Great Smoky Mountains Considers Cades Cove Car Ban Changes

Cades Cove car ban allows you to take a break without all the noise and traffic.

Cades Cove car ban allows you to take a break without all the noise and traffic.

Great Smoky Mountains Considers Cades Cove Car Ban Changes. The scenic valley of Cades Cove is traditionally closed to motor vehicles until 10 a.m. on Wednesday and Saturday, May thru September. Park officials are inviting public comment on changing this process to a pilot study for 2020 to close vehicle access all day each Wednesday, May thru September.

Officials are inviting public comment through Friday, March 27, 2020. This is your chance to publicly ponder for posterity and give them your two cents.

The park began collecting data on visitor use during vehicle-free time periods in 1995. For over 25 years, use has continued to increase with up to 1,100 people per day enjoying the roadway during the 3-hour closure time period. This increase in use presents many challenges including congestion, lack of parking, and disruption in campground and picnic area operations. Currently morning closures hinder access to the campground, picnic area, horse concession operation, campground store, and hiking/equestrian trails. Traffic leading to the Cades Cove area is often gridlocked by a line of motorists waiting for the Loop Road to open at 10:00 a.m.

For the 2020 season, the park is considering implementing a full day closure of the Loop Road to motor vehicles on Wednesdays to improve safety and provide better access to the area for multiple user groups. By closing the roadway for the entire day, bicyclists and pedestrians would have over 12 hours of daylight to use the Loop Road without vehicles. The idea is that by having the closure for a full day parking should be more available with less impact to campground, picnic area, and concession operations. It is believed eliminating the Saturday morning closures, more motorists would have better access to the Cades Cove area. Saturday is traditionally the busiest day of the week for travel in the area. In addition, park staff and volunteers would be able to better support visitor operations on Saturdays instead of devoting all personnel to traffic management and parking. This pilot project is a temporary change. The park will assess the effectiveness of the change at the end of the 2020 season.

The park welcomes the public to comment on the proposed change using the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website, https://parkplanning.nps.gov/grsm,  or by US Mail to Superintendent, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738. If approved by the National Park Service, implementation will begin in May 2020 and the results of the closure change will be evaluated by park management to inform future planning.

Source information – GSMNP

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