SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — Anakeesta is already famous for its expansive and colorful landscape. Now the popular attraction is enhancing its commitment to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with a new arboretum accreditation for Vista Gardens.
The mission of the Anakeesta Arboretum will be to provide an experiential sensory garden that offers environmental education, recreation, interactive play for children, and beauty.
The accreditation includes a future garden filled with local wildflowers that will attract native butterflies and honeybees, creating “garden walk” tours, and the replanting of thousands of trees, shrubs, and groundcovers burned by the Chimney Top II Wildfires of 2016 in Gatlinburg.
On November 28, 2016, more than 15,000 acres of the National Park and the city of Gatlinburg were damaged by the most devastating fire in the state’s history.
Karen Bentz, a Managing Partner at Anakeesta, spoke about the work they’ve already done since those fires when she says only one living tree was left on the park’s hillside.
“We brought truckloads of composting soil, fertilizer, we put in the irrigation system, we basically rebuilt that entire hillside in order to put in this garden,” said Bentz. “We had a blank canvas.”
She also spoke about the work that’s already underway with this accreditation, saying it’s a mix between nature and technology that will allow visitors to bring a little bit of the park back home with them.
“We’re going to have plant IDs for every single plant and tree that is in Avista Gardens,” said Bentz. “We’ll have a QR Code on that so that they can actually put their phone over it and all the information will pop-up about that particular plant so that they’ll see whether or not they can go back to Indiana or Kentucky or their part of Tennessee and actually plant that plant.”
Anakeesta also has a new evening event starting this fall called Astra Lumina. “Set off across mysterious observatory grounds to discover a celestial pathway of lustrious light, cosmic visions, and astral song,” as it is described on the park’s website. “Immerse yourself in illuminating encounters of lighting, projection and sound, and connect with the stars before they return to the sky above.”
Astra Lumina at Anakeesta is the 15th experience in the Lumina Enchanted Night Walk series, and the very first in the United States.