Shuttles purchased to provide tours of Cades Cove

The Cades Cove Shuttle Task Force, established with the purpose of offering a voluntary educational tour of Cades Cove, announced that two shuttles have been purchased for the upcoming Cades Cove Heritage Tours program. The vehicles are ARBOC Spirit of Mobility 19-passenger gasoline powered vehicles with emission reducing anti-idle technology. The purpose of Cades Cove Heritage Tours is to provide visitors with interpretative experiences worthy of the natural wonder and diverse history of the Cove, in a manner that will help protect the air quality of the region, according to organizers.

Randy Boyd, task force member and president of Radio Systems Corporation, makers of PetSafe and Invisible Fence brands, purchased the two shuttles.

“We have a great opportunity here to share the heritage of Cades Cove and supplement programs already offered by the park service,” Boyd said. “The tours will also help lessen congestion and pollution in and out of the park.”

Tours will begin and end at the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center in Townsend. Service is expected to begin this summer, just one year after the task force was formed.

“The educational value of this tour is paramount,” said Alissa McMahon, task force member and senior program coordinator of the National Parks Conservation Association. “When national park visitors learn more about the resources that surround them, they are more likely to have positive emotional and recreational experiences that help foster a greater sense of pride in place.”

With the shuttles purchased, the task force’s next step is to find a tour manager and tour guides to run the shuttle service.

“We are very excited to see this project come to fruition,” said Herb Handly, task force member and executive vice president of tourism for the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau. “In addition to the environmental benefits and the rich educational opportunities the tour will provide, as a gateway community, Townsend will now be able to provide our visitors with a transportation option. This will help us compete with other entrances to the park that have transportation systems established, like Gatlinburg and Cherokee. While not everyone will choose to ride the shuttle, by providing it as an option, we are doing what’s right for the park, for the environment and for our community.”

Cades Cove Heritage Tours will function as a non-profit and will charge a fee for tours to cover operating expenses. Fees and tour details will be announced later this year.

“The Heritage Center is excited to be hosting this project because it furthers the center’s mission and offers us the unique opportunity to develop special events and programs outside of the Heritage Center,” said Bob Patterson, task force member and director of the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend.

For more information about Cades Cove Heritage Tours, contact Alissa McMahon at amcmahon@npca.org or 865-441-0070.

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