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149 Smoking the Smokies 2009-11-11

view of Gatlinburg from LeConte

Each year the National Geographic Society’s Center for Sustainable Destinations conducts a survey of places world-wide. Last week a National Geographic Traveler article released the results of the 133 destinations surveyed. The Smokies were listed as one of the "Places with Troubles."

The Knoxville Sentinel then summarized the findings and included statements from officials of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Be sure to also look at the readers comments to the article...

It seems that the neighboring tourist hot spots are sensitive to being called out as serious detriments to the Park. The summary quote from the Magazine was:

"A national treasure surrounded by a bathtub ring of ugly, unplanned development," especially in and around Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Air pollution is a growing issue. "Between the crowds and the pollution, a mess."

Wow. At least they didn’t call it a toilet bowl ring.

Pigeon Forge is a mess, with strip malls of factory outlets, acres of entertainment venues, and fast food sprawling from the interstate to Gatlingurg. The older, more traditional Gatlinburg is not as sprawled as it is congested. Their streets are lined with saltwater taffy, trinkets, and innumerable tourist traps. As the visitors flock to these destinations, the businesses try to expand to make more money from the tourists by building more of the same. After all, capitalism is the American Way; but that doesn’t keep the surrounding towns from looking like a "bathtub ring."

From high on the ridges and balds of the Park the sprawl is obvious. The vistas into Tennessee are tainted by the prosperity of development. Noise pollution from the hot rods and motorcycles can be heard from high on the mountains. And the clouds of pollution are choking the Park’s sensitive eco-systems. We, Americans, are charging debts to the environment which we may not be able to be repay. We can no longer - live now and pay later. The time has come for us to be accountable.

The "bathtub ring" around the Smokies will not easily go away. The ring means money to lots of businesses. When the first go cart track was built, tourists threw money at the business, and the next track was soon built. Now in reverse, if the tourists stop supporting go carts, or mini golf, or strip malls, or tourist traps, or .... those businesses will disappear. Capitalism at it’s best.

We built Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. The sprawl is there because we wanted it. We told them what to build because that is where we went to spend our money. To change the areas, stop spending money. We created the beasts by supporting their businesses. Now, by using the mighty power of the consumer we can shape the future of the Park. Please, spend your money thoughtfully and wisely.

links: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/sustainable/


Happy Smoky trails.


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