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Tourism to Great Smoky Mountains National Park creates $806 Million in Economic Benefit

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 10,099,276 visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2014 spent $806,719,900 in communities near the park. That spending supported 12,759 jobs in the local area.

“After a record setting year in 2014, we are pleased Great Smoky Mountains National Park continues to provide not only an incredible resource for visitors to explore and enjoy, but also serves as a driving economic force in the local community,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “As the National Park Service moves into its second century, we hope visitors will continue to find their park here in the Smokies.”

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and National Park Service economist Lynne Koontz. The report shows $15.7 billion of direct spending by 292.8 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park. This spending supported 277,000 jobs nationally; 235,600 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $29.7 billion.

According to the 2014 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging (30.6 percent) followed by food and beverages (20.3 percent), gas and oil (11.9 percent), admissions and fees (10.2 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (9.9 percent).

U.S. Forest Service Alert: Recreation Sites Now Open in the Mountains

The U.S. Forest Service National Forests in North Carolina announced that most campgrounds and recreation sites in the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests are now open for business for the 2015 season.

Open now
Campgrounds

Nantahala National Forest
Cable Cove (Cheoah District)
Cheoah Point (Cheoah District)
Horse Cove (Cheoah District)
Rattler Ford Group Camp (Cheoah District)
Tsali (Cheoah District)
Appletree Group Camp (Nantahala District)
Balsam Lake Lodge (Nantahala District)
Standing Indian (Nantahala District)
Van Hook Glade (Nantahala District)
Pisgah National Forest
Black Mountain (Appalachian District)
Briar Bottom Group Camp (Appalachian District)
Carolina Hemlocks (Appalachian District)
Curtis Creek (Grandfather District)
Mortimer (Grandfather District)
Cove Creek Group Camp (Pisgah District)
Lake Powhatan (Pisgah District)
North Mills River (Pisgah District)
Sunburst (Pisgah District) – with vault toilets and no drinking water until mid-May
Davidson River and North Mills River Campgrounds are open year-round, as are the Pisgah District’s four group camps, Cove Creek, Kuykendal, Wash Creek and White Pines.

Day-use Areas

Nantahala National Forest
Cheoah Point Beach (Cheoah District)
Cliffside Lake (Nantahala District)
Nantahala River facilities (Nantahala District)
Wayah Bald (Nantahala District)
Cherokee Lake (Tusquitee District)
Hanging Dog (Tusquitee District)
Pisgah National Forest
Murray Branch (Appalachian District)
Stackhouse Boat Launch (Appalachian District)
Linville Gorge Information cabin (Grandfather District)
Old Fort (Grandfather District)
Table Rock (Grandfather District)
Cradle of Forestry (Pisgah District)
Lake Powhatan Day-use and Beach (Pisgah District)
Many other day use areas in Nantahala and Pisgah national forests are open year-round.

Off-Highway Vehicle Trail Complexes
Wayehutta (Nantahala National Forest)
Brown Mountain (Pisgah National Forest)
Opening May 1
Jackrabbit Mountain Campground and Beach (Nantahala NF, Tusquitee District)
Poplar Boat Launch (Pisgah NF, Appalachian District)

Opening May 22
Harmon Den Horse Camp (Pisgah NF, Appalachian District)
Roan Mountain Day-Use ((Pisgah NF, Appalachian District)
Rocky Bluff Campground (Pisgah NF, Appalachian District)

Opening May 23
Sliding Rock, lifeguards on duty and facilities open (Pisgah NF, Pisgah District)

Next Phase of Work on Newfound Gap Road Begins in April

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that a project to repave 4.3 miles of Newfound Gap Road will begin on April 13. This work is part of a multi-phased rehabilitation project started in 2007. The section to be resurfaced extends from Sugarlands Visitor Center south to Chimney’s Picnic Area where the last phase ended.

This section of road was last repaved in the 1980s and is badly deteriorated. In addition to the repaving, several drainage culverts will be replaced and two retaining walls will be constructed near the Carlos Campbell Overlook. The contractor will temporarily shift the road to the west by 2 to 3 feet to accommodate a drill rig used for setting the structural parts of the retaining wall near the pullout just north of the main Carlos Campbell Overlook. This lower pullout will be closed for approximately two months while the retaining wall is being constructed, but the main, upper overlook will remain open.

