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GSMA Receives 2.2 Million

Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Oconaluftee Visitor Center

Executive Director Terry Maddox with Great Smoky Mountains Association announced this past week that an anonymous donor has named the non-profit organization as the recipient of one of the largest cash donations given in support of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “I have unprecedented news to share with you,” Maddox wrote in an email to the GSMA board of directors. “I was approached recently by a long-time GSMA member who wished to make a designated gift to GSMA.  The total amount of the donation is $2,185,000.” According to a memorandum of understanding between GSMA and the donor, the funds are contingent on two stipulations.  First, the donation is to be applied to the existing Oconaluftee Visitor Center loan and a new loan secured by GSMA to assist in the construction of the Collections Preservation Center.  Secondly, Maddox said, the identity of the donor must not be disclosed to anyone other than GSMA’s executive director. “I agreed to these conditions without hesitation,” Maddox told board members.  The donation will be made in five annual installments between April 2014 and 2018. “GSMA can now dramatically accelerate the pay-down of our line of credit and begin building a previously-approved future projects fund,” he said. The motivation to make a charitable gift of any size is often rooted in the donor’s belief in and love of a cause or place with which he or she feels an emotional connection. That is certainly the case with this donor, Maddox said.“I am overwhelmed by gratitude to this selfless donor whose generosity reflects a deep and abiding love for the Great Smokies,” said William Hart, chairman of GSMA’s board of directors. “This donation will allow GSMA to redouble its efforts to carry out its mission and allow funds that would have formerly been directed to debt to be employed toward the broader aims of the organization. “In effect, this donor leaves a legacy that will positively benefit millions of future visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” he continued. Great Smoky Mountains Association and Friends of the Smokies jointly provided the $3.7 million required to construct the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, N.C., which opened to the public in April 2011.  The facility fulfilled the National Park Service wish to replace an old CCC structure that was intended only to be a ranger station and replace it with a state-of-the-art museum, visitor center and bookstore on the North Carolina side of the park. Just last month, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced that GSMA would once again be stepping up with Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center to financially support construction of the new Collections Preservation Center in Townsend, Tenn., where the National Park Service will care for more than 144,000 artifacts, 220,000 archival records and 275 linear feet of library materials documenting the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and four other NPS areas in East Tennessee. “This donation not only speaks to the genuine care people have for their Smoky Mountains, but also the trust and confidence we all have in our partners at GSMA to continue a 60-year tradition of supporting the park in meaningful ways well into the future,” said Pedro Ramos, acting superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. GSMA experienced one of its most financially trying years ever in 2013, when a major road washout closed U.S. 441/Newfound Gap Road for three months early in the year and a government shutdown prevented it from opening its national park stores for 15 days in October.  Even with a record membership recruitment year, these two factors caused the non-profit more than its share of angst. This contribution qualifies as a game changer, according to Lisa Duff, GSMA’s marketing and membership director. “We have always valued the contributions of our members and shared in their enthusiasm for this national park,” Duff said.  “While this single gift illustrates the extraordinary generosity of one of our members in rather a large fashion, all who contribute time and money to this national park should count themselves among its greatest supporters.” Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has given more than $31.5 million to support the ongoing educational, scientific and preservation efforts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Support for the non-profit association is derived primarily from online and visitor center sales of educational products and membership dues. Those who wish to strengthen their Smokies experience are encouraged to join GSMA. For more information about GSMA, visit www.SmokiesInformation.org; or call toll-free 888.898.9102.

