Grubby Paws

Charles Maldonado's recent cover story about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park ["Hazy Future," June 11, 2009] was interesting but very superficial. His observations about traffic jams in Cades Cove were well known to anyone who has been there in the last 30 years. The loss of cellphone service near Clingman's Dome should have come as no surprise to anyone who has even a passing familiarity with the park. Although the park is certainly threatened by both air pollution and parasites, as mentioned by Mr. Maldonado, the biggest threats in the next century are probably the same as in the last century, namely, stupid politicians, inept policy makers, and greedy road builders.

There have been at least two attempts to build cross-park highways in the last few dozen years. The most recent attempt, by former Rep. Charles Taylor (R-N.C.), known as the Northshore Road, would have destroyed perhaps the most beautiful part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Hazel Creek section. The influence of the road-building lobby was a prominent feature of the proposal. That project was finally killed by Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.), a year or so ago.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is alive and well, particularly the backcountry trails that the vast majority of visitors to the Park never see. The trail system is the crown jewel of the park, and as long as able and honest administrators like Dale Dittmanson are the stewards of the park, and as long as politicians keep their grubby paws off the park, it will thrive.

David W. Annand, Knoxville, Tennessee