GSMNP announces trial reservation system for Whiteoak Sink

The trial project will allow park managers to determine if coordinating group access can reduce...
The trial project will allow park managers to determine if coordinating group access can reduce trampling and soil compaction around sensitive plant populations.(Warren Bielenberg | GSMNP)
Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 10:45 AM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced a trial reservation system for group access to the Whiteoak Sink area during the 2021 wildflower system.

The wildflower system begins on Monday, April 12 and will last through Friday, April 30.

The trial project will allow park managers to determine if coordinating group access can reduce trampling and soil compaction around sensitive plant populations.

On March 11, at 10 a.m. group leaders may make reservations online for a special park use permit to access the area for groups of eight to twelve people.

Leaders may reserve either a morning permit, allowing access from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., or an afternoon permit, allowing access from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Two permits will be issued each weekday during the reservation period. A standard special park use fee of $50 is required for each permit, along with a $6 reservation fee.

During the trial period, groups of more than twelve people are not allowed in the area at any time. Officials said no permits will be permitted on the weekends. Individuals and small groups, less than eight people, may access the Whiteoak Sink area without a permit throughout the wildflower season.

Park managers have been monitoring sensitive wildflower species in the Whiteoak Sink area since 2016. During the first year of monitoring, managers documented 62 plants that were damaged by trampling and the creation of 370 feet of new social trails by visitors trying to view or photograph individual plants.

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