Park Issues Finding of No Significant Impact from Planned Improvements to Tremont
Contact: Bob Miller, (865) 436-1207
The National Park Service (NPS) has completed an Environmental Assessment (EA) of its Development Concept Plan which outlines plans to make improvements to the Park-owned facilities which house the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. The EA resulted in a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on the Park's natural or cultural resources from the proposed improvements.
The buildings which house the Tremont Institute were originally built as a Job Corps Center in the early 1960s when it served only male enrollees in open dormitories. It was converted into a residential environmental education center in the mid-1980's. Most program participants are school groups, but programs are also offered that serve families, and elder hostels.
The Environmental Assessment outlined six alternatives that ranged from No Action to a Major Redevelopment including total site redevelopment and new buildings. The Park has selected "Alternative C - Modification to Existing Facilities" which calls for upgrades to the existing facilities that would optimize classroom and office space, dormitory occupancy, energy efficiency and the esthetics of the building exteriors. All renovations will also result in making the facilities accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Alternative C provides for reconfiguration of the existing space to allow great flexibility to improve the utilization of the space. The cost of constructing Alternative C is estimated at between $5.9 million and $7 million. Funding is expected to come from a variety of public and private sources.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson said, "We feel that the alternative that has been identified will significantly improve the appearance, functionality and sustainability of the facilities as well as providing a better experience for the users. Tremont offers a "total immersion" educational experience that cannot be obtained anyplace else at the Smokies. We look forward to improving that experience and broadening its appeal to a wider range of audiences."
The FONSI is available online at the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website, http://parkplanning.nps.gov/grsm, or can be reviewed at Park Headquarters near Gatlinburg.
Did You Know?
The park’s high elevation heath balds are treeless expanses where dense thickets of shrubs such as mountain laurel, rhododendron, and sand myrtle grow. Known as “laurel slicks” and “hells” by early settlers, heath balds were most likely created by forest fires long ago.