The work will be performed under a $ 14.4 million contract with Estes Brothers Construction of Jonesville, VA and will be administered by the Federal Highway Administration’s Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division. Funding is provided to the NPS through the Federal Lands Transportation Program to support this work.

Motorists should expect delays due to lane closures through June 15. There will not be any daytime lane closures from June 15 through August 15, but nighttime lane closures may occur throughout the project. After August 15, daytime lane closures will again be allowed through September 30. No work of any kind will be permitted on federal holidays or during the month of October. Daytime lane closures will resume from November 1 through December 17.

Volunteers sought to adopt tree plot

Smokies rangers are looking for tree-lovers who want to try their hand at science to adopt a tree monitoring plot on the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

A training session will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 7, at Oconaluftee Visitor Center just north of Cherokee.

Volunteers will take data throughout the growing season to help researchers answer questions like “was spring early this year?” or “when will the fall colors peak?”

Volunteers will collect data on their assigned plots multiple times throughout the growing season.

Plots up for adoption are located near parking areas in the Deep Creek, Fontana, Oconaluftee, Purchase Knob, Cataloochee, Clingmans Dome, Newfound Gap and Davenport Gap areas of the park.

RSVP to Leah Nagel, 828.497.1945 or leah_nagel@partner.nps.gov.

Record Visitation Continues in 2015 at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Record setting visitation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park continues in 2015, with 351,670 visitors enjoying the park in January. The National Park Service has maintained monthly visitation records since 1979. Since that time, visitation has never exceeded 351,000 in the month of January.

Visitation was up at all major park entrances as well as the park’s outlying areas. This increase was noticeable at the park’s visitor centers, especially at Oconaluftee in North Carolina. The staff at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center welcomed 12,658 visitors in January, a 51% increase over 2014. Sugarlands Visitor Center staff saw a 13% increase in visitation compared to 2014.

The record month comes on the heels of the park’s busiest year in 14 years. In 2014, 10,099,275 visitors enjoyed the national park, an 8% increase over 2013. The numbers were spurred by strong July and August visitation as well as the highest October visitation in 27 years.

“I am honored to join the Smokies staff in welcoming visitors to enjoy this special place,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “In my short time here, I’ve been able to see firsthand just how much people care about the park and I look forward to continuing to work with our communities and partners to serve our visitors and protect these mountains for the next generation to enjoy as we have.”

The national park not only welcomed a record number of visitors in January 2015, it also officially crossed a milestone in visitation. Since 1931, when the park’s first Superintendent, Major J. Ross Eakin arrived in the Smokies, over 500 million visitors have enjoyed Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Only the Blue Ridge Parkway and Golden Gate National Recreation Area have hosted more visitors during their existence.

Park seeks NC ‘Citizen Science’ volunteers

Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers are seeking volunteers to help with an important research project. In an effort to do a better job of tracking nature’s calendar, or phenology, park rangers are recruiting volunteers who are willing to adopt a tree-monitoring plot in areas throughout the North Carolina side of the park.

A tree phenology monitoring training will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday March 7, at the Oconaluftee administration building in Cherokee. After training, volunteers will be assigned to a phenology plot for which they will collect data multiple times throughout the growing season.

Plots up for “adoption” are located near parking areas in the Deep Creek, Fontana, Oconaluftee, Purchase Knob, Cataloochee, Clingmans Dome, Newfound Gap and Davenport Gap regions of the park.

Information collected by volunteers will go into a national database that helps answer questions such as “was spring early this year?” or “when will the fall colors peak?” Monitoring phenology will help park rangers to understand how earlier springs and cold snaps impact our mountain forests.

Those interested in signing up for the training are asked to contact

Leah Nagel, Citizen Science assistant, at Leah_Nagel@partner.nps.gov or 497-1945

Classic Hikes of the Smokies to start March 10

Discover America’s most visited national park on guided hikes with Friends of the Smokies. View breathtaking vistas, rushing waterfalls, historic homesteads and more tucked away in Great Smoky Mountains National Park with Classic Hikes of the Smokies.

The first Classic Hike of 2015 is Tuesday, March 10 to Smokemont. This hike is 6.2 miles round trip and is moderate in difficulty with a total elevation gain of 1,400 feet. Participants will visit a historic chapel and cemetery on this hike.

Friends of the Smokies Classic Hikes feature trail interpretation, history and park projects that donations to Friends of the Smokies have supported. Hikes are guided by author and hiking enthusiast Danny Bernstein.

