Outdoors Act vital for Smoky Mountains
At the dedication ceremony for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed a small crowd at Newfound Gap, saying in part: “There are trees here that stood before our forefathers came to this continent; there are brooks that will run as clear as on the day the first pioneer cupped his hand and drank from them. In this park, we shall conserve the pine, the redwood, the dogwood, the azalea, the rhododendron, the trout and the brush for the happiness of the American people.”
Most of us in East Tennessee have family members who played a role in building the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, whether through public and philanthropic campaigns to raise money to acquire the land or through employment in the Works Progress Administration or the Civilian Conservation Corps. When work began to build the infrastructure of the Smokies in 1934 (the park was created on June 15 of that year), those were often the only kind of jobs available in the area. Our country was five years into the Great Depression, and leaders in Congress understood that they could throw a lifeline to East Tennessee’s economy by creating a national park and preserving this vital public land.
Now 86 years later, America finds itself in another crippling economic crisis that has left 1 in 6 Tennesseans without a job. In East Tennessee, the businesses in the gateway communities are hurting badly.
But we have an opportunity to once again lift up East Tennessee’s economy through supporting public lands. The aged infrastructure at the park is crumbling after years of record-breaking visitor numbers. The Smokies are not alone; America’s national parks face a nearly $12 billion deferred maintenance backlog. Congress has worked to address this problem through the Great American Outdoors Act, which dedicates $6.5 billion in funding to repair our national parks.
Legislation is about jobs
This legislation could bring thousands of infrastructure jobs to Tennessee and will ensure that visitors continue to come to our gateway communities, spend vital dollars at local businesses and enjoy our public lands for generations to come. That’s why we’re proud to see this legislation come to the Senate floor for a vote this month. We must capitalize on this opportunity to put Tennesseans back to work, support our gateway communities and preserve the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Bryan Daniels, president and CEO of the Blount Partnership
The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit www.eteda.org
Published June 11, 2020