February jump seen in visits to Smokies park

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) -- A strong increase in Smoky Mountains tourism could be because of a clear highway from North Carolina.

The National Park Service says travel into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was up 31.6 percent last month over February 2010.

The number of cars coming into the park was up at all three major entrances, but the outlying entrances led the way with a 155 percent increase in traffic.

National Park Service spokesman Bob Miller noted that last year traffic was constricted by a major rock slide on Interstate 40 in North Carolina, near the Tennessee state line. There was also better weather last month than a year ago when Newfound Gap Road was closed on 12 days.

So far this year, visits are down 2.4 percent.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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