SEVIER/BLOUNT COUNTIES, Tenn. (WATE) — The National Park Service and the Federal Highway Administration have been working to complete the Foothills Parkway project for years. Right now, they’re focusing on a section between Wears Valley and the Gatlinburg Spur.
In 1944, Congress passed Public Law 232 authorizing the construction of the Foothills Parkway adjacent to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Seventy-seven years later, the project has yet to be completed.
Currently, it’s in phase three, called “Civic Engagement Period 2,” out of a 12-step process.
Members of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club said they’re concerned with the completion of the project and have submitted their own public comment to the park.
“We have over 600 members,” said Diane Petrilla who’s the president of the club. “We love to hike and we maintain 100 miles of the Appalachian trail.
“The more people that voice their opinion the better.”
The park has several proposed plans according to their newsletter.
- Alternative 1: Making no changes, or the no action
- Alternatives 2, 3, and 4: Connecting the first mile of Section 8D and the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area using one of three options (Alternatives 2, 3, and 4). These alternatives could include one-way entry or exit-only options.
- Alternative 5: Improving existing Wear Cove Gap Road to meet NPS design standards and allowing oversized vehicles to safely make turns
- Alternative 6: Close Wear Cove Gap Road to through traffic and construct a turnaround between the park boundary and Little Greenbrier Road. Existing access would be maintained to Little Greenbrier School and Cemetery and to Little Greenbrier trailhead.
- Alternative 7: Reclassify portions of Wear Cove Gap Road to one-way, exit-only and construct a turnaround between the park boundary and Little Greenbrier Road. Existing access would be maintained to Little Greenbrier School and cemetery and to Little Greenbrier trailhead.
Diane Petrilla said her group wants the park to fix the Metcalf Bottoms’s bridge separately and not add it onto the Foothills Parkway project.
“Part of that is their including an improvement plan to the Metcalf Bottoms area and anyone who’s driven that knows you drive down that road, you have to make a sharp left turn across this narrow little one-lane bridge,” she said. “It’s hard for people to walk on the bridge.”
Another issue Petrilla addressed was the environmental impact.
“That new road would potentially destroy forests, it would affect historical structures like the Walker Sisters Cabin area, it could destroy a trail like the Little Greenbrier Trail.”
Petrilla and her organization want their voice to be heard and for others to state theirs.
“We would love people to submit their comments to the park about demanding a full environmental impact statement. There are other options that have a lot less impact.”
If you would like to leave your own comment, you can click here. Comments will be accepted through Sunday, Oct. 31.