On Friday, April 24, I was at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Governors’ Proclamation ceremony, representing the Carolina Mountain Club—but Gov. Bev Perdue, my governor, was not there. It was a bad call and mistake on her part.
This park is not just an outdoor destination, but also an economic engine for our state. It is the most-visited national park in the country, attracting people from all over the U.S. and overseas. There are more acres of land in North Carolina and more miles of hiking trails in North Carolina than in Tennessee. But ask anyone outside those two states about the park, and they’ll tell you that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is in Tennessee. And Tennessee’s Gov. Phil Bredesen was at the ceremony, of course.
Gov. Perdue’s spokesperson was quoted as saying, “It’s so far out of the way.” But Perdue is the governor for the whole state. Here in Western North Carolina, our federal lands—the park and the national forests—shape our culture and the way we live. I’ll hope that the governor will pay an “I’m sorry” visit to the park and maybe walk on [our] fabulous trails.
— Danny Bernstein