How land was acquired for Great Smoky Mountains Natl. Park

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6 News Anchor/Reporter

CADES COVE (WATE) — Nearly 10 million people visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park each year, but when the land was obtained in the 1920's and 30's, about 80 percent was cut-over by logging companies and wildlife was scarce.

It was a far cry from what most people think of when they think about the park today.

So how did things turn around?


Park Ranger Mike Maslona says, “The farmers did not want to sell their homesteads for the most part and the timber companies did not want to sell either.”

That forced the federal government to take legal action to obtain nearly one third of the park's 800 square miles.

Maslona recognizes that, “joining the national park system took a lot of time, money and a lot of sacrifice by the people who did live here.”

As the park celebrates 75 years, there's an emphasis on honoring and remembering those who lost so much.

One of the largest communities was in Cades Cove, which at one point was home to nearly 800 people.

Seventy-eight structures have been preserved in the park, and the majority of those are in Cades Cove.

But for many families, the appreciation may be too little too late. 6 News sat down with Gordon Wright, whose parents were both born in Cades Cove.

“She resented the fact that they took her home place and her livelihood,” Wright said of his mother. “She did resent that until the day she died.”

With both parents now deceased, Wright has tried to preserve his family's memories through a DVD called, ” Smoky Mountains Reflections.”

Wright remembers his family's weekly visits to the place where his parents' courtship started.

“I was just a kid. Every Sunday my mother and dad went back to Cades Cove to refresh their old memories. I didn't know it then, but when they drove by Hyatt Lane, they'd look over at each other and grin.”

When asked if the formation of the park was a good thing, Wright pauses then says, “Yeah…it was a good thing, but there are still descendents of people who had to pay the ultimate price.”

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