KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The National Park Service is asking the public to comment on a proposal to extend the Foothills Parkway from Wears Valley to the Spur in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. People have until Oct. 31 to share their opinions on the proposed project.

If approved, Foothills Parkway would extend an additional 9.8 miles in a section known as 8D. This section would connect US Highway 321 (Wears Valley Road) with US 441/321 (the Spur) to provide direct access to one of the park’s primary entrances.

The public is invited to share their opinions and ideas on how to develop better access to the Metcalf Bottoms area to address safety concerns along Wears Cove Gap Road, improve visitor experience and protect park resources, the park said in a press release.

“The steep and winding road can be a challenge for large vehicles, including recreational vehicles that cannot make a sharp 90-degree turn at the bridge to the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area. Additionally, the lack of separation between pedestrians and vehicles at the Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area is a concern, specifically near the one-lane bridge and where vehicles need to back up onto Wear Cove Gap Road to exit the parking area for the restroom facilities,” the press release states.

Written comments will be accepted online through this link. Comments can also be submitted by mail at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Section 8D/Metcalf Access Civic Engagement, 107 Park Headquarters Rd., Gatlinburg, TN 37738. Comments can be submitted through from Oct. 1 to Oct. 31. Written comments must be submitted online or be postmarked by Oct. 31.

“We are pleased to offer this opportunity to inform the public about the planning process and to receive input on these important projects,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “With growing visitation trends, considering these improvements is imperative in helping assure safe vehicle access to the park.”

A website created by the National Park Service says this is Step 3 of 12 in the process. Development of alternatives, external scoping, and identifying any environmental impacts and select preferred alternative are among the next steps in the plan process.

For more information about the proposed Foothills Parkway Section 8D/Metcalf Bottoms Access Improvement projects, including public meeting details, virtual long-in instructions and more, visit the planning website at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/Section8D

Editors Note: This story has been edited to show the deadline for submitting comments.