$64M stimulus buys 1500 jobs in and around Great Smoky Mountains Nat'l Park

By: Gordon Boyd Email
By: Gordon Boyd Email

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- You can't get much closer to the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, than astride one of the mounts from Kenny Kear's stables.

"The people who come here, do because they want to have an intimate contact with this park," Kears says.

"There are about 600 miles of horseback riding trail. To keep the trails passable, where you can do it safely, it does require labor and it is intensive and it requires money to do that."

"Right after Memorial Day, we'll be putting our trail crews to work," says park Deputy Superintendent Kevin Fitzgerald. (Click the link below for information on applying)

The federal stimulus plan calls for spending $1.2 million to restore horse and walking trails.i

Another $259,000 goes toward roof repairs and paint.

The park will spend $4 million on 'creature comforts': better restrooms.

The bulk of the spending will go toward roads; $25 million split
among the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and Cherokee Orchard Road near Gatlinburg, the Clingman's Dome Road, just south of Newfound Gap in Swain County, NC, and the Cosby Campground in Cocke County.

More than half the total package, $34 million, will design and build a 1200-foot section of the Foothills Parkway, west of its intersection with U.S. 321 in Wears Valley. It includes an 800-foot bridge.

"What it buys us is another chunk of that mile and a half section known as the Missing Link (to connect Walland and Wears Valley)," Fitzgerald says.

How many of the projected 1500 jobs created or preserved, will 'stay local'?

"We don't know," Fitzgerald says.

"It'll largely depend on who gets the contract, and obviously--there are contractors in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina that bid on, and have been successful in getting our roads paving and construction jobs."

The first bids could let in August; every project--in some way, tracking back to making the Park safer.

Giving Kenny Kears customers:

"More reason to ride," he says

"More reason to maintain the integrity of what we already have."

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