This year’s hikes include Smokemont, Caldwell Fork, Lake Shore, Hemphill Bald, overnight at LeConte Lodge, Big Creek, Boogerman, Purchase Knob, Chimney Tops and Noland Creek.

Participants on the hikes will learn how donations made to Friends of the Smokies help fund stewardship projects in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. These projects include but are not limited to native trout management, hemlock wooly adelgid treatment, historic structure preservation, Parks as Classrooms program, and elk management.

Hikes are offered on the second Tuesday of each month. Guided Classic Hikes are $35 and include a complimentary membership to Friends of the Smokies. Current Friends of the Smokies members receive a discount and hike for $10. Members who bring a friend hike for free. All registration donations benefit the Smokies Trails Forever program.

To register, email AnnaLee@friendsofthesmokies.org. To view a complete listing of Friends’ monthly Classic Hikes of the Smokies, visit friendsofthesmokies.org/hikes.html.

900 more miles of stream discovered in Smokies

Great Smoky Mountains National Park geographic information system specialists and scientists in collaboration with scientists from Tennessee, North Carolina, and the United States Geological Survey completed a three-year stream mapping project.

Although the more than half million acre park straddling the North Carolina and Tennessee border is the most visited National Park in the country, recently hosting 10 million visitors last year, it is largely unexplored.

Scientists discovered the park contains about 900 more miles of streams than originally thought through recent exploration.
Park scientists used a combination of aircraft-mounted scanners and a Global Positioning System verification system to re-inventory streams throughout the park.

Using this modern mapping technology, scientists determined the park contains 2,900 miles of streams. Of these, 1,073 miles of streams are large enough to support fish.

Previously, using topographic maps, the scientists estimated there to be approximately 2,000 miles of streams in the park.

Aquatic life in the Smokies comes to about 1500 species which includes insects such as mayflies and stoneflies, snails, worms, crustaceans, amphibians and fish.

Park Sees 10 Million Visitors

More than 10 million people visited The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2014. It’s the fourth time in the park’s 80 year history.

According to the park, visitation in 2014 was just over 10,099,000. That’s an increase of 8 percent over the previous year. Also, camping at the park’s developed campgrounds increased by 14 percent over 2013 and backcountry camping increased by 11 percent.

Overall visitation in 2014 was higher than 2013 for nearly every month, but July and August were especially strong and October had its highest visitation in 27 years.

The record for highest visitation ever in a year was in 1999, when 10,284,000 people visited the park.

Park changes firewood regulations to protect forests

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced regulation changes on Tuesday, Jan. 6 that will help protect park forests by limiting the type of firewood brought into the Park. Beginning in March 2015, only heat-treated firewood that is bundled and displays a certification stamp by the USDA or a state department of agriculture will be allowed for use in Park campgrounds.

Heat-treated firewood will be available to purchase from concessioners in many of the campgrounds as well as from private businesses in the communities around the park. Certified heat-treated firewood is packaged in 0.75 cu-ft. bundles clearly displaying a certification stamp. The wood is a high-quality hardwood product that has been heated for 60 minutes at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. The wood lights easily, burns well for campfires, is safe to cook over, and is already available at over 85 locations near the Park that can be viewed on an interactive map by visiting www.nature.org/firewoodmap. In addition, visitors may still collect dead and down wood in the park for campfires.

“The threat of these new pests coming into our forests, both in the park and regionally, compels us to do all we can to reduce the risk to our forests,” said Acting Superintendent Clayton Jordan. “While a ban on the importation of non-treated firewood will not entirely halt the spread of destructive forest pests and diseases, it will greatly slow it down. This allows time to develop and implement new treatment strategies to help control the impacts from these non-native pests and diseases.”

Non-native, tree-killing insects and diseases can unknowingly be introduced through firewood transported from infested areas. A variety of destructive pests lay eggs or stowaway in firewood. These insects from Asia and Europe have the potential to devastate over 30 species of hardwood trees native to the Park. New infestations threaten our forests with widespread tree mortality that could devastate wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and scenic views. The use of firewood that has been heat treated eliminates the threat posed by these pests through the movement and use of wood in campfires.

