Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials plan to open the long-awaited section of the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley, TN on Saturday, November 10. The public will be able to experience the entire 16-mile roadway for the first time since construction began in 1966, including the 1.65-mile section known as the ‘Missing Link’ which is now connected by a series of nine bridges.
“We are grateful to the visionaries in the 1930s who conceived the idea of a parkway and to the countless people who have tirelessly worked since then to complete this spectacular section,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We can’t wait for people to experience the unparalleled views offered along this new Smokies destination.”
The completion of the roadway was made possible due to a decades-long partnership among the State of Tennessee, Tennessee Department of Transportation, the Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division of the Federal Highway Administration, and the National Park Service at a total cost of $178 million. Funding for the final paving was provided through a $10 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery VIII grant secured by the Tennessee Department of Transportation along with $15 million from the State of Tennessee and $7 million through the NPS Federal Lands Transportation Program.
The Foothills Parkway now consists of two finished sections at either end of the 72-mile corridor. The western section now extends 33 continuous miles from Chilhowee to Wears Valley, offering a new recreational experience for motorists and cyclists. The eastern section, completed in 1968, extends 6 miles from Cosby to Interstate 40 presenting breathtaking views of Mt. Cammerer.
Park officials plan to invite the public to preview the parkway by foot, if conditions permit, before it opens to motorists. This pedestrian opportunity is tentatively planned for Thursday, November 8 during the morning hours utilizing a shuttle operation. More details will be provided by Friday, November 2 to help prepare people for this special opportunity.
For more information about exploring scenic drives in the park, please visit the park’s website HERE.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park invites the public to walk approximately two miles along the new section of the Foothills Parkway between Walland and Wears Valley on Thursday, November 8, for a Community Day celebration. This is a special opportunity for pedestrians to experience the series of bridges that connect the 1.65-mile section known as the ‘Missing Link’ before it opens to motorists and cyclists on Saturday, November 10.
Participants will be shuttled to the site from Townsend, TN. between 8 a.m. and noon, weather permitting. Construction activities may still be occurring along sections of the roadway, necessitating coordinated transportation to the event space. To reach the core area, participants should be prepared to walk at least two miles, round trip, along a 10 percent grade. At the center of the event space, the park is hosting a variety of interactive educational and artistic activities for the public to enjoy.
“While the parkway is designed as a scenic driving experience, we wanted to provide one special opportunity for people to experience it by foot before it opens to motorists,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We hope the public will join us for this Community Day celebration as we enjoy the beauty of the parkway and the new recreational opportunities it provides for our local residents and visitors.”
Participants will be shuttled from the River Rat parking lot in Townsend (8435 State Highway 73, Townsend, TN 37882) at approximately 8 a.m., 10 a.m., and noon. The shuttle ride will take approximately one hour to reach the event space. Participants will have the opportunity to spend one to three hours on site depending on which departure time they choose. Participation is available on a first-come, first-serve basis with anticipated service for approximately 1,000 people.
Participants should bring snacks and water in a small pack, wear sturdy footwear, and dress in layers to be prepared for the outdoor event. No large bags, chairs or coolers are allowed. Portable toilets will be provided on site. While on site, participants will be reminded of safety hazards while walking along the roadway, which is designed for motor vehicle traffic. The park will implement safety measures to help ensure that participants remain a safe distance from the guard rails along the bridges.
The event is weather dependent. The park will notify the public by 6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 7, if the event is canceled due to inclement weather through the park website, social media, and a media release.