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Nanci Bompey of the Asheville Citizen-Times wrote about Great Smoky Mountains National Park's new Oconaluftee Visitor Center, which opened Friday and is the "first structure built specifically as a full-service visitor center on the North Carolina side of the park."
The 6,300-square-foot center was announced in December 2009 as a replacement for the 1,700-square-foot building originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps as a magistrate court. The new building was built with $3 million in private money.
The original plan for the park called for a visitor center at the Cherokee, North Carolina, entrance and near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, but the eastern center never was funded.
The center's exhibits will focus on the human and cultural history of the area - including the Cherokee, local farmers, lumber companies and the Civilian Conservation Corps - and present $550,000 worth of interpretive information bought by Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park mainly through sales of their specialty license plate.
The visitor center also has 1,700 square feet of accessible restrooms, Bompey noted.
The Oconaluftee Visitor Center is on U.S. 441 near Cherokee and open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. A formal dedication of the building is scheduled for 11 a.m. April 15.
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