North Carolina-Tennessee: Great Smoky Mountains
"A national treasure surrounded by a bathtub ring of ugly, unplanned development," especially in and around Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Air pollution is a growing issue. "Between the crowds and the pollution, a mess."
Here is a representative sampling of additional anonymous comments from the panelists. They are not necessarily the views of the National Geographic Society:
"A national treasure surrounded by ugly, unplanned development. Gatlinburg, Tennessee, has done a good job of improving itself over the last decade by undergrounding utility wires, limiting the size of signs, and setting the standard in building design. The North Carolina side of the mountains is better, but here too one will find many billboards and tacky tourist crud."
"Heavily visited region of natural beauty that has been degraded by visual pollution. But the worst excesses of mass tourist development are apparent just outside the national park, in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Asheville, NC, is a town of much greater aesthetic appeal and has the notable attraction of the Gilded Era Biltmore Estate with gardens."
"Western NC is a wonderful place to visit, from the artists and craftspeople in the Asheville area to the adventure tourism of Nantahala Outdoor Center and the many white-water rivers and mountain-biking trails. However, the recession is hitting this place very hard. Air pollution is increasing and Duke Energy has tremendous influence in the region."
"Communities in need of encouragement, incentives, and plans to rehabilitate and maintain their historic character. Much of the development detracts from the area's appeal as a tourist destination and as a place to live."