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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.

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.

Storm Damage Causes Trail Closures in Cosby and Big Creek Areas

Great Smoky Mountains National Park managers report that several trails in Cosby and Big Creek are closed due to extensive damage from the wind and rain during a late afternoon storm on Thursday, June 13. Other trails in the area may be closed as the park is continuing to assess the damage. Gabes Mountain Trail and Snake Den Ridge Trail in Cosby, and Baxter Creek Trail and Big Creek in Big Creek have been closed due to scores of downed trees. The trails are impassable by foot or horse. In addition to trail closures, the Park has also closed “B” Loop of Cosby Campground due to damage. There is no estimate for reopening the trails or the campground at this time. “We are in the process of assessing the condition of all of the trails within the storm affected area,” said acting Chief Ranger Steve Kloster. “Hikers and equestrians may want to confirm trail openings by contacting the Park’s Backcountry Office or by visiting our website before planning routes through this section of the Park.” The storm which hit hardest on the Northeastern most section of the park was the tail end of a storm system which hit the Midwest through much of Thursday. Air monitoring stations at Clingmans Dome and Look Rock recorded over sixty mile per hour winds during the time of the storm. For the most up to date closure information, visit the Park’s website at www.nps.gov/grsm or call our Backcountry Office at 865-436-1297.

Jackson County to be Awarded Grant from NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund

During Monday nights regularly scheduled meeting of the Jackson County Commissioners, County Manager Chuck Wooten annoucned that Jackson County has been awarded a $435,000 grant from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. The grant is a State 1 to 1 match of County funds, meaning the cost for this portion of the Greenway Project is estimated at around $870,000. County Manager Wooten said that even though the money has yet to be officially awarded, he expects the money to be in hand to begin the project in the next few months. County Manager Wooten went on to say, “We do not have the letter in hand that officially notifies us of that but we have received the calls and have been told that it was approved in the current funding cycle. That means that funds should be available on July first, so both those projects are shovel ready. It’s Just a matter of our engineers updating the documents for bidding and we should be ready to go to bid soon and see some construction begin on that in early summer. I think that’s an exciting project, we have been waiting for a long time to see the Greenway move forward in Jackson County and I think the idea of a bridge at Locust Creek is going to be a homerun, it will be something the County can be really proud of”.