KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have set a limit to group size for the Whiteoak Sink area.

The limitations are set in efforts to reduce trampling and soil compaction around sensitive plant populations during the 2022 wildflower season. This trial management period is taking place from April 1 through May 8.

During this trial period, only groups of eight or less will be allowed in the Whiteoak Sink area.

Large groups traveling through the area can result in people traveling off-trail to view or take pictures closely of plants. Volunteers will be on-site to provide safe viewing information and to monitor data.

The Whiteoak Sink area has been closely monitored since 2016 resulting in several new strategies to protect the vulnerable wildflower ecosystem.

The new strategies have reduced plant trampling by 80% while social trail creation and soil compaction remain a top concern. Park management hopes the limited group size will help to resolve these issues.