National Parks Group Supports Grand Opening of Cades Cove Shuttle Service in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

 
PRESS RELEASE
  FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date:   October 24, 2008
Contact:   Alissa McMahon, Program Analyst, National Parks Conservation Association; Office: 865.329.2424, Cell: 865.441.0070


National Parks Group Supports Grand Opening of Cades Cove Shuttle Service in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Guided educational tours to help improve traffic congestion, air quality, and experience of visitors

Townsend, Tenn. – At a ribbon cutting ceremony today, Cades Cove Heritage Tours will launch the first-ever guided educational shuttle service through Cades Cove in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As one of the most popular destinations in the Smokies, Cades Cove attracts nearly 2 million visitors and 800,000 vehicles each year. In efforts to improve traffic congestion and air quality, the public will now be able to enjoy a guided shuttle tour through the 11-mile loop.

 “Visitors who take a tour with us will not only learn about the rich mountain history and unique natural resources of Cades Cove, but will also feel good about how their choice affects the environment of Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” said Alex Roche, manager of Cades Cove Heritage Tours.

Cades Cove Heritage Tours and local community members will gather at a ribbon cutting ceremony this morning to announce the launch of the guided educational shuttle service. As one of the least expensive guided national park tours in the country, the shuttles are 19-passenger fuel-efficient gasoline vehicles and are ADA compliant. Public tours will cost $13 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for children, and are free for children under the age of 6. The tours will operate daily, leaving the Depot at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m., and last approximately three hours.
 
The endeavor to start the non-profit began over a year ago when local community members and non-profits came together at the request of Randy Boyd, CEO of Radio Systems Corporation.  “I was frustrated with the congestion, pollution, and lack of history provided about Cades Cove.  Rather than just complaining, we started Cades Cove Heritage Tours in the hope of making a difference,” said Boyd.

The Cades Cove project has brought together the local community to address the concerns of increased traffic and visitation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For example, local citizens Tom Talley and Richard Maples offered use of land adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center to make this project possible, and Wilma Maples provided an authentic 1800s log cabin for the Depot Center. Additional project partners include the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center, Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the National Parks Conservation Association. 

 “We are a proud to be a partner of Cades Cove Heritage Tours. This project shows that American citizens can design solutions that benefit our national parks, without compromising the integrity of gateway communities,” said Alissa McMahon, program analyst for the National Parks Conservation Association.

“We recognize that two vehicles will initially make a small dent on the traffic of Cades Cove,” said Boyd. “As this service grows, we’re looking to the local community and national park visitors to help us shape the future direction of Cades Cove Heritage Tours.” 

The number of shuttles was chosen in order to test if this type of project could successfully operate in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Plans to increase the service will be based on how many visitors choose to ride and on the type of feedback received from surveys; a multi-year grant from the ALCOA Foundation will fund this analysis. 

“We realize not everybody wishes to take an organized tour into the national park, but we believe many folks who visit Cades Cove are interested in an interpretation of what they're seeing. Gatlinburg, Tenn. and Cherokee, N.C. have already been offering alternative transportation options to their national park visitors.  Townsend can only benefit from offering this type of genuine heritage tourism,” said Herb Handly, executive vice president of the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau.    

Cades Cove Heritage Tours is operating as a division of the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center in Townsend, Tenn. The Heritage Center seeks to preserve, protect, and promote the unique history and rich culture of the residents and Native Americans who inhabited the East Tennessee mountain communities that were incorporated into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its surroundings. 

“With this mission, the educational merit of developing programs surrounding Cades Cove is appropriate and worthwhile. We welcome the opportunity to be involved in this endeavor,” affirmed Bob Patterson, executive director of the Heritage Center.

The ribbon cutting ceremony will take place today at the Cades Cove Heritage Tours Depot at 10:30 a.m. The Depot is located next door to the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center between the traffic light and the national park entrance on state Highway 73 in Townsend.

To learn more about Cades Cove Heritage Tours, please visit the website www.cadescoveheritagetours.org or call 865.448.8838.

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