It’s a project 52 years in the making. The “Missing Link” on the Foothills Parkway finally opening to the public and people say it’s everything they’ve hoped it would be.

“It’s so exciting. Just to see it completed, it’s mesmerizing,” Sally Joines of Maryville said. “The beauty is overwhelming.”

The community got a firsthand look at some of the highest peaks of the Smokies Thursday, during the unofficial opening of the “Missing Link” of the Foothills Parkway. 

“I can remember my grandparents talking about that missing section of the parkway and how awesome it would be to be able to drive upon it and see the colors and see the beauty of our community and here I am,” Joines said. “I just wish they were here to see it, too.”

For more than five decades, there was a piece of the Foothills Parkway, between Wears Valley and Townsend, that had been missing. And now, thanks to years of hard work and creativity, there is finally the link visitors have been calling for.

“I have goosebumps. It’s fantastic,” Howard and Susan Kingsbury of Wears Valley said. “Quite honestly I didn’t think I’d see it finished in my lifetime, so it’s really cool to see it. It’s a beautiful drive and a beautiful view.”

The new stretch of parkway features brand new roads and nine bridges, something the community got a sneak peak of Thursday at “Community Day.”

Visitors said the best part of the completed project is the unbeatable views looking down at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“I used to like being down looking up, but I’ve loved being up here looking down today,” Debbie Henson of Knoxville said.

For visitors, they said it’s more than just taking in colorful sights, it’s an experience; one that they will never forget.

“It’s just magnificent,” Kingsbury said. “I’m so thankful that now so many people will get to enjoy it. It will be quite an asset for the region.”

The stretch of parkway will officially be open to the public this Saturday, Nov. 10.

“It’s something you can’t compare with anything else in the world,” Joines said. “Everyone needs to make it a priority to come here.”