Areas of Roan Mountain to be closed for months this summer

ROAN MOUNTAIN, Tenn. (WJHL) — The US Forest Service said areas of Roan Mountain, including the rhododendron gardens, Roan High Bluff and the Cloudland Trail, will be closed for renovations this summer.

It’s part of a $2.5 million project funded by the Great American Outdoors Act.

Despite the closures, the annual Roan Mountain Rhododendron Festival will go on this June, and Brian Tipton with the Roan Mountain Citizens Club said the closure of the gardens could actually benefit the vendors.

He told News Channel 11 he hopes that with visitors not heading to the top of the mountain, they’ll spend more time at the festival or visiting local businesses.

“We’re ahead of schedule actually on vendors; we have a lot of new vendors coming, and a lot of our returning vendors, we’re expecting that they’ll have a better year because people won’t be going to the top of the mountain,” Tipton said.

Tipton said Carvers Gap will remain open and there are other trails and sights to explore in the area.

The 2.5-million-dollar renovation project includes improvements to water services and roads, picnic sites, observation decks and more features in the gardens—all things that the forest service said can’t be completed during Roan Mountain’s harsh winters.

Heather Birchfield, the owner of Highlands BBQ in Roan Mountain, said she’ll just have to depend more on locals to support her business during the festival. She emphasized that the renovations will be better for everyone in the area in the long run.

“I feel it’s a great opportunity and we should be thankful for that,” she said. “The inconvenience can be looked over for a year in preparation for something better.”

The estimated completion date for the renovations is said to be late summer or early fall.

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