Parson Branch Road Reopens In National Park
After a six year project, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park held a ribbon cutting ceremony yesterday to reopen Parson Branch Road. The one-way, eight-mile road was closed in 2016 after crews documented more than 1,700 dead standing hemlock trees within falling distance of the road corridor along a one-mile section. Over the last six years, more than half the dead trees fell due to natural deterioration and multiple large wind events, making it feasible to remove the remaining damaged trees through a $150,000 contract with Richmond Tree Experts. The Friends of the Smokies provided $100,000 of that money, $50,000 was matched in federal funds. Park crews then completed needed road repairs including improving drainage and grading the road surface which required the replacement of 16 culverts and 550 tons of gravel. Parson Branch Road…which is accessible through Cades Cove is an historic, gravel road that follows a route traveled by people for more than 180 years. Blount County commissioned Cades Cove resident Russell Gregory to oversee construction of the road, which was completed in 1838, to provide access from Cades Cove to what is now Highway 129. The road provided a significant commerce route for Cades Cove residents, including direct access to the Little Tennessee River for trading goods. Parson Branch Road is now open until November 13th when it will close for the winter.