GSMA Releases Report

gsma_logo-14527_185x185Closing the books on one of the organization’s most vexing years in its 61-year history, Great Smoky Mountains Association officials released details this week of its contributions to Great Smoky Mountains National Park for 2013. “Aid-to-park for 2013 was $1,524,784, which represents another strong year of support, especially considering the circumstances,” said Executive Director Terry Maddox. He said they experienced a massive rain event that washed out a portion of the main park road in mid-January and kept that important transportation artery closed until April 15. Then, during their organization’s busiest month for sales by far, the federal government shutdown Oct. 1-16 that shuttered all our in-park retail operations.” While most visitors may not realize how often they interact with the many GSMA-supported projects ongoing in the park, Maddox said, visitors time in the park would be less fulfilling if the endeavors of GSMA were not pursued. Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has given nearly $32 million to support the ongoing educational, scientific and preservation efforts of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

U.S. Forest Service Next Phase

NC-Forest-LogoKristin Bail, forest supervisor of the U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina, today announced that the agency has begun the next phase of revising the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests Land and Resource Management Plan (the Forest Plan). ”We’ve received a large number of comments from the public since the assessment for the Plan began in the fall of 2012, and we’re hoping that trend will continue as we move into the next phase of plan revision,” said Bail. “I encourage anyone interested in the two national forests to submit comments on the Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement by April 28, 2014.” The plan development phase officially began with publication of a Notice of Initiation, which was published in the Federal Register on Oct. 3, 2013. This next phase involves beginning the work on the Environmental Impact Statement that will accompany the development of the revised plan. The public has 45 days to comment on the Notice of Intent, the Preliminary Need for Change and the Proposed Action, which was published in the Federal Register on March 12, 2014. Comments or questions about plan revision can be sent by email to NCplanrevision@fs.fed.us. For those who prefer regular mail, written comments can be mailed to National Forests in North Carolina, Nantahala and Pisgah Plan Revision, 160 Zillicoa St. Suite A, Asheville, NC 28801. The Notice of Intent (NOI) states that the Forest Plan will be revised to address direction within the current management plan that is in need of change. The NOI includes a summary of these preliminarily identified needs for change; a more extensive Preliminary Need For Change document is available on the plan revision website. Comments submitted by the public over the past year helped the Forest Service identify these preliminary needs for change. Among many other topics, the Preliminary Need for Change recognizes the important role that the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests play in sustaining the forests of western North Carolina and supporting local economies. During this plan development phase, the Forest Service, with input from members of the public and representatives of other governmental and non-governmental organizations, will determine the management practices necessary to accomplish the desired goals, and the effects those practices may have on the land. The Forest Service will then draft the proposed revised Plan and draft Environmental Impact Statement. ”We have seen stakeholders from all sides of the political spectrum come together over the past year-and-a-half to help with the assessment and identify what needs to be changed,” said Bail. “With the high level of involvement we’ve seen so far, I am optimistic that we will meet our goal of having a new Forest Plan in place by September 2016.” The Assessment Phase, the first phase of plan revision, began in Fall 2012. In 2013, the agency hosted 14 public meetings to solicit comments, opinions, data and ideas from members of the public as well as representatives of other governmental and non-governmental organizations. Approximately 800 people attended the meetings, and more than 1,000 written comments were received at these meetings, as well as by mail and email. Information gathered during the assessment phase is compiled in an Assessment Report and the need for change document. Once the Plan is completed, the monitoring phase will begin as the Plan is implemented and will continue until the next forest plan revision. Each national forest has a management plan that is updated about every 15 years. The 2012 Planning Rule guides the planning process. The rule includes protection for forests, water and wildlife, while supporting the economic vitality of rural communities. It requires the use of the best available scientific information to inform decisions. The 2012 rule strengthens the role of public involvement and dialogue throughout the planning process. More information about the plan revision process is available online at: www.fs.usda.gov/goto/nfsnc/nprevision.

Experience Your Smokies

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials, in conjunction with the Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountain Association, are announcing an opportunity to immerse yourself in the national park. The program, Experience Your Smokies, is a unique opportunity to get to know the park and the employees in a whole new way. Experience Your Smokies is a program designed for local residents, business, community and educational leaders to get a behind the scenes look into the national park, while networking with others from western North Carolina. Participants will attend five full day sessions at a variety of locations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, accompanying park employees in activities that may include radio-tracking elk, participating in a fish survey, and assisting with trail restoration. This is a perfect way to get an insider’s look at park operations as we explore areas like Cataloochee Valley, Deep Creek, Oconaluftee, Clingmans Dome, and Purchase Knob. Experience Your Smokies will be on Tuesdays March 25th, April 8th, April 29th, May 6, and Saturday May 17th. Visit www.friendsofthesmokies.org For More Information.

