Photo courtesy of Wikimedia commons
By Helena Kilburn
The Domain is so diverse and naturally beautiful, that it is easy for students, faculty and staff to spend time being constantly awestruck by the surroundings. It is so easy to be caught up in Sewanee’s beauty, that one could forget, or not even know, that one of the Country’s most popular national parks is less than three hours away. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located along the Tennessee North Carolina border. Approximately 9 million people visit the park every year, from all over the country and the world. It covers two mountain ranges: the Blue Ridge and the Appalachian ranges. The park is often covered in a thick blue mist (Sewanee fog anyone?), thus leading to its name: The Smoky Mountains. According to Matthew Hembree (C’20) “Everything was very picturesque and the fog surrounded everything and as you climbed a mountain you would come through the fog and you could see it covering everything with the tops of other mountains coming through”. Unfortunately, this mist is no longer pure due to pollution from cars and power centers. The beautiful views for which this park is known have been severely affected by the pollution. In fact, according to airport records, visibility has decreased 40-80 percent in the last 60 years. People who visit the park can no longer see as well, or as far, as they once could. The charming, natural, blue mist is being contaminated by a whitish haze. As long time visitor Quinn Needham (C’20) said “I have been going to the Smoky Mountains since I was a baby, and it has made me sad to learn over the past years that it is becoming more and more polluted”. There are many electricity generating power plants in the area, contributing to the haze and high sulfate levels. This pollution is affecting reasons for visits to the park. 74% of people who come to the park said clean air was “extremely important”, and 84% said the same about scenic views, according to the National Parks Service.
United States National Park Service. “Air quality.” National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the interior. N.d. Web. 24 Jan 2017. https://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/air-quality.htm