Great Smoky Mountains National Park: North Carolina’s Best Idea

Documentary producer, Ken Burns called our national parks, “America’s best idea.”  With ten million visitors annually, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most popular in the nation. Here in NC, many think a park in the Smokies was our best idea. In this presentation audiences will learn the history and development of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.  This talk is illustrated with historical photographs from the NC State Archives and the archives of the Great Smoky Mountains.

As early as 1899, a group of western North Carolinians began to advocate for a park in their region.  They advocated for the park out of a concern for both conservation and recreation. During the Great Depression the movement to designate a park initially lost momentum. With the creation of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Tree Army,” or the Civilian Conservation Corps the park finally became a reality.  On Labor Day 1940, the park was dedicated by FDR as he stood straddling the North Carolina/Tennessee line and said, we “dedicate these mountains, streams, and forests, to the service of the millions of American people.”