Nestled in the verdant foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Mynatt Park is a scenic locale offering both recreational enjoyment and serene contemplation. The park’s tranquil atmosphere and rich history mirror the resilience of the Gatlinburg community and the timeless allure of the surrounding nature. Of particular note is the tribute plaza erected in the park, serving as a solemn reminder of the devastating 2016 wildfires and the lives they claimed.

Mynatt Park is strategically located just a mile from downtown Gatlinburg, Tennessee, an enchanting mountain town that draws millions of tourists every year for its unique blend of natural beauty and cultural charm. It’s the ultimate stopover for people en route to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, offering a peaceful respite from the bustling tourist scene.

Established in the mid-20th century, Mynatt Park is steeped in history. Named after the Mynatt family, one of the earliest settlers in the Gatlinburg region, the park is a testament to the enduring spirit of the town’s forebears. Over time, it has become a cherished community hub for locals and a must-visit for tourists seeking a slice of Gatlinburg’s rich heritage.

The park unfolds over a sprawling expanse peppered with lush trees and manicured greenery. It features well-maintained amenities, including tennis and pickleball courts, basketball courts, and a children’s playground, making it a popular destination for families and sports enthusiasts. Two pristine creeks, LeConte Creek and Roaring Fork River, crisscross the park, inviting visitors to enjoy some fishing or simply appreciate the soothing sounds of flowing water. Additionally, several picnic areas with barbeque grills and picnic tables offer a delightful setting for a leisurely meal amidst nature.

However, the park’s tranquility belies a tragic past. On November 28, 2016, the region was hit by one of the worst wildfires in Tennessee history. The flames devoured thousands of acres, causing immense property damage and claiming the lives of 14 people. The impact was devastating, and the memory of this catastrophe has been etched into the heart of the community.

In 2018, two years after the fires, a tribute plaza was inaugurated in Mynatt Park to commemorate the victims. This memorial stands as a poignant testament to the town’s resilience and a permanent homage to those who tragically lost their lives. The tribute plaza features a semicircular wall made of locally sourced stone, upon which the names of the 14 victims are inscribed. Centered in front of the wall is a large bronze statue of a mother bear and her cubs, symbolizing the strength and spirit of Gatlinburg.

The bear, a significant creature in the Smoky Mountains ecosystem, represents the people of Gatlinburg who, much like the animal, have shown an incredible capacity to endure and thrive despite hardships. The cubs serve as a beacon of hope, reflecting the community’s ability to look forward, grow, and rebuild.

Walking around the plaza, visitors are invariably moved by the powerful yet subtle symbolism. Some come to pay their respects, others to find solace, but all leave with a profound sense of respect for Gatlinburg’s indomitable spirit. The tribute plaza has become an essential part of Mynatt Park’s identity, embodying the town’s past struggles and its steadfast commitment to the future.

Mynatt Park, with its history, natural beauty, recreational offerings, and the solemn tribute plaza, stands as a symbol of Gatlinburg’s past, present, and future. It is a place of joy, reflection, memory and hope. In the heart of the Smoky Mountains, it remains a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, the power of community, and the enduring allure of nature. So, whether you’re drawn to its lush greenery, looking for a peaceful picnic spot, a place for your kids to run around, or seeking to pay homage to those who lost their lives in the 2016 wildfires, Mynatt Park welcomes you with open arms and a promise of a truly meaningful experience.