Thick Smoke In Sylva

NC-Forest-LogoWRGC received numerous phone calls on Tuesday from citizens expressing concerns over the thickening smoke settling over Sylva and surrounding area. According to North Carolina Forest Service Spokesman Ron Hollifield, there were several sources of smoke including a controlled burn in the Big Laurel area of Swain County. Additionally, there were loose fires on the Qualla Boundary along with Controlled and Uncontrolled fires in Upstate South Carolina which fed additional smoke into our area. The Forest Service reminds everyone to exercise caution due to the rapidly drying conditions even after the rain.

Great Smokies Bridge Closure

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced the temporary closure of Ramsey Cascades Trail due to a damaged footbridge that has created an unsafe river crossing. Park trail crews expect to complete needed repairs by late April.  During recent high winds, a large hemlock tree fell and damaged the 60-foot long footbridge that crosses Ramsey Prong. The fallen tree destroyed the handrail that is necessary for safe crossing over the footbridge which lies approximately 12 feet above the river. The bridge was also cracked and separated from the foundation.

Collections Preservation Center Construction

Secretary Jewell and Senator Alexander

Secretary Jewell and Senator Alexander

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials were joined by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Senator Lamar Alexander on Monday, March 3, to celebrate the contributions that public-private partnerships have made to the national park to help honor and preserve America’s cultural heritage. Secretary Jewell announced a timeline for the construction of a 13,000 square-foot Collections Preservation Center in Townsend, TN with the solicitation process beginning immediately and construction expected to begin this summer. The new facility is expected to be completed in the fall 2015. Through the completion of this new regional center, the National Park Service (NPS) will be able to properly care for over 144,000 artifacts, 220,000 archival records, and 275 linear feet of library materials documenting the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and four other NPS areas in East Tennessee including Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, and Obed Wild and Scenic River. Consolidating the collections materials will both ensure the protection for the heirlooms entrusted to the National Park Service and also allow for a single Museum Curator to oversee all the collections. “We are delighted to be a part of this incredible opportunity that now allows us to properly care and preserve these pieces of our past enabling us to continue to tell the stories of the Smokies,” said Acting Smokies Superintendent Pedro Ramos. “This opportunity would not have been possible without the generosity of our partners, Great Smoky Mountains Association and Friends of the Smokies, and the individuals that offered their support.” Nearly half of the estimated $ 4.3 million cost of the facility has been provided by our park partners along with the donation of the 1.6 acre parcel of land provided by the Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. “The Friends of the Smokies is privileged to partner with the Great Smoky Mountain Association to assist the NPS in the creation of such a lasting and meaningful resource for our area,” said President Jim Hart. The new facility centralizes irreplaceable materials in a conveniently located, secure, climate-controlled space in which they will be preserved, as well as office and lab space where they can be studied by NPS staff and visiting researchers. In addition to providing construction funds, our partner Great Smoky Mountains Association is also providing support for a librarian to help catalog and care for the items as well as assist park descendants, researchers, and visitors access materials for study. “Great Smoky Mountains Association is honored to be a part of this landmark project that pays tribute to the people who gave up their homes and communities for the creation of this national park. Of all the park projects GSMA has supported over the last 61 years, this is one of the very most important,” said Executive Director Terry Maddox. The historic artifacts include pre-historic projectile points, logging-era equipment, vintage weapons, clothing, farm implements, tools and other possessions that would have been found on the farmsteads of the Southern Appalachians in pre-park days such as everyday items including hair combs, butter churns, beds, looms, and spinning wheels, all handmade and all one-of-a-kind. The collection also includes documentary history through oral histories of Southern Appalachian speech, folklore, official documents, photographs and stories. Having these artifacts more accessible will also allow more opportunities for the NPS to share items with approved public museums for temporary display including the adjacent Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center. Park officials are honored by the dedication and perseverance of Senator Alexander and Department of Interior leaders who provided continued support leading to the construction of this facility which likewise honors the families whose legacy will be well preserved. As a part of the media event, leaders also had the unique opportunity to hear the stories of several descendants of families who gave their lands for the creation of the national park as we honor the contributions of their ancestors through this preservation effort.

