Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Greenbrier Barn Party Tops $2 Million for National Park in 20th Year

Friends of the Smokies hosted more than 600 guests at the 20th annual Greenbrier Barn Party on Friday, May 11th. The event raised more than $211,000 this year in support of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and featured live music from The Chillbillies and a silent auction.

The Greenbrier Barn Party is co-hosted by Coach Phillip & Vicky Fulmer, Jake and Kat Ogle, along with Jim Ogle and Cheryl Houston. Special guests in attendance included University of Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt, and Steve Caldwell and Dan Brooks, coaches of the 1998 national championship team.

Over its 20 year history, the Greenbrier Barn Party has raised more than $2 million, helping to fund critical projects in Great Smoky Mountains National Park including treating hemlock trees, construction of the Greenbrier Picnic Pavilion and hiking trail reconstruction. Funds this year will also help Friends of the Smokies meet its $1.25 million fundraising goal to upgrade the park’s emergency radio communications system, a 25th anniversary signature project.

“For the 20th anniversary of this event to have a record-breaking year is a testament to our communities’ dedication to the national park,” said Jim Hart, Friends of the Smokies president. “We are so thankful for the generous support of our members and sponsors who are helping ensure the park’s preservation.”

The Greenbrier Barn Party is held in Pittman Center, TN at the barn of Jim Ogle, a former Friends of the Smokies board member. The event is presented by Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and Sugarland Cellars, and is sponsored by Anakeesta, Barnes Insurance Agency, Bearskin Lodge, Blount Partnership, Charles Blalock & Sons, Citadel Construction, Citizens National Bank, Crockett’s Breakfast Camp, Harper Bros. General Merchandise Store, Hollywood Star Cars Museum, Home Federal Bank, Hospitality Solutions, IHOP, The Island in Pigeon Forge, Johnson Family of Restaurants, KaTom Restaurant Supply, Parkside Cabin Rentals, Phillips and Jordan, Riverside Tower, Robert G. Campbell and Associates, Sevier County Bank, SmartBank, Stowers Machinery, and Trotter De Foe Architects.

Photos from Friday’s event and more information can be found at www.BarnParty.org.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Friday, May 11, 2018

Smokies Invites Public Comment on Elkmont Wastewater Treatment Plant Project

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials invite the public to comment through May 31 on a draft environmental assessment (EA) for proposed upgrades to the Elkmont Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) in Sevier County, Tennessee. The plant serves the Elkmont Developed Area, which includes Elkmont Campground and other facilities nearby.

Treated effluent from the plant is currently discharged to the Little River downstream of the campground as authorized by National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit number TN0022349 issued by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

The purpose of the proposal is to provide a modern, efficient, and sustainable wastewater treatment system for the Elkmont Developed Area. The action is needed because the existing WWTP, which was originally built in 1959 and modified in 1969 and 2008, has exceeded its expected service life. The EA evaluates three alternatives:

Alternative A – The No Action Alternative provides a basis for comparing environmental impacts of the action alternatives.

Alternative B – Upgrade WWTP and continue discharging to the Little River.

Alternative C (Preferred Alternative) – Upgrade WWTP and install a land-based, subsurface effluent dispersal system.

Prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the EA assess the alternatives and their impacts on the environment. The EA also serves to integrate and coordinate compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act. The following impact topics are analyzed in detail: surface water, floodplains, aquatic life, vegetation, wildlife, wilderness, park operations, and archeology.

The public is encouraged to participate in the planning process by reviewing and providing comments on the Draft EA. Park Staff invite the public to comment on the proposed project using the National Park Service’s Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website and following the link titled “Elkmont Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade” at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/grsm or by US Mail to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, ATTN: Environmental Planning and Compliance, 107 Park Headquarters Road, Gatlinburg, TN 37738.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Friday, May 4, 2018

Smokies Visitors Spend $923 million in Gateway Communities

A new National Park Service (NPS) report shows that 11,338,893 visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2017 spent $922,947,100 in communities near the park. That spending supported 13,942 jobs in the local area. National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, with every dollar invested by American taxpayers in the National Park Service returning $10 to the economy.

“We are glad to work alongside our business communities in helping create lifelong memories and traditions that bring people to our area year after year,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “While our gateway communities benefit from visitor spending, they also provide a critical role in shaping the overall impression of a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

The peer-reviewed visitor spending analysis was conducted by economists Catherine Cullinane Thomas and Egan Cornachione of the U.S. Geological Survey and Lynne Koontz of the National Park Service. The report shows a $1.2 billion cumulative economic benefit to communities within 60 miles of the Smokies. According to the 2017 report, most park visitor spending near the Smokies was for lodging and camping (35 percent) followed by food and beverages (24 percent), gas and oil (11 percent), local transportation (11 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (10 percent), and recreation industries (9 percent).

