Parson Branch Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park was reopened May 26 after a six-year closure. National Park Service
Parson Branch Road had been closed since 2016 because of washouts and danger from trees killed by the hemlock woolly adelgid
This article was provided by Great Smoky Mountains National Park Public Information Officer Dana Soehn.
CADES COVE — Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials celebrated on Thursday (May 26) the reopening of Parson Branch Road with a ribbon-cutting event honoring the crew who performed the needed work and the Friends of the Smokies who provided critical funding to support the efforts. The historic gravel road, originally constructed in 1838, is now reopened to the public after a six-year closure.
“We are pleased to reopen Parson Branch Road in time for the 2022 summer season,” said Deputy Superintendent Alan Sumeriski. “Not only does this restore access to one of the most special places in the Smokies, it also allows another opportunity for people of all abilities to spread out and explore less traveled areas of this very busy park.”
This grounded bald eagle at a wildlife refuge in Missouri eventually succumbed to lead poisoning. Lead from bullets and shot are the latest threat to bald eagles, the recovery of which is an American conservation success story. Betty Thompson
Once again bald eagles are in trouble: This time the threats are a deadly recipe of lead and neurotoxins.
The recovery of America’s bald eagles is one of the greatest environmental success stories of the past 50 years. From an estimated overall population of about 800 at the depth of their decline, they have rebounded to about 100,000 today living near water in Alaska, Canada and all of the lower 48 states.
The cause of that long-ago calamity was ferreted out with the help of an early citizen-scientist, a retired Canadian banker living in Florida named Charles Broley, who became interested in eagles and obtained a permit to band eaglets. Between 1939 and 1946 he banded a total of 814 of them in the nest before they fledged.
As the years passed Broley observed a population decline and initially thought habitat loss was to blame. But in an Audubon article he penned in 1958, Broley concluded, “I am firmly convinced that about 80 percent of the Florida bald eagles are sterile.”
But why? Broley was the first to speculate that the use of organochlorine pesticides, most notably dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, or DDT for short, was somehow the cause; but he had no proof and didn’t know how the chemical compound actually affected adult eagles.
Broley’s suspicions and others were brought to national attention by Rachel Carson in her landmark 1962 book, “Silent Spring.” DDT was outlawed in 1972 and the eagle population slowly began to recover.
And today? Bald eagles still face problems — both old and new.
The New River in West Virginia is one of the oldest rivers on earth, and it’s now included in America’s newest national park.Courtesy National Park Service
New River Gorge National Park preserves paddling and climbing paradise
When you think of national parks within a day’s drive of East Tennessee, what comes to mind? Great Smoky Mountains National Park, of course. Or perhaps Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, or Virginia’s Shenandoah. You have a new option.
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, created by Congress Dec. 27, 2020, by way of a pandemic relief bill, is America’s 63rd and newest national park. Located in southern West Virginia, the 72,186-acre park and preserve protects land along both sides of a 53-mile stretch of the New River, which is famous for its world-class whitewater. It’s walls rise up to 1,400 feet, attracting rock climbers from across the country.
The New River Gorge, known locally as “The New,” currently welcomes about 1.4 million visitors a year. It’s within a day’s drive of 40 percent of the U.S. population, and is expecting an initial 20 percent increase in visitation this year because it is now a national park with national attention.
Local merchants and business owners are already touting the economic benefits, including new jobs in in-store retail and dining, two industries decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We’re super excited about it,” Cathedral Cafe manager Cassidy Bays said. She said the cafe, just minutes from the park, plans to increase staff and extend hours. “We’re even building an outdoor patio to increase dining space,” Bays said.
And this is not your grandfather’s West Virginia: Locavores can find locally sourced food and lean into a vegan juice bar. Several community-supported agriculture (CSA) and co-op farms are a main source of the cafe menu. “We actually cater to locavores. We are a farm-to-table restaurant” Bays said.