National Parks throughout the Appalachian region have taken action to limit the spread of insect pests in firewood including, in many cases, the banning of imported firewood. For the past three years, the Smokies has prohibited the importation of firewood from areas quarantined by the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service. Park rangers have been working over the past year with numerous partners representing federal and state agencies, conservation organizations, and universities to mitigate the risks associated with movement of firewood including a public education campaign with campground programs and regionally placed billboards. The Park also hosted public meetings and developed an informational handout that was provided to all Smokies campers throughout the summer inviting public comments.

Park Receives Annual Poinsettia for Rescue 40 Years Ago

120314_Poinsettia_MediaForty years ago, on December 3, 1974, park rangers from Great Smoky Mountains National Park rescued 15-year old Eric Johnson and a companion who had been trapped deep in the park’s backcountry by a chest-deep snow storm. Today Eric’s mother traveled from Johnson City to park headquarters in Gatlinburg to thank the park rangers for saving her son’s life. A trip she has made every December 3rd since 1974.

Each December Mrs. Wanneta Johnson selects the biggest, finest poinsettia she can find in Johnson City and delivers it to park headquarters and thanks everyone she meets. This year Eric joined his mother as she met with Acting Superintendent Clayton Jordan and several members of the park staff including current members of the park’s search and rescue team, none of whom were working at the Smokies in 1974. Over the past four decades hundreds of park rangers have come and gone, but Mrs. Johnson treats each one as if he or she had a hand in saving Eric’s life.

When asked why Mrs. Johnson comes back to the park every year, she responded, “How could I not!” In 1974, several rangers spent hours attempting to search for the boys on foot and by ATV, but made little progress because of conditions. They were finally able to locate the boys at Tricorner Knob Shelter from a helicopter.

Once the boys were found, a larger U.S. Army helicopter was brought in to hoist the boys out of the backcountry. Eric Johnson and his friend, Randy Laws, had been held up at the backcountry shelter for three days without adequate food, water or equipment. Both young men suffered from dehydration and exposure and Eric had some frostbite, but otherwise they were in good condition.

Acting Superintendent Clayton Jordan, the seventh superintendent to accept Mrs. Johnson’s gift said, “It is humbling for us on the park staff to be honored every year by Mrs. Johnson’s visit back to the Smokies. Her recognition means a great deal to our rangers who are sometimes tasked with going out in rough weather to come to the aid of visitors like Eric and his family.”

Smokies Hosts Meetings on Firewood Pests

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are hosting public meetings to provide information about firewood pests and forest threats. Meetings will be held on Monday, December 8 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center Administrative Building near Cherokee, NC and on Tuesday, December 9 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Sugarlands Visitor Center Training Room near Gatlinburg, TN.

Non-native, tree-killing insects and diseases can unknowingly be introduced through firewood transported from infested areas. A variety of destructive pests lay eggs or stowaway in firewood. These insects from Asia and Europe have the potential to devastate over 30 species of hardwood trees native to the park. Movement of untreated firewood has been implicated in the spread of gypsy moth, Dutch elm disease, emerald ash borer, thousand canker disease, Asian longhorned beetle, Sirex woodwasp, golden spotted oak borer, and other native and non-native insect and disease complexes. New infestations threaten our forests with widespread tree mortality that could devastate wildlife habitat, biodiversity, and scenic views. The use of firewood that has been heat treated eliminates the threat posed by these pests through the movement and use of wood in campfires.

Park officials will present information at the meetings about forest pest threats, certified heat-treated wood availability, and how the park proposes to address the threat through a new firewood regulation change. The public will have an opportunity to visit staffed information stations, ask questions, and provide comments. Park rangers have been working over the past year with numerous partners representing federal and state agencies, conservation organizations, and universities to mitigate the risks associated with movement of firewood including a public education campaign. The working team developed an informational handout that was provided to all Smokies campers throughout the summer along with providing information through public programs and regionally placed billboards. The team also identified and mapped over 80 locations near the park that provide heat-treated firewood.

The park is proposing to reduce the threat of forest pests by changing park regulations to allow only heat-treated firewood to be brought into the park. If the proposal is adopted, beginning in March 2015, only firewood that is bundled and displays a certification stamp by the USDA or a state department of agriculture will be allowed for use in park campgrounds. Heat-treated wood will be available to purchase from concessioners in many of the campgrounds as well as from private businesses in the communities around the park. In addition, visitors may still collect dead and down wood in the park for campfires.