New Numbers For National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 9,685,829 visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2012 spent $741 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 10,959 jobs in the local area. “Great Smoky Mountains National Park is proud to welcome visitors from across the country and around the world,” said Acting Superintendent Pedro Ramos. “We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides for visitors. We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities.” National park tourism is a critical economic driver for gateway communities across the nation. Researchers estimate that for every $1 invested by American taxpayers, the National Park Service returns $10 to the U.S. economy. The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber along with Lynne Koontz for the National Park Service. The report shows $14.7 billion of direct spending by 283 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 243,000 jobs nationally, with 201,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.75 billion. According to the report, most visitor spending supports jobs in restaurants, grocery and convenience stores (39 percent), hotels, motels and B&Bs (27 percent), and other amusement and recreation (20 percent). To download the report visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/socialscience/economics.cfm The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state.

 

Prescribed Burns

NC-Forest-LogoThe U.S. Forest Service plans to conduct a series of prescribed burns over the next 3 – 6 weeks on a total of about 3,500 acres of the Nantahala Ranger District in the Nantahala National Forest.

The prescribed burn will take place in the following areas:

  • Slip Off area, 190 acres, Swain County
  • Rattlesnake Knob area, 248 acres, Macon County
  • Alarka Laurel area, 697 acres, Swain County
  • Dirty John area, 830 acres, Macon County
  • Steeltrap Knob area, 872 acres, Macon County
  • Pine Mtn. area, 704 acres, Macon County

The dates for each burn will be announced as they are decided and weather permitting. The prescribed burns will reduce the amount of fuel on the forest floor, preventing catastrophic wildfire and reducing risks to nearby communities. Prescribed burning also helps improve forest health and wildlife habitat. Public safety is the highest priority during a prescribed burn.

Click here to learn more about restoring fire to the mountains.

Arson Suspected in Cherokee Fire

Cherokee Reservation Fire

Cherokee Reservation Fire

Arson is blamed for a wildfire that burned more than 120 acres in Swain County. The fire started yesterday on the Cherokee Reservation and made its way into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Bureau of Indian Affairs says it was clear that it was arson early on because the fire was actually set in four different locations. You could see the the fire from Downtown Cherokee. The fire was first reported just after noon and the wind pushed it quickly through tinder-dry woods. Flames came close to some homes on the secluded mountainside. Some of the firefighters were left to stand-watch at homes that had been threatened, making sure there were no flare-ups. Crews from both the reservation and national park sides coordinated efforts to surround the flames. That strategy paid-off. 100 percent containment has been achieved Tuesday night and no structures were damaged. No arrests have been made at this time.

More Deer For Cherokee

white-tailed-deer-great-smoky-mountainsA new tribal program is to thank for more deer roaming the Cherokee Reservation. Wildlife officals are moving deer from the Morrow Mountain State Park to the Reservation. The deer have spent a month in a protected habitat but were released into the wild on Monday. Chief Michell Hicks says “It definitely makes you feel proud to know that we are helping to improve the environment that we live in. Our goal is to monitor and hopefully watch them blossom.” Each deer has a tag and collar for radio tracking. The deer will be monitored closely. Cheif Hicks hopes that more deer will be released on the reservation in the near future.

