BANDY CREEK — The Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area is one of three Tennessee sites selected for the installation of colorblind-less viewfinders that help color blind visitors and residents of the Volunteer State see the vibrant fall foliage in all its glory.
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development installed the specially-equipped viewfinder at East Rim Overlook in the Big South Fork NRRA. That was one of just three sites selected for the viewfinders, which feature the latest technology lenses for alleviating red-green color deficiencies. The other two sites were Ober Gatlinburg in Gatlinburg, and the Interstate 26 overlook near Erwin in Unicoi County.
Located just off S.R. 297 west of Oneida, East Rim is an easily-accessed overlook that offers stunning, panoramic views of the Big South Fork River gorge, and is among the most popular spots within the park — particularly during the fall season.
But people afflicted by protanopia and protanomaly — more commonly known as red-green color blindness — are not able to fully enjoy the effect of nature's transition from deep green to brilliant shades of red, orange and gold.
The viewfinders change that, enabling color blind visitors to see the foliage just as it appears to people with normal vision.
"I see the colors and they're florescent and beautiful and great, and I'll say (to Jim), 'Honey see that?' and he'll say 'What?' I wish he could see what I see," said the wife of Jim Nichols, a color blind visitor who was one of the first to see through the newly-installed viewfinders.
Both Nichols and his wife could not hold back tears as he looked through the viewfinder to see the scenic beauty of the fall colors for the very first time in his life.
"One of the main pillars we promote in Tennessee is our scenic beauty," said Tennessee Tourism Commissioner Kevin Triplett. "The reds, oranges and yellows in the fall and the incredible colors in the spring are a staple of what comes to mind when people think about Tennessee or visit here. But to realize, through red/green deficiencies and other forms of colorblindness, there potentially are more than 13 million people in our country alone who cannot fully appreciate the beauty our state has to offer, we wanted to do something about that. We wanted to provide opportunities for more people to see what those of us who can may take for granted."
Stephen Brewer was one of those color deficient visitors who was able to use the colorblind-less viewfinders to experience fall colors for the first time.
"Now I know why people come from miles and states around just to see this," he said.