Monday, September 08, 2008

Fewer Visitors at Smokies

Asheville Citizen-Times - NC,USA
CATALOOCHEE – Chip and Michelle Goodman enjoyed a quiet morning around the fire at Cataloochee Valley campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

In the background, the diesel engine of the 1992 International School bus the Petersburg, Va., couple converted into a camper rattled along as it charged batteries.

At 9.5 miles to the gallon, the rig isn’t cheap to drive.

“We were planning on going to Florida,” Chip Goodman said. “We were going to the Keys and we changed our minds.”

For the Goodmans, the change in plans put them in the Smokies, where they had a bit more elbow room than they would have found a year ago.

With gas prices setting record highs this summer, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park says visitation is down 5 percent at its main entrances.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is down 5.4 percent with 9.3 million visitors so far this year.

But away from its main entrances, in places like Cataloochee Valley, and Deep Creek, the park has seen a 3 percent increase.

Park Ranger Nancy Gray says that could be because high gas prices are keeping locals closer to home. And that, she said, is a positive development for the park.

“People living nearby are really using this wonderful resource that they have,” she said.

Carole Adams and her husband, Wayne, made the drive from Mars Hill, north of Asheville. Other than the Goodmans, theirs was one of the longest trips taken by people staying in the campground.

They pulled a pop-camper with a full-sized Ford pickup for 65 miles.
Full Story...
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