Scenic drives are not the only way to appreciate the mountains of Western North Carolina from a vehicle. Sales of Friends of the Smokies specialty plates for the first half of 2017 exceeded $230,000, a 6% increase over the previous year’s sales. Since the inception of the program, more than 21,000 plates in all 100 North Carolina counties have raised over $4.3 million for the North Carolina Smokies.
Jo Gilley, co-owner of Blue Ridge Books in downtown Waynesville, has a plate because it is a good cause, “but I also just love the bear,” she says. Founding member of Friends of the Smokies Steve Woody agrees: “Not only is it a good-looking plate, but it supports programs in the park enjoyed by all ages. The park is a huge economic driver of Western North Carolina, so I am proud to give back by buying the specialty license plate. It is money well spent and much appreciated by the national park.”
By sporting the green and blue license plate with the bear, drivers are contributing $20 of the $30 fee directly to projects in the park. Friends of the Smokies’ specialty license plate provides opportunities for environmental education and personal growth in the outdoors through the Parks as Classrooms program and Student Conservation Association internships. It also supports the protection of the park’s flora and fauna, like elk and ginseng, and the preservation of historic and cultural treasures, like cabins and churches.
North Carolinians interested in obtaining Friends of the Smokies’ bear plate can do so at any time at FriendsOfTheSmokies.org or by visiting a local License Plate Agency or the North Carolina DMV website. A portion of the specialty plate fee is tax-deductible and can be purchased independently of a vehicle registration.