Editorial: Staff, volunteers doing great work on Chimney Tops trail in park

Jul. 09, 2013 @ 11:19 PM

The staff at Great Smoky Mountains National Park does a phenomenal job, considering they probably have fewer people than they really need to maintain a park of some 500,000 acres. That’s why volunteers are such an important part of what happens in the Smokies. Much of their effort goes unnoticed and even unappreciated. But when they do well, they deserve recognition and praise.

Trail crews and volunteers in the park began phase two of repairs to the Chimney Tops trail on Monday. The trail reopened for the Fourth of July weekend following extensive work to combat the destruction caused by water damage earlier this year. While the trail is now open Friday through Sunday, when it will likely receive most of its foot traffic, more work is still needed. For that reason, the trail will remain closed Monday through Thursday of each week.

That’s OK. As highway officials learned years ago, improvements to some stretches of interstates are quicker and more efficient when there is no traffic to deal with.

A major part of the phase one rehabilitation effort centered on reconstructing a 70-foot bridge at the beginning of the trail. That work was finished last week. Because of its location in an environmentally sensitive area, crews completed the construction without the use of major tools or equipment, said Molly Schroer, spokeswoman for Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

“The work the crews are doing now is meant to last, and the work should stand the test of time so they won’t have to redo it again,” Schroer said. “There has been a lot of erosion, as it is a very popular trail.”

The second phase will involve redoing the trail’s foundation, leveling out areas of the trail where roots or rocks are exposed and changing the drainage where erosion exists. In some instances, large rocks blocking the path will be moved, then crushed to make smaller stones for the trail bed.

About one-third of the trail’s rehabilitation, which is expected to be a three-phase effort, has been completed. It is part of the Trails Forever program, jointly funded by the Aslan Foundation of Knoxville and Friends of the Smokies. For more about information about Trails Forever, visit www.smokiestrailsforever.org.

Thanks to everone for their efforts to fix this popular trail in the park.