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More Details on the Running Rock Eco Resort

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Green Lodging News recently ran a press release announcing the progress of Running Rock Eco Resort, now under construction on a 260-acre property overlooking the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. What jumped out at me about the release is the property’s size, the developer’s intent on making it a net zero resort, and the commitment to leave at least 85 percent of the resort as green space.

I recently chatted with Jake Comstock, one of the owners of the resort, to get more details on the project. He told me it will be located about eight miles from downtown Gatlinburg. Gatlinburg is of course a tourism mecca known for its shopping, eateries, natural attractions, cabins, proximity to Dollywood, etc. With all of that, “There was nowhere to stay that was nature-focused,” Jake told me.

Jake, who has no background in hospitality, is an entrepreneur with a keen interest in architecture. “My great grandfather was an architect in Knoxville,” he says.

While one architectural firm he met with advised him to go as modern as possible with the planned cottages, Jake and his family have opted instead for cottages with a feel of the early part of the last century. Inspirations include the Arts and Crafts Movement, Swiss cottages, English cottages, and the Rustic Revival Movement.

“Maybe some treehouses, hobbit cottages and even some log homes may make the cut,” the resort’s website says.

With such a large piece of property, a big part of the challenge is putting in the infrastructure. A road will go in soon. While the resort has been approved for up to 50 residences, Jake’s goal is to have from 20 to 30.

A 50-kW solar installation will sit right below Jake and his family’s home on a ¼-acre plot, a space that is just 12 by 120 square feet. That solar system should be enough to power all the guest residences that will each be about 800 feet in size. Additional energy efficiency measures include foam insulation and an energy management system that cuts off the AC or heat when a door or window is left open too long. Guests will be educated to use energy wisely.

Additional solar will be installed—on some amenity buildings, the lodge, the barn, Jake told me.

“I am trying to figure out ways to keep the property as green as possible,” Jake says, adding that wildflowers and grass have already been planted to reestablish the habitat.

“I want to cater to people who want to enjoy nature,” he emphasized.

The first resort structures should open in mid or later 2025.

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