The creation of national parks in the west was a boon. Yellowstone was the first, established in 1872. Oddly, the law that established it didn’t call it a national park, but rather a “public park or pleasure-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” And the people enjoyed the new pleasure-ground, so much so that other lands were soon so designated: Yosemite (1890), Mount Rainier (1899), Glacier (1910), Rocky Mountain (1915) and the Grand Canyon (1919). All, more or less, coalesced around federal, untouched lands.
But what about the east? Shouldn’t there be pleasure-grounds for the people near where most of them lived?
The principal problems were that there were no large blocks of federal land and the region was certainly not untouched, much of it had been timbered or cleared for farming. Creating a national park in the east meant that businesses and individual property owners had to be bought out and homesteaders would have to pack up and move. In a sense, evicted for the common good.
For the Great Smokies to become a park, hundreds of these small home sites had to be purchased and families uprooted. But would their existence be lost forever?
For the rest of the story, look for my article in the Jan/Feb 2016 issue of The Tennessee Conservationist.