National parks throughout the Appalachian region have taken action to limit the spread of insect pests in firewood including, in many cases, the banning of imported firewood. For the past three years, the Smokies has prohibited the importation of firewood from areas quarantined by the USDA Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) in accordance with federal law. Current park regulations prohibit the importation of wood and wood products from states (or specific counties in states) quarantined for insects such as emerald ash borer or tree diseases such as thousand canker disease.

A final decision on adopting the new regulation is expected by the end of the year. The public may continue to submit comments by: mail at 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738; e-mail at grsmcomments@nps.gov; or comment cards available at visitor centers and campgrounds.

For more information about firewood and forest and insect pests in the park, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/firewood-alert.htm.

Search for Stolen Artifacts from Cataloochee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are offering a reward for information regarding the recent theft of artifacts from the Palmer House in Cataloochee. The missing artifacts, including a trowel, mill pick, and a coffee mill, were taken from locked display cases in the Palmer House where historical information and exhibits are provided for park visitors.

Park officials are offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individuals responsible for the theft. The unique, wall-mounted coffee mill was donated to the park in 1935 by a Cataloochee resident. The trowel and mill pick, which was used to cut and sharpen millstone grooves, were also part of the park’s permanent archival collection.

It is unlawful to disturb or deface historic resources within the park. Perpetrators may be sentenced up to 6 months in jail and or fined up to $5,000. Anyone with information as to the possible identity of the individuals responsible for the theft is encouraged to call the tip hotline (865) 436-1580.

New Book Chronicles History of GSMNP

As one of the largest and wildest national parks in the East and as America’s most visited national park, Great Smoky Mountains has a long history that is both dramatic and highly influential.

“Unlike most western parks, which were carved from vacant, public domain or national forest lands, this national park had to be purchased entirely from private landowners,” said Steve Kemp, interpretive products and services director at Great Smoky Mountains Association, publisher of “Mountains for the Masses: A History of Management Issues in Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” a new administrative history of this national park.

The park’s acquired area covers more than half a million acres. While logging companies owned 85 percent of this land, it also encompassed more than 1,000 family farms.

“Making a park and a wilderness from settled, logged-off lands had both political and environmental consequences,” said Kemp. “Throughout this history, the issues of preserving mountain culture, designating wilderness, protecting wildlife and biodiversity – all while managing roads, trails, campgrounds, and other facilities for millions of annual visitors – had to be reckoned with and resolved.”

Chapter topics within “Mountains for the Masses” cover important issues such as: wildlife management, the campaign to establish a park, the CCC era, preserving the mountain culture, Cades Cove, wilderness designation, entrance fees, Mission 66, fisheries management, and the legacy of dispossession.

A comprehensive index makes “Mountains for the Masses” an invaluable reference tool for libraries, agencies and citizens with an interest in how their public land is managed and protected.

“Park superintendents understandably eschew labeling parks as ‘crown jewel’ or ‘flagships,’ insisting that each unit in the National Park System deserves to be valued on its own merits,” author Theodore Catton said. “Still, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is by any measure one of the superlative national parks in the United States.

“Arno B. Cammerer, a key player in the campaign to establish the park in the 1920s, glimpsed its future greatness and popularity when he predicted that Great Smoky Mountains would become a haven for all ‘those from the congested centers of population, the workers of the machines in the lofts and mills, the clerks at the desks, and the average fellow of the small towns,’ who, with only a few days’ vacation at their disposal, would “get the recreation and inspiration that [their] more fortunate brothers now get out of a visit to the Yellowstone or Yosemite,” Catton continued.

Catton is also the author of “Inhabited Wilderness: Indians, Eskimos and National Parks in Alaska” and “National Park, City Playground: Mount Rainier in the Twentieth Century.” Proceeds from sales of the hardback edition at $40, including dozens of photographs of key park staff sites, support the preservation of this national park.

Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has given more than $32 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.

Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has given more than $32 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 or how to order this new volume, visit www.SmokiesInformation.org; or call toll-free 888-898-9102.

Ribbon Cutting at Graveyard Fields

Middle Falls at Graveyard Fields

Middle Falls at Graveyard Fields

Graveyard Fields is one of the most popular spots on the Blue Ridge Parkway and on Aug. 4, you can join the National Park Service, U.S Forest Service and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation to celebrate its official reopening after extensive trail improvements, construction of new restrooms and expanded parking area.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. at Graveyard Fields at Milepost 419 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The vision for this project started over five years ago with a partnership between the National Park Service, Forest Service and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation. Although the conversation and planning started with these three partners, the final result was only possible because of the dedication and contribution of many of the Foundation’s Community of Stewards members.