Report authors this year produced an interactive tool. Users can explore current year visitor spending, jobs, labor income, value added, and output effects by sector for national, state, and local economies. Users can also view year-by-year trend data. The interactive tool and report are available at the NPS Social Science Program webpage: go.nps.gov/vse.

The report shows $18.2 billion of direct spending by over 330 million park visitors in communities within 60 miles of a national park across the nation. This spending supported 306,000 jobs nationally; over 255,000 of those jobs are found in these gateway communities. The cumulative benefit to the U.S. economy was $35.8 billion. According to the 2017 report, most park visitor spending was for lodging and camping (32.9 percent) followed by food and beverages (27.5 percent), gas and oil (12.1 percent), souvenirs and other expenses (10.1 percent), admissions and fees (10.0 percent), and local transportation (7.5 percent).

The report includes information for visitor spending at individual parks and by state. To learn more about national parks in North Carolina or Tennessee and how the National Park Service works with North Carolina and Tennessee communities to help preserve local history, conserve the environment, and provide outdoor recreation, go to www.nps.gov/NorthCarolina or www.nps.gov/Tennessee.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Monday, April 30, 2018

Smokies Celebrates 20 Years of New Species Discoveries

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is celebrating 20 years of conducting biodiversity inventories. Park managers, biologists, educators, and non-park scientists initiated an effort to discover all life in the Smokies through an All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) on Earth Day in 1998. The non-profit partner Discover Life in America (DLIA), created in 1998, coordinates the inventory. Over the last 20 years, biologists have not only documented thousands of plants and animals, but have also identified nearly 1,000 new species previously unknown to science.

“We are grateful for the partnership between the park and DLIA, and the variety of institutions and individuals that have participated in this project,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “This has been a tremendous scientific effort to help us better understand the Smokies and how we might better protect it for the next generation of owners.”

The Smokies have a long history of research, and prior to the ATBI, about 10,000 species were documented in the park. That number is now nearly doubled, and some of the more surprising new records include species of well-studied groups like mammals and vascular plants. Some of the new species to science found during the ATBI include 31 moths, 41 spiders, 78 algae, 64 beetles, 29 crustaceans, 58 fungi, 21 bees and their relatives, 18 tardigrades (known as waterbears), and 270 bacteria! With collection records from every corner of the park, managers now have a much better understanding of what species exist and what environmental conditions they require.

Through the years, the park and DLIA have hosted over 1,000 researchers from 150 different universities, museums, and institutions in the US and around the world. Numerous ATBI-related education events and workshops have been held since 1998, involving over 200,000 students and 6,500 teachers. Over 1,000 volunteers have been trained by DLIA in citizen science workshops and have contributed over 60,000 volunteer hours toward this project. In addition to the park and DLIA, the Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains Association have significantly contributed to this ATBI through financial support.

“At the heart of this project are the scientists, park staff, and volunteers who fan out across the park on a regular basis to dig in the leaf litter, wade in the streams, and look under rocks for anything and everything alive,” said Todd Witcher, Executive Director of DLIA. “They are the true heroes of the Smokies and the remarkable number of new species discoveries is a testament to their passion and perseverance.”

The Appalachian Mountains are among the oldest mountains in the world. Through the eons, forces such as wind, rain, freezing, and thawing eroded the peaks. Although glaciers did not reach this far south, their influence on the climate combined with the range of elevations and the southwest to northeast orientation of these mountains accounts for the striking variety of living things found in the park. The biological diversity of the Smokies was the impetus for conducting the ATBI, and the project has now grown to be the largest sustained natural history inventory in the United States.

This scientific effort has produced a baseline for one of the most diverse ecosystems in the United States. Park managers now have a better understanding of the resources, and can better predict how changing conditions in the future may impact them. ATBI information also provides a foundation allowing for future park managers to make better-informed decisions. For more information about special events celebrating the 20th anniversary year of the All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory, please visit DLIA’s website at https://dlia.org/.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Friday, April 27, 2018

Smokies Announces Paving Project on Newfound Gap Road

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that a paving project will begin the week of April 30 on Newfound Gap Road. Work will take place along the road between the Newfound Gap area south to the park boundary at Cherokee, North Carolina. The project should be completed by September 20, 2018, though work schedules are subject to revision as needed for inclement weather.

Visitors traveling on Newfound Gap Road should expect weekday, single-lane closures and traffic delays April 30 through June 16 and again from August 16 through September 20. Lane closures are permitted from 7:00 a.m. on Mondays through 12:00 p.m. on Fridays and will be allowed to hold traffic for up to 10 minutes at a time. The lane closures will be managed with flagging operations and a pilot car to lead traffic through work zones. In addition, some parking areas and pull-offs will be closed intermittently. To better accommodate visitors during periods of high visitation, no daytime lane closures will be allowed on weekends, holidays, or from June 16 through August 15.

