The Great Impact Of The Great Smoky Mountains

1369 words - 5 pages

Every year, over nine million hikers and adventure seekers travel to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park making it the most visited national park in the United States. There are abundant reasons for this, but many popular reasons include over 150 hiking trails extending over 850 miles, a large portion of the Appalachian Trail, sightseeing, fishing, horseback riding, and bicycling. The park houses roughly ten thousand species of plants and animals with an estimated 90,000 undocumented species likely possible to be present. It is clear why there was a pressing interest in making all this land into a national park. My research was started by asking the question; how did the transformation of tourism due to the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park affect surrounding cities such as Gatlinburg and Sevier County, and in return, its effect on the popularity of the park?
Gatlinburg, Tennessee is located in Sevier County, situated on the northern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The city has gotten the suitable nickname “Gateway to the Smokey Mountains” due to the fact that it sits at one of the two main entrances to the park serviced by one main road through the park. Today, Gatlinburg is seen as a scenic, romantic, getaway that is also bustling with tourism and even an amusement park; however, this was not always the case.
Gatlinburg did not start from scratch with what wee see today. From 1870 to 1900, the population of Sevier County grew from roughly 9,000 to 20,000 due to the Industrial Revolution and hit a plateau in 1910, staying for around fifty years (Population Growth Chart of East Tennessee Counties, 1820-1980). In 1960, the population of Sevier County started to skyrocket. In a mere twenty years, the population of the county almost completely doubled, reaching 41,000 in 1980 (Population Growth Chart of East Tennessee Counties, 1820-1980). It was shocking to find this plateau right between the years of the park’s founding; one would have to guess it would have evened shortly after the surge in population after the turn of the century and risen after the formation of the park. This slow increase in population of the county was not due to unpopularity of the National Park. Carson Brewer points out in his article about Gatlinburg celebrating the park’s 25th anniversary, “it was seven years before the park was to have as many as 1,000,000 visitors in a single year and 24 years before more than 3,000,000 persons streamed through it (1). Obviously, the park was not dealing with issues at the time regarding its popularity, so that leads one to believe the slow population growth lies elsewhere. This tells that there might not have been a large incentive to live right outside the park and produce an income from tourism. One reason might be that only natives of the area were taking advantage of the park’s popularity and got into the tourism market early, blocking outsiders from making money, and thus, settling in...

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