 

Temporary Lane Closures

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Officials at Great Smoky Mountains National Park have approved a request from Sevier County Electric System (SCES) to replace six electric poles along the southbound Spur beginning Monday, February 24 through Thursday, March 6. The work will require weekday one-lane closures, Monday through Thursday, for short sections between Norton Creek and the Gatlinburg Welcome Center. Crews will replace the poles along the shoulder of the Spur and adjacent side roads. The temporary lane closures are necessary to provide for the safety of both workers and motorists. The one-lane closures will be in effect Monday through Thursday from 7:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. as needed. No lane closures will be allowed over the weekends to accommodate weekend traffic.   For more information about road conditions, please visit the Park’s website at www.nps.gov/grsm and or call the Park’s Road and Weather Information Line at 865-436-1200.

Volunteers Needed

Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome

Great Smoky Mountain National Park is recruiting volunteers to staff the Information Center at Clingmans Dome, from April 1 through November 30, 2014.  The center sits at an elevation of 6,300 feet and is a source of information for the national park.  Volunteers are needed to provide educational, recreational and trip planning information. Other helpful services provided include the ability to purchase guides, maps, outdoor apparel, and other products sold by the Great Smoky Mountain s Association. GSMA is a primary park partner and is involved in a number of projects to improve the visitors’ experience. Volunteers will be working alongside GSMA employees and each volunteer is asked to work at least one four-hour shift per week, either 9:30 am until 1:30 pm or 1:00 pm until 5:00 pm.  Volunteers are needed to fill all days of the week, but especially Friday through Sunday.  Interested persons will be provided orientation and training before their tour of duty.  To sign up for this volunteer program or for more information, please call 828-497-1906 Monday through Friday.

Ginsing Poachers Get Jail Time

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis L. Howell sentenced Charles R. Nash, of Whittier, N.C. to serve 10 days in jail for the illegal possession or harvesting of American ginseng from the Nantahala National Forest, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina and Kristin Bail, Forest Supervisor of the U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina. According to the January 30, 2014 sentencing hearing and other documents, on October 12, 2013, Nash admitted to illegally possessing 24 American ginseng roots he had dug from the Mosses Creek and Wayehutta Off-Road Vehicle areas in Jackson County. He pleaded guilty to the poaching charge. Staff of the Forest Service replanted the recovered viable roots. American ginseng is on the list of the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species. The U.S. Attorney’s Office reminds the public that gathering ginseng on the Nantahala National Forest without a permit is illegal. U.S. Forest Service lands have been severely impacted by ginseng poachers in western North Carolina. American ginseng was formerly abundant throughout the eastern mountains, but due to repeated poaching, populations have been reduced to a point that they can barely reproduce. The roots poached in this park are usually young, between the ages of 5 and 10 years, and have not yet reached their full reproductive capacity. In time, the plant’s populations could recover if poaching ceased. The Division of Scientific Authority, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is the regulatory agency that evaluates the biological and management status of wild American ginseng throughout its native range. The Division issues an annual or biennial report detailing if any harvest conditions need to be modified to ensure the sustainable harvest of wild native ginseng. Permits to collect ginseng root in National Forests are issued through the U.S. Forest Service in early September. Permits are not available in National Park lands such as the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where even the possession of American Ginseng is prohibited.
The investigation of the case was handled by the U.S. Forest Service. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville handled the prosecution.
To report illegal harvesting activities of American ginseng, please call 828-257-4200.

“Play On” Moving Forward

The new chairperson of the Jackson County Tourism Development Authority, Robert Jumper reported to the Jackson County Commissioners on Tuesday that a trio of marketing firms including Pineapple Public Relations and Marketing firm has been retained to help the TBA move forward with the next phase of the tourism marketing plan for Jackson County. Jumper explained how some local citizens did not favorably view the “Play On” marketing theme adopted by the County.  Jumper stated that the terminology had tested well in the market research centered on the desired tourist population. One of the firms selected is Pineapple Marketing and Public Relations firm has plenty of tourism centered marketing experience in western North Carolina and north Georgia. While increasing the number of tourists coming to Jackson County is important Jumper further emphasized the importance of having the infrastructure in place to accommodate those coming to spend their vacations in the area. The infrastructure must not only include places to stay, but access to the rivers and lakes, and the means to enjoy all the resources including trails, hiking and the natural resources. Jumper was in agreement with comments made by Business and Industry Director Richard Price that all the messages coming out of Jackson County in recruiting tourism traffic need to be coordinated and consistent.