The Federal Highway Administration awarded the $3 million paving contract to Estes Brothers Construction. Roadwork will include the application of a thin lift pavement overlay.

For more information about road conditions, please visit the park website at www.nps.gov/grsm



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Smokies Announces Synchronous Firefly Viewing Dates

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have announced the dates for firefly viewing in Elkmont. Shuttle service to the viewing area will be provided on Thursday, June 7 through Thursday, June 14. All visitors wishing to view the synchronous fireflies at Elkmont must have a parking pass distributed through the lottery system at www.recreation.gov.

Every year in late May or early June, thousands of visitors gather near the popular Elkmont Campground to observe the naturally occurring phenomenon of Photinus carolinus, a firefly species that flashes synchronously. Since 2006, access to the Elkmont area has been limited to shuttle service beginning at Sugarlands Visitor Center during the eight days of predicted peak activity in order to reduce traffic congestion and provide a safe viewing experience for visitors that minimizes disturbance to these unique fireflies during the critical two-week mating period.

The lottery will be open for applications from Friday, April 27 at 12:00 noon until Monday, April 30 at 8:00 p.m. Results of the lottery will be available on Wednesday, May 9. A total of 1,800 vehicle passes will be available for the event which includes: 1768 regular-parking passes (221 per day) which admit one passenger vehicle up to 19’ in length with a maximum of six occupants, and 32 large-vehicle parking passes (four per day) which admit one large vehicle (RV, mini-bus, etc.) from 19’ to 30’ in length, with a maximum of 24 occupants. Lottery applicants must apply for either a regular-parking pass or large-vehicle parking pass and then may choose two possible dates to attend the event over the eight-day viewing period.

The lottery system uses a randomized computer drawing to select applications. There is no fee to enter the lottery this year. If selected, the lottery winner will be charged a $20.00 reservation fee and awarded a parking pass. The parking pass permits visitors to park at Sugarlands Visitor Center and allows occupants to access the shuttle service to Elkmont.

Parking passes are non-refundable, non-transferable, and good only for the date issued. There is a limit of one lottery application per household per season. All lottery applicants will be notified by e-mail on May 9 that they were “successful” and awarded a parking pass or “unsuccessful” and not able to secure a parking pass.

The number of passes issued each day is based primarily on the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking lot capacity and the ability to accommodate a large number of viewers on site. Arrival times will be assigned in order to relieve traffic congestion in the parking lot and also for boarding the shuttles, which are provided in partnership with the City of Gatlinburg. The shuttle buses will begin picking up visitors from the Sugarlands Visitor Center parking area at 7:00 p.m. A $2.00 round-trip, per-person fee will be collected when boarding the shuttle. Cash is the only form of payment accepted.

The shuttle service is the only transportation mode for visitor access during this period, except for registered campers staying at the Elkmont Campground. Visitors are not allowed to walk the Elkmont entrance road due to safety concerns.

Visitors may visit the website www.recreation.gov and search for “Firefly Event” for more information and to enter the lottery. Parking passes may also be obtained by calling 1-877-444-6777, but park officials encourage the use of the online process. The $20.00 reservation fee covers the cost of awarding the passes, viewing supplies, and nightly personnel costs for managing the viewing opportunity at Sugarlands Visitor Center and Elkmont.

For more information about the synchronous fireflies, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/fireflies.htm.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Evening Under the Stars to Support Science Education in the Smokies

Smoky Mountain starry skies will be the backdrop of Friends of the Smokies’ second annual stargazing event at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob. On Friday, May 18, Friends of the Smokies will partner with the Astronomy Club of Asheville to raise money for science education in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The evening will begin at sundown with live music, dessert, and drinks at Purchase Knob, a grassy bald at more than 5,000 feet in elevation. After dark, the Astronomy Club of Asheville will provide telescopes to view the night sky.

Purchase Knob is home to one of a growing network of Research Learning Centers managed by the National Park Service, and hosts schoolchildren from across Western North Carolina and scientists from around the country. The event supports the Kathryn McNeil Endowment, which provides funding for a full time teacher-ranger at the Learning Center.

“When young people experience the wonders of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park they forever have a connection to this spectacular place. Parks as Classrooms program ensures that over 15,000 have this opportunity to learn in nature each year. I’m proud that Friends of the Smokies continues to grow the Kathyrn McNeil Endowment, which provides support for this critical program in perpetuity,” says Chase Pickering, Friends of the Smokies Board Member.

For more information and tickets ($75), visit FriendsOfTheSmokies.org/donate or call (828)-452-0720.



Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com
RockyMountainHikingTrails.com
HikinginGlacier.com
TetonHikingTrails.com