As part of the Earth Week Celebration in Gatlinburg (April 18–23, 2016), the Hilton Garden Inn is presenting the Spur Clean Up on Wednesday, April 19, 2016, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. For this event, the City of Gatlinburg is teaming up with Keep Sevier Beautiful to pick up trash along the Spur, which is a section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.
If you’re planning to visit the Smoky Mountains this April, the Spur Clean Up is a great way for you to go green and help preserve the natural beauty that thousands of visitors travel every year to see. Bring a pair of gloves and meet at the Gatlinburg Spur’s Welcome Center at 9 a.m. to participate. You’ll be joined by many others, including Gatlinburg businesses and organizations, in an effort to pick up any litter that’s been left behind. And to say thank you for your help, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream will be giving out FREE ice cream to all Spur Clean Up participants!
The Spur Clean Up is not the only Earth Week event we hope you’ll attend. There’s also a clothing giveaway, an Earth Day 5K Run/Walk, and recycling events for kids. And, of course, the highlight of the week is the 9th Annual Earth Day Festival on Thursday, April 21, 2016, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Mynatt Park. You are invited to bring the entire family for free activities, games, crafts, and live music—all in support of keeping the Smoky Mountains beautiful and green for decades to come!
Going Green All Year Long
While participating in Earth Week activities and events is a great way to show your support for the Smokies and keep the community clean, there’s also some things you can do all year long to show your appreciation for the natural beauty of these mountains. No matter what time of year you visit, be sure to keep these 7 tips in mind while you hike, bike, or otherwise explore the Smoky Mountains.
- Take only memories. When you’re hiking through the Smoky Mountains, you’re bound to come across some beautiful and unique items: stones, feathers, historic artifacts, antlers. But do the environment a favor and leave them alone so the next visitor has the chance to enjoy them. Don’t take them home.
- Leave no trace. The rest of the phrase for tip #1 is “Take only memories … leave nothing but footprints.” And that’s exactly it: don’t leave anything behind except your footprints. Be sure to pick up any trash or debris that you bring with you into the Smokies. This is perhaps the most important tip you should adhere to. If every visitor to the Smoky Mountains would pick up his/her own trash each visit, we wouldn’t need events like the Spur Clean Up in April!
- Practice “negative trace.” Take the principle of “leave no trace” one step further by practicing “negative trace”—that is, pick up not only your own trash, but the trash that others have left behind, too. Sometimes Smoky Mountain visitors don’t realize when wrappers and containers have fallen out of their pockets or bags. You can help them out and help out the environment by taking care of it yourself. Remember to keep a small trash bag in your backpack for this purpose.
- Stay on the trail. Park rangers and guides don’t ask you to stay on the trail just so you don’t get lost (although that’s a very important reason not to venture on your own). They also don’t want you to trample plants, flowers, and other live vegetation found within the national park. By hiking off the trails, you are potentially widening the path and destroying natural habitats that plants and animals have thrived on for centuries.
- Don’t alter nature. When you’re venturing through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it might be tempting to carve your name into a tree or a rock to designate that you’ve been there. Especially after finishing a strenuous climb like the hike to the summit of Mount LeConte, you might want to memorialize that occasion. But that’s what your camera is for. Take a picture and hang it up in your house. Don’t leave your imprint in nature. This principle also applies to historic sites within the park.
- Don’t feed the animals. Depending on the time of year you visit the Smokies and the sites you plan to visit, you might come across black bears, deer, elk, and more. While we want you to enjoy the unique opportunity this national park affords to view these animals in their natural habitat, please don’t attempt to feed them. By doing so, you give them a taste for human food and encourage animals to raid campsites or approach other hikers in the future, not to mention the danger you’re putting yourself in by feeding a wild animal. Be sure to properly store and dispose of any food you bring into the Smokies.
- Pick up after your pets. Not all of the areas in the Smoky Mountains permit pets, but if they do, be sure to follow all the park rules, which include keeping your pets on a leash and cleaning up after them during your hike. This is out of courtesy to other hikers and helps to keep the Smoky Mountain environment as natural and pristine as possible.