Park Plans Burn in Cataloochee

Fire management officials with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are planning two 200-acre prescribed burns in the Canadian Top unit adjacent to Cataloochee Valley. Weather permitting, burn operations could begin as early as Monday, and may continue at different times through early November. The two burn sites are located on Bald Top adjacent to Mathews Branch near the Cataloochee Ranger Station. The units are part of the larger Canadian Top multi-year prescribed fire project where fire managers have been conducting a series of low-intensity, controlled burns to restore the composition and open structure of the oak woodlands that occur on upper slopes and ridges within the site. “One of the goals of the prescribed burn is to improve elk forage and habitat,” said Great Smoky Mountain Wildland Fire Module Leader Shane Paxton. “This series of burns will reduce the number of fire-sensitive trees and shrubs while increasing the regeneration of oak and yellow pines along with increasing the cover and diversity of native grasses and wildflowers. Over time, this increase in herbaceous vegetation on the forest floor will improve forage for elk which graze the nearby meadows.” Roads and trails will remain open to the public throughout the burn operations, although Little Cataloochee Trail may be temporarily closed if fire activity warrants. Visitors should expect to see smoke in the area. The burn operations will be conducted by park staff and are being funded by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. For more information on the use of prescribed burns in Great Smoky Mountains NP, visit the website www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/fire-regime.htm.

Public Perception of Park Closing Could Hurt Local Economy

Steve Morse, economist and director of the Hospitality and Tourism Department at WCU is predicting that this fall season could be one of the best for hotels and other local businesses in the mountains due to several factors such as: favorable travel conditions and a drop in hotel and gas prices . October is traditionally the most busy tourist season for “leaf lookers” here in the Great Smoky Mountains. Dr. Morse, as well as many business owners here in the mountains do fear that not enough people know that while the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along with its trails and facilities are currently closed due to the government shut down, highway 441 from Gatlinburg to Cherokee still remains open.

Dale Ditmanson Plans Retirement from Park Service

Dale Ditmanson

Dale Ditmanson

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent, Dale Ditmanson, announced plans to retire on January 3, 2014 after 36 years with the National Park Service (NPS). He has served in the Smokies as Superintendent since May of 2004 and has been recognized for his exceptional leadership as the 2009 Southeast Region’s Superintendent of the Year and the 2013 Association of Public Lands’ Agency Partner of the Year which he shared with recently retired Deputy Superintendent Kevin FitzGerald. Ditmanson is also a recipient of the Department of Interior’s Honor Award for Meritorious Service. “Dale Ditmanson exemplifies the best of the National Park Service career employees: dedicated to the mission, driven to excellence and willing to fight to protect our National Parks. I appreciate all he has done for the American people throughout his NPS career and wish him well in retirement,” said NPS Director Jon Jarvis.

Among his many accomplishments, Ditmanson provided the vision and leadership, working closely with a tremendous management team and park partners, leading to the construction of facilities that will serve the public well into the future. Ditmanson also worked tirelessly with gateway communities, partner groups, congressional staff, NPS staff, and Park neighbors to secure approval of a Memorandum of Agreement for the future of the Elkmont Historic District, accomplished a resolution leading to the North Shore Road settlement decision with Swain County, and developed the Trails Forever partnership between Friends of the Smokies and the Park. Ditmanson has also championed the protection of natural and cultural resources while serving in the Smokies working closely with Resource Management and Science Staff to support the reintroduction of Elk, pushing for improved air and water quality standards, and helping to secure needed funds for the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid suppression efforts.

