Seeking a taste of unspoiled wilderness, more than nine million people visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park each year. Yet few probably realize what makes the park unusual: it was the result of efforts to reclaim wilderness rather than to protect undeveloped land. In The Great Smokies Daniel S. Pierce tells how park supporters set about raising money to buy the land often from resistant timber companies and describes the fierce infighting between wilderness advocates and tourism boosters over the shape the park would take. He also discloses the unfortunate human cost of the park's creation: the displacement of the area's inhabitants.
The new preface chronicles developments in the park since The Great Smokies' original publication in 2000. Over the past decade and a half, the park has experienced a dramatic and improbable improvement in air quality, a variety of successful animal reintroduction programs including, most spectacularly, elk, numerous improvements to trails and roads, and the ending of long-standing dispute over the Road to Nowhere, which had its origins in the founding of the park eight decades ago. Pierce also points out new challenges that have emerged in the park and there is none more dangerous than the invasive species known as the wooly adelgid, which threatens to annihilate the park's 800 acres of old-growth hemlocks. The recent history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides ample proof of Pierce's conclusion: just as people have the power to set aside places as wonderful as the Cataloochee Valley and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, they also have the power to destroy it.
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Daniel S. Pierce is professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, USA.He is the author of Real NASCAR: White Lightning, Red Clay,Big Bill France, and Corn from a Jar: Moonshining in the Great Smoky Mountains.