact today, the crews found an entire pizza, uneaten, that had been either tossed out intentionally or unintentionally along the roadway,” Soehn said.
By 1:30 p.m., crews had picked up 35 bags full of litter, and that was from only one side of one lane.
Tennessee State Code 39-14-503 requires that any motor vehicle which transports litter, or any material likely to be blown off, is required to have the material either in an enclosed space or fully covered by a tarp.
Soehn said the park can’t rely on volunteers to help keep the Spur clean from litter.
That’s why the Park needs everyone’s help to secure their garbage or loose items and not throw out trash along the road.
“It can be some people’s only experience they have in the National Park and it was designed as a scenic pathway into the park, that people could start their journey,” Soehn.
Not only is a trash-free view preferred, but it’s also safer for other drivers and the wildlife.
“It’s unsightly, it’s an eye-sore, and it unnaturally attracts wildlife close to these roadways, creating a hazard, both for the animals and motorists,” Soehn said.
For more information about volunteering in the park, visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/getinvolved/volunteer.htm. For more information about how you can help prevent litter in Sevier County, please visit the Keep Sevier Beautiful website at https://keepsevierbeautiful.org.