Road to Nowhere, Revisited

Lying in the Southern Appalachians, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a World Heritage Site for its diversity of wildlife and its temperate deciduous forests. 60+ years ago, the federal government promised Swain County a road connecting Bryson City with the north shore of Fontana Lake to replace a route flooded during the creation of Fontana Lake. Doing so would have cut a permanent, deep gash through the roadless mountain tract - the largest in federal ownership in the Eastern United States - home to songbirds, bear, deer, and elk.

But it would have been worse. Large veins of phyritic rock, which produces sulfuric acid when exposed to the air, would be disturbed during construction. Acidic runoff would devastate fish and salamander populations. In short, the road would have forever altered the world's most biologically diverse temperate zone.

A recent article in the Citizen-Times explores the history of the park. In that article, long time Sierra Club conservation activist Ted Snyder has this to say about the park:
Ted Snyder...said the cash settlement was the right decision.

Snyder said the fact the park service was open to discussion about building a road through the Smokies doesn't bode well for the park's next 75 years.

“They should have said ‘Here's our stand, we are not going to have a North Shore Road,'” he said. “They put on the false face of being neutral when they have no...business being neutral.”
In late 2007, Congress passed an omnibus Appropriations bill that included $6 million for Swain County. The Secretary of the Interior, the Swain County Commission, the North Carolina Governor's Office and the Tennessee Valley Authority, all of whom signed the original North Shore agreement in 1943, are scheduled to amend the original agreement before Swain County can receive funds.

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