The leaders of the Great Smoky Mountains two primary partner organizations were recently presented with the Department of Interior Citizen’s Award for Exceptional Service. Terry Maddox, executive director of the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA), and Jim Hart, president if the Friends of the Smokies, were recognized for the outstanding support to the Smokies and the National Park Service.
Since 1990 Maddox has lead the GSMA, the non-profit corporation which provides education to Smokies visitors and material support to the park through sale of interpretive media at park bookstores and through wholesale marketing of these products outside the park. Under his leadership the association has grown from a small book retailer to a major author and publisher of APPL award-winning educational products, including books, field guides, maps, videos, podcasts and web-based material. This publishing capability has enabled GSMA to create a series of guide books on topics such as birds, forests, churches, wildflowers that are specific to the Smokies rather than generic publications available in most bookstores.
In the 20 years of Maddox’s leadership, support to the park has grown from just over $350,000 annually to more than $1.8 million. Most recently, the association provided $3 million to construct the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center, the first dedicated park visitor center in North Carolina and its only cultural history museum. The grand opening of the visitor center was in April of this year.
Hart has served as president of the park’s philanthropic/fundraising partner, Friends of the Smokies, since 2002. Under his guidance, the group has substantially increased the public’s awareness of the value of the park and the various threats, such as the destructive hemlock woolly adelgid, which threaten its future protection. Other benefitting programs include the “Parks As Classroom” program, which now serves over 10,000 K-8 students, and the hosting of over 50 high school and college age interns.
Over the nine years of Hart’s tenure, Friends of the Smokies donations have swelled from about $1.8 million a year to over $3.5 million. Their total support since their founding in 1993 now stands at over $33 million. The groups provided a portion of the financial support needed to build the park’s new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified (at the gold level) Twin Creeks Science and Education Center. More recently, they also funded the $500,000 cost of designing and fabricating all the maps, exhibits and other informational media needed to equip the Oconaluftee Visitor Center.
They have also created a new “Trails Forever” endowment which is approaching $4 million. The endowment is funding a new trail crew dedicated to expanding the park’s trails program from routine annual maintenance of the status quo of trail conditions to taking on a series of labor-intensive trail improvement projects that will reverse the deterioration of park trails.
“On a personal level Terry and Jim are a joy to work with, both for their professionalism and their love of the Smokies,” said Ditmanson. “The outstanding leadership provided by Terry Maddox and Jim Hart is a tremendous asset to the Park’s preservation and to the service we provide to over 9 million visitors. Their service stands as a vivid reminder that the public support and individual stewardship which set aside created and developed this priceless national treasure is still alive and well 75 years after the park’s creation.”