GATLIN BURG, Tenn. (WATE) – The wait is over. The longest suspension walking bridge on the continent is open for you and your family to walk across.
After a ribbon cutting Friday, the Gatlinburg Skybridge opened its gateway to the public, offering exclusive views of the mountains.
A view with different perspectives
Gatlinburg’s newest attraction carries a different meaning to different people. For some, the bridge is a boost in tourism, for thrill-seekers, its a chance to look down 140 feet above the ground through a glass panel, and for one mom, it’s to see her son’s hard work.
I stumbled upon Becky Zocklein before she stepped onto the SkyBridge for the first time. She admitted she was nervous, but said because her son played a role in building it, she knew she’d be ok. Ready Zocklein works in operations and training for ERI. For the SkyBridge build, he said he worked to assemble pieces of the bridge together, put parts of it together, brought sections down for the crew working on the cables to piece together, as well as making sure everyone had the needed equipment.
Throughout the construction of the bridge, on trips between home to Gatlinburg, he’d often stop to see his parents in Louisville, Kentucky. His mother said she couldn’t conceptualize the project he called “the longest walking suspension bridge in North America.”
She has a history of trusting the hard work of her son, as she traveled to Texas a few years ago to try out a zip line her son also had a part in.
“Some days you go from sunrise to sunset,” Roady said. “This was a project that I cared a lot about and really proud to be a part of from the beginning. To bring them out and kind of show them and actually be with them to walk across the bridge, just to see how nervous they were to walk across it, it’s like…now you get to deal with what I deal with.”
While he had a chance to show some of his work off to his parents, he also showed hundreds of other people who packed the newly-built SkyDeck, and ascended onto the bridge to take a group photo from a drone.
“I’m extremely proud and I’m also, I’m kind of feeling his excitement because. .. he’s never seen that many people on this bridge before,” she said
Mandy Stewart is the Chief Executive Officer for the company that designed, built, and inspected the SkyBridge, Experiential Resources, Inc.
They specialize in the challenge course and aerial adventure industries. Basically, they help families have fun off the ground.
The design work for the SkyBridge, Stewart said, began before the Sevier County Wildfires. Todd Domeck, the co-founder of the company, also designed North America’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge. Initially, Stewart revealed, there was some doubt about whether or not they could pull off building such a long bridge. Domeck assured them it was possible.
ERI also worked with various engineers, including a geotechnical engineer and an engineer of record. The company didn’t realize their project was a record-setter in the onset of the project. “As the gateway showed up and the different components showed up and we saw how large they were and how substantial they were, it really started sinking in how monumental this project was,” she said.
While they were installing the parts of the bridge you see and touch, she said they worked in tandem with a local contractor, who did work on the foundations and micropiles, which essentially mount the bridge to the bedrock. She said it feels “really good” to be a part of a new period of growth in the mountains, following the fires. “We are extremely proud. At some point during this project, we realized out of everything we built, this bridge will be here the longest. We are going to see our grandchildren and our grandchildren standing out on this bridge and enjoying this view and we have never built anything like that as a company, and that’s huge.”
Marcus Watson, the Marketing Coordinator for SkyLift Park, said the whole project has been for the customer experience and promoting the views offered in the mountains.
More announcements coming
Watson hinted at more announcements coming soon and called the Skybridge the “foundation” on their overall vision for the SkyPark attraction.
“This bridge is already iconic before it’s opened. It opens today at one. It kind of symbolizes, even though Gatlinburg, the skylift, too, was affected by the fires, that we’re back better than ever. The town is back better than ever. The SkyLift is back better than ever. We’re just ready to roll, man,” he added.