The Foundation secured a Scenic Byways grant of $261,000 and committed to raising over $65,000 in matching funds.  To date, The Foundation’s Community of Stewards has contributed over $25,000 to the project, leaving almost $40,000 still to raise. The project is supported by individual donors both large and small, local community groups such as the Fund for Haywood County and the Asheville BMW Riders and significant in-kind contributions from Bonesteel Films and the Steep Canyon Rangers who joined together to create a music video to raise awareness around the needs at Graveyard Fields.

 

 

Local Students and Teachers Learn Value in Park Service

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced the completion of two unique summer programs involving select high school students, college students, and teachers. Participants learned about park resources through on-site training that enabled them to perform ranger duties during their six-week, paid work experience and also to return to the classroom this fall with a wealth of knowledge and experience gained by working in a national park.
“These programs are mutually beneficial,” said Park Education Specialist Karen Ballentine. “The students and teachers get an in-depth study of resource education techniques, scientific methods, and field research to enhance their skills and talents, and, in turn, the park creates advocates through better understanding of and appreciation for the Smokies. Teachers will bring the knowledge into their classrooms and the interns will share their education and experience with the local community through their friends and family.”
Participants worked alongside park rangers in the field assisting with education programs and resource management activities gaining hands-on experience and exploring career opportunities in wildlife biology, fisheries science, botany, forest and stream ecology, geology, Cherokee history and culture, Appalachian history, and park management. When not in the field, teachers worked with park staff to develop elementary, middle, and high school park-based curriculum for the Parks as Classrooms program.
These successful programs were made possible through public and private funding sources. Grants were received from Alcoa, Friends of the Smokies license plate funds, and the federally-funded Youth Partnership Program (YPP). These funds supported five teachers, 25 high school students, and five college students. Additionally, the YPP grant supported four teacher-naturalist positions based out of Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont who assisted with summer camp and research projects.
Student interns will make presentations about their summer experience in North Carolina on Thursday, July 24 at 12:00 p.m. and in Tennessee on Friday, July 25 at 5:00 p.m. The events are open to the media. Please contact the park public affairs office for more information.
The following high school students were selected for the program:
In North Carolina: Aidan Galloway, Jackson County Early College; Alec Wells, Buncombe County Early College; Alex Treadway, Swain County High School; Annie McDarris, Cary Academy; Chace Morgan, Smoky Mountain High School; Holli Whittle, Robbinsville High School; Joshua Jimison, Pisgah High School; Kayla Humphrey, Buncombe County Early College; Orion Holmberg, Cherokee High School; Sydney Schulhofer, Tuscola High School; Todd Allred, Haywood Christian Academy, Ben Ogletree, Smoky Mountain High School; and Allie Dinwiddie, Tuscola High School.
In Tennessee:  Isaac Adams, Cosby High School;; Caleb Downey; Gatlinburg-Pittman High School; Daniel Hatcher, Pigeon Forge High School; Natasha Henderson, Cocke Co High School; Sarah Ottinger, Maryville High School; Zachary Parker, Seymour High School; Jared Rumple, Heritage High School; Sarah Stewart, Homeschool; Austin Valenzuela, Sevier County High School; Caden Watson, Walker Valley High School; Summer Wegwerth, Gatlinburg-Pittman High School; and Madeline Wimmer, Maryville High School.
The following teachers were selected for the program:
In North Carolina: Rich Harvey, Swain West Elementary and Cindy Bryon, School of Inquiry and Life Sciences at Asheville High School.
In Tennessee: Charles Slawson, Fulton High School; Amanda Hendricks, South Doyle Middle School; and Mark Andrews, Heritage High School.
The following college students were selected for the program:
Jarred Burcham, Western Carolina University; Lauren Bartl, State University of New York; Zach Copeland, University of Tennessee; Grant Fisher, Carson Newman; and Victoria Becerra, Oconlauftee Job Corps.
Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont Teacher-Naturalists:
Simon Carbone, Gretchen O’Henley, Wyatt Moore, and Amy Wilson.

 

Parks Economic Impact Far Reaching in Our Area

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that over  9 million visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2013 spent $734 million in communities near the park. That spending supported 10,734 jobs in the local area.

