Animal Planet star branches out to Gatlinburg to build 8 treehouses

National News

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WKRN) — There’s something special nestled in the woods in Gatlinburg. Owner and developer at Norton Creek Resorts, Joseph Ayres said the idea came to him about two years ago while talking with friends.

“Everybody loves Gatlinburg, and Pigeon Forge, and The Great Smoky Mountains, and we got to talking and said what’s missing? Everybody goes to a cabin, it’s fun, but then we thought treehouses,” Ayres said.

Ayres told News 2 that’s when he got linked up with Animal Planet Star Pete Nelson. Nelson has been designing treehouses for more than 25 years and is the host of Treehouse Masters. He designed eight new treehouses for the project. It started last June and Ayres said he couldn’t be more proud of the outcome.

A look at all eight Treehouse designs:

“I mean, it’s just so cool to kind of be standing here. When a year ago today, I would literally be in the middle of the woods. You know, the creek is here but we would be walking around in nothing but trees. For Pete to have the vision and the layout, it was really fun to watch him measure all the different trees and do the whole sketch on site when he was here,” Ayres said.

Ayres said the treehouses help someone develop their inner child. The project has far exceeded his expectations. He told News 2 that the COVID-19 pandemic has not impacted this project.

“We were very fortunate to kind of be done with building kind of May 1 when everything started to open again. And so we didn’t really see much of a lull. We didn’t know what to expect by any means. But just like any other small business, you know, we’re kind of take things in stride and see how you can adapt and overcome. That’s what Americans do, right? We’re always adaptive and overcoming of everything. And so that’s kind of what we’ve done,” he explained.

A look inside ‘The Magnolia’ Treehouse:

In fact, Ayres said now would be the time people might want to utilize these treehouses most.

“At a time like this when people [are] a little more reserved and don’t necessarily want to go on an airline. Maybe they’re not going to the Caribbean or flying across country. Well, you got the Great Smoky Mountain National Park,” Ayres added.

News 2 asked Ayres if they are considering an expansion.

“Here at Norton Creek resort, we have another 500 acres. We’ll be building some rental cabins. And we’re thinking about doing some treehouses up the mountain a little bit. We’ve had a lot of interest in them. And so we’re taking it day by day, kind of seeing where we get through the rest of the year here. And hope we’ll be launching something here in the next couple of months.”

Officials are still adding on hammocks and other amenities to the treehouses. Ayres told News 2 that they held an employee competition to come up with the name of each structure. ‘The Elm’ was one of the first treehouses built on the property.

If you are interested in looking at the treehouses and possibly renting one, you can do that here on their website. You can call them regarding the tree houses here (865) 409-1410.

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