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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park began phase one of their post-coronavirus reopening plan last weekend after being closed for nearly two months. Phase one included the opening of a large number of roads, trails, picnic areas and restrooms.
And it seems, for many eager park-goers, the grand reopening was long overdue.
Parking lots were packed, traffic was heavy throughout the park and according to one witness in an article by the Associated Press, some patrons were even walking past heavy barricades on one of the park’s most trafficked trails, Laurel Falls, which was meant to be closed off completely at this time.
“With the massive number of cars in the park this weekend, it’s almost hard to believe we’ve been under quarantine,” said local photographer Daniel Munson. “But with tourism having been so badly affected by this virus, it’s somewhat encouraging to see so many finally returning to visit the Smokies.”
The park originally closed on March 24 amid coronavirus concerns, citing fears of over-crowding. At the time of closure, the park was receiving nearly 30,000 daily visitors which resulted in potentially unsafe, congested conditions at popular locations.
The park originally hoped to begin phase two of the reopening process within two weeks of phase one, but details on exactly what phase two will entail have not yet been provided and will likely be largely dependent on population infection rates and how well visitors are heeding the guidelines the park has put in place. The park has committed to take any additional steps necessary to protect public health.
For additional information about these openings and how the NPS is keeping you safe in the Smokies, check out the park’s official website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/
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