According to this WBIR special report, National Geographic Traveler magazine had a harsh assessment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
Three-hundred experts graded the condition of 55 North American national parks and the cities that surround them. Problems like traffic, haze and invasive species landed the Smokies in the "Rock Bottom" category.
WBIR got reaction from the Pigeon Forge director of tourism, and he makes some good points in rebuttal but agrees the issues are valid and worthy of discussion.
Here's the National Geographic Traveler article with their rankings. The Smoky Mountains were ranked next to last, with special mention of the gateway towns around the park and their "theme parks, outlets, and billboards." Maybe they were referring to this.
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