May brings flowers and warm weather, which means it's the perfect time to get outside and explore. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been closed, but next week it's finally reopening. Residents and visitors will be able to access the roads and trails at the park as things start to return to a sense of normalcy.
Tennessee closed all of its state parks on April 3, 2020. 53 of them were reopened on Friday, April 23; however, a few locations were left in limbo to open at a later date, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
But starting Saturday, May 9, The Smokies will be open for business again.
The parks are currently open for day use only. Unlike some of the smaller state parks, The Great Smokies will be opening up slowly in different phases — May 9 marks the beginning of phase one of this process.
The first phase is expected to last for two weeks. During this wave, spots like campgrounds and picnic pavilions will remain closed. Visitors can expect those to begin opening during the second phase.
This decision is following the guidance of the White House, the CDC, and state and local health authorities.
According to a quote provided to FOX 17 Nashville, the health and safety of employees, volunteers, visitors, residents, and park partners is the highest priority during this opening.
“We recognize this closure has been extremely difficult for our local residents, as well as park visitors from across the country, who seek the park as a special place for healing, exercise, recreation, and inspiration,” Superintendent Cassius Cash told FOX 17. “We are approaching this phased reopening with that in mind, as we balance our responsibility to protect park resources and the health and safety of everyone.”
The park will constantly be making sure the trails and trail facilities are up to standard with health guidelines.
Safety precautions the park is taking include installing plexiglass shields in the visitor centers, having more disinfectant operations in the public restrooms and buildings, as well as having personal protective equipment requirements for maintenance workers.
Visitors should continue to limit their group size, as well as practice social distancing guidelines put out by the CDC.
As Great Smoky Mountain National Park opens its doors, other locations across the nation are being opened on a park by park basis.
We strongly advise that before you go swimming or visit any location, you check the most recent updates on potential hazards, security, water quality, and closures. If you do plan to visit a location, respect the environment.