Gatlinburg visitor center gets upgrade

Apr. 03, 2013 @ 11:54 PM

Renovations to the Parkway visitor center, at the intersection of US 321 and US 441, began last month. Additions to the existing facility will include a splash pad, interpretive mountain areas, expanded seating and a pavilion with charging stations for electronic devices.

“I went to the site yesterday, and it’s going to be beautiful,” said Marci Claude, public relations manager for the Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. “It’s like a little oasis where people can stop in and listen to the water running, or just let the kids play. We can’t wait until it opens.”

The city has partnered with Barger, Waggoner, Sumner, and Canon Inc.,  a landscape architectural and engineering firm in Knoxville, for the project’s design.

“We’re basically taking the face of the building off and opening it up,” said Public Services Manager Larry Henderson. “We hope to bring more business and pedestrian flow into that part of town to liven it up ... It’s going to be a nice little pocket park.”

The interactive water feature will include four waterfalls, and the interpretive mountains, located on the east side of the building, will feature the names of a myriad of mountain peaks throughout the Smokies. A river bed with a splashing brook will run along its base. Interactive elements will also flank the riverbed, including musical instruments for children to play.

The renovation is jointly funded by a grant from the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the city. The project is expected to be complete by July 22.