Editorial: Improvements to Sugarlands facility good news

Jan. 06, 2013 @ 11:03 PM

The nation’s most visited national park needs a visitor center as up to date and visit-friendly as possible. Some 850,000 people come through Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Smokies each year. That’s about one out of 10 people who actually visit the park annually. So the facility needs to be upgraded and renovated as often as necessary to keep up with demand.

That’s happening. Sugarlands will be receiving much-needed renovations from now through March 31. It will remain open during the construction. Those who stop by will appreciate and tolerate the work going on, because they’ll know things will be better once completed.

The renovations will improve the layout of the main lobby and visitor contact area. The new visitor contact area will create a sense of arrival, park officials say, and enhance visitor orientation as they are provided park information and directed to interactive exhibits that introduce them to park resources. Along with improvements to the lighting system, the new visitor information desk and exhibits will be laid out to have more open space allowing for better accessibility. New interactive exhibits in the lobby will focus attention on natural resource challenges like air quality and forest health.

In addition, access to the natural history exhibits in the existing museum will be improved. Sustainable products will be used in the renovations.

Construction work will be concentrated from 2-11 p.m. weekdays. During this period, the natural history museum portion of the visitor center will be closed to the public. All other services including the bookstore, will remain available.

This is terrific news for the park, the visitors and the whole Smokies experience.