Date of Award

8-2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture

Major

Landscape Architecture

Major Professor

Curtis Stewart

Committee Members

Avigail Sachs, Ronald Foresta

Abstract

National parks have historically used long distance scenic views, known as vistas, to reveal iconic American landscapes to auto tourists. However, decades of budget constraints and inadequate management have prevented National Parks from maintaining vistas as originally intended. Many important vistas are disappearing due to encroaching vegetation. As a result, numerous complaints and concerns have been expressed by park visitors, especially within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Vistas still play an intricate role in the visitor experience of national parks – an experience worth protecting. In an effort to conserve this experience, ecologically sustainable vistas must be established that are both aesthetically pleasing to visitors and manageable by limited Park resources.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most visited national park, preserving one of the largest, most diverse natural areas in the country. Recent studies showed that 95 percent (approximately 8.5 million) of the Park’s tourists participated in scenic drives. Vistas along Newfound Gap Road – arguably the Park’s most scenic corridor – serve as windows into a variety of forest ecosystems, an experience comparable to a drive from Georgia to Maine.

Traditionally, Park vista management has consisted of ad hoc vegetation removal and does not address additional ways to manage future clearing. This thesis suggests that utilizing herbicide and native low growing shrubs that already exist on site to inhibit regrowth is the best way to manage vistas. Once these new low growing ecosystems are established, vista clearings should be nearly self-sustaining, only requiring minimal vegetation removal every seven years. The vista management recommendations made in this document offer a practical, ecological plan that addresses the maintenance needs of the Park and restores memorable views for millions of visitors.

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