‘No significant impact’ on park found in plans for Tremont Institute

A study to determine the impact of Tremont Institute plans on the environment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is giving the green light to the improvement project.

“No significant impact will occur” if officials move forward with $7 million in planned improvements to the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, according to the study.

Officials with the Park initiated a study to determine if planned improvements made possible through federal stimulus funds would have a negative impact on the Park.

The National Park Service completed an Environmental Assessment of its Development Concept Plan and found the improvements would have “No Significant Impact” on the Park’s natural or cultural resources from the proposed improvements.

The buildings which house the Tremont Institute were originally built to house a Job Corps Center in the early 1960s. It was converted into a residential environmental education center in the mid-1980s.

The Environmental Assessment outlined six alternatives that ranged from No Action to a Major Redevelopment including total site redevelopment and new buildings. The Park has selected “Alternative C - Modification to Existing Facilities” which calls for upgrades to the existing facilities that would optimize classroom and office space, dormitory occupancy, energy efficiency and the esthetics of the building exteriors. All renovations will also result in making the facilities accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The cost of constructing Alternative C is estimated at between $5.9 million and $7 million. Funding is expected to come from a variety of public and private sources.

The assessment is available online at the NPS Planning, Environment and Public Comment website, http:parkplanning.nps.gov/grsm, or can be reviewed at Park Headquarters near Gatlinburg.

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