The 2013 economic benefit figures are slightly lower than the 2012 results which reported that visitors spent $741 million in local communities. The 16-day government shutdown in October 2013 accounted for most of the decline in park visitation and spending. The authors also cited inflation adjustments for differences between visitation and visitor spending, jobs supported, and overall effect on the U.S. economy.

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by U.S. Geological Survey economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Christopher Huber and Lynne Koontz for the National Park Service.  The report shows $14.6 billion of direct spending by 273.6 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park.

This spending supported more than 237,000 jobs nationally, with more than 197,000 jobs found in these gateway communities, and had a cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy of $26.5 billion.

According to the 2013 economic analysis, nationally most visitor spending was for lodging (30.3 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.3 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.3 percent) and souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent). The largest jobs categories supported by visitor spending were restaurants and bars (50,000 jobs) and lodging (38,000 jobs).

The Great Smoky Mountains is the most visited national park in the nation.

 

 

“Play On” Paying Off Statewide

Raleigh, N.C. – Governor Pat McCrory announced Wednesday that the North Carolina tourism industry generated record visitor spending in 2013. The $20.2 billion in domestic visitor spending represents a 4.1 percent increase over 2012.

“The growth of our tourism industry gives us a lot to celebrate,”Governor McCrory said. “We attracted 52.5 million travelers from across the United States last year because of our great tourist destinations.The money they spent while visiting our mountains, beaches, cities and places in between directly supported nearly 200,000 jobs and more than 40,000 businesses. We can be proud that the quality of North Carolina’s travel experiences makes us the sixth most visited state in the nation.”

Governor McCrory, who proclaimed May 3-11, 2014, as Tourism Week in North Carolina, will discuss the new figures from the U.S. Travel Association at a news conference on Thursday, May 8 at the Outer Banks. Preliminary results from the study show that direct tourism employment grew 2.1 percent and that state tax receipts as a result of visitor spending rose 4 percent to top $1 billion. Visitors spent more than $55 million per day in North Carolina last year and contributed more than $4.4 million per day in state and local tax revenues as a result of that spending.

“Everyone in North Carolina can feel the benefits of the tourism industry’s success,” Secretary Decker said. “Tourism means jobs in all of the state’s 100 counties. In addition, each North Carolina household saves $435 annually in state and local taxes as a result of taxes generated by visitor expenditures.”

Tourism Week in North Carolina is part of National Travel & Tourism Week, which also runs May 3-11. The state’s nine Welcome Centers will host activities throughout the week.

Tourism Facts

Domestic travelers spent a record $20.2 billion in 2013, up from $19.4 billion in 2012. That’s an increase of 4.1 percent.
In 2013, total visitor volume was 52.5 million, up nearly 16 percent from 2012. North Carolina is the sixth most visited state for domestic travel.
North Carolina’s domestic market share increased from 4 percent to 4.3 percent.
For every $1 invested by the Division of Tourism in paid media advertising, North Carolina receives $191 in new visitor spending, $10.31 in new state taxes and $6.25 in new local taxes. This is nearly a 17-to-1 return on investment of tax dollars.
For every $1 invested by the Division of Tourism is paid media advertising, one trip is generated to the state.
More than 40,000 businesses in North Carolina directly provide products and services to travelers, with travelers directly contributing more than 25 percent to their total products and services.
Visitors to North Carolina generated more than $3 billion in federal, state and local taxes in 2013.
State tax receipts as a result of visitor spending passed the $1 billion mark in 2013. The figure represents 4 percent in growth over 2012’s $970 million.
Local tax receipts from visitor spending grew 3.1 percent to $597.3 million.
Direct tourism employment in North Carolina increased nearly 2.1 percent, to 197,700. The majority of the growth was in lodging, transportation, food service and retail employment.
Direct tourism payroll increased 3.8 percent to $4.6 billion.
Visitors spend more than $55 million per day in North Carolina. That spending adds more than $4.4 million per day to state and local tax revenues (about $2.8 million in state taxes and $1.6 million in local taxes).
Each North Carolina household saves $435 in state and local taxes as a direct result of visitor spending in the state.

– See more at: http://governor.nc.gov/newsroom/press-releases/20140507/governor-mccrory-celebrates-record-visitor-spending-and-impact#sthash.nBgrGXaE.dpuf

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.