More information will follow regarding a farewell celebration for Ditmanson in early January. For more information, please contact Park’s Public Information Office at 865-436-1207 or 865-436-1203.

Record Rainfall May Dampen Fall Color Show

mfec4S8 In the yearly tradition that is the Western Carolina University foliage forecast, given by Kathy Mathews, this years forecast has been delivered. Abundant rainfall during one of the wettest summers in Western North Carolina history may portend a dampening of the intensity of the fall color show this year unless autumn brings vastly drier conditions, predicts Kathy Mathews, Western Carolina University’s fall foliage forecaster. Mathews went on to explain; “With record rainfall during July, the trees in the mountains look healthy and green at the moment, and that’s a good thing for the trees. But leaf-lookers need to keep their fingers crossed for some drier weather in the next couple of months in order for us to see the development of vibrant fall leaf color.” Leaf looking tourists may be in for some disappointment this year, which will possibly affect the local businesses in our area. “There always will be plenty of color in the yellow and orange hues,” Mathews said. “However, if the days remain cloudy throughout September, there won’t be as much of a pop of bright reds on the leaves.” The red pigments called “anthocyanins”, are manufactured by leaves mainly in the fall in response to cooling temperatures and excess sugar production caused by lots of sun, Mathews said. “Dryness also causes production of more red pigment,” she said. “Studies have shown that trees stressed out by dry soils and nutrient deficiency produce more red pigment in the fall. Ample sunshine and dry weather is the combination necessary for brilliant fall foliage.” Another factor in the annual fall color show is temperature. “Cool nights in September, with temperatures dropping into the low 40s, release the yellow, orange and red colors because chlorophyll degrades faster at lower temperatures,” Mathews said. “Temperature may work in our favor this year, as we have seen relatively cool summer months. If this trend continues, colors may be more vivid despite the rainfall.” And there is an upside to all the rainfall, even if it means less-vibrant fall colors, the leaves should hang around longer, “With healthy, well-watered trees, we should not see much early leaf drop,” Mathews said. The color change should begin at the higher mountain elevations in late September and continue through mid-November in the lower levels of WNC. Regardless of when the peak is and how intense the hues are, visitors always can find good fall color somewhere in the WNC mountains, with more than 100 tree species in the Southern Appalachians. That means not only many different colors of leaves in the fall, but also a lengthy fall color season, Mathews said.

New Park Deputy Superintendent Announced

New Park Deputy Superintendent Patty Wissinger

New Park Deputy Superintendent Patty Wissinger

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson announced that Patricia M. Wissinger has been selected as the next Deputy Superintendent. She replaces Kevin Fitzgerald, who retired earlier this year. Wissinger is currently the superintendent of Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Atlanta, one of the busiest recreation areas in the United States. She is scheduled to report to her new assignment in mid-September.

“Patty brings a broad base of park operational knowledge and experience to the Smokies having served as a Superintendent, Deputy Superintendent, Division Chief, and in the Regional Office,” said Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. “Patty has been recognized for her leadership with partners as well as employees and I look forward to having her on our team.”

Wissinger has extensive experience in building partnerships, major museum design and construction, land acquisition planning, viewshed management, road and bridge construction projects, exhibit design, educational outreach, general management planning and managing large national park visitor services. She was recognized with numerous awards including Southeast Region Superintendent’s Award for Science and Resource Management Excellence and, under her leadership, Chattahoochee River NRA was recognized for Excellence in Interpretation and Education.

“ Words cannot express how excited I am to join the staff, partners, volunteers and the communities of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the crown jewels in our nation,” Wissinger said. “I feel like the most blessed person in the National Park Service right now. This park is unsurpassed by its natural beauty, diversity of resources, and cultural heritage. In my opinion, it is absolutely the most beautiful place on earth. I am so proud to join the committed cadre of citizens who together will protect this incredibly special place as we also connect it to a new generation of Americans to preserve and enjoy.”