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

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Smokies Hosting Birds of Prey Program

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is again teaming up with the Balsam Mountain Trust for a special program on Birds of Prey at the Oconaluftee Multipurpose Room near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on Friday, April 20.

Michael Skinner, Executive Director of the Balsam Mountain Trust, will conduct an hour-long Birds of Prey program beginning at 11:00 am. This program will provide visitors with an up-close glimpse of some of the planets most recognized and revered wild animals such as the tiny eastern screech owl and northern bald eagle.

“We are delighted to continue our partnership with Balsam Mountain Trust,” said Lynda Doucette, Supervisory Park Ranger. “This program provides an opportunity for park visitors to see and learn about these beautiful birds first hand.”

Balsam Mountain Trust is a local non-profit whose mission is the stewardship of the natural and cultural resources on Balsam Mountain Preserve and the Blue Ridge Mountain region, through effective land management practices, scientific research, and environmental education. The Trust has earned special distinction as a place where non-releasable birds of prey are taken in, cared for, and then utilized as educational ambassadors.

The Oconaluftee Multipurpose Room is adjacent to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center on Newfound Gap Road, 2 miles north of Cherokee, North Carolina. For more information on the upcoming Birds of Prey program, please call the Oconaluftee Visitor Center at (828) 497-1904.



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

Monday, April 16, 2018

HikingintheSmokys.com Celebrates 10th Anniversary

It's hard to believe, but its been 10 years since we launched HikingintheSmokys.com. Building this website has given me an outstanding opportunity to explore dozens of trails in the Great Smoky Mountains that I likely never would've considered in the past - simply because I would've continued hiking the most popular trails. Moreover, this website has given me an opportunity to discover many things about the park that I otherwise probably wouldn't have taken the time to learn, such as its rich and extensive human history, as well as its natural history, including its wide range of flora and fauna.

When I first launched this website in 2008 I covered roughly 20 hikes. Today the site covers a total of 67 hikes, and continues to grow each year. Over the last 10 years I've committed myself to making this the best possible online hiking resource for the Smokies by providing accurate trail descriptions, providing interesting historical anecdotes pertinent to as many trails as possible, and providing photographs that accurately showcase the beauty and the highlights of each hike.

Since launching HikingintheSmokys.com in 2008 my wife and I have launched three additional sister websites for three other national parks. They include HikinginGlacier.com in 2011, RockyMountainHikingTrails.com in 2012, and TetonHikingTrails.com in 2014. If you've never had the opportunity to visit any of these parks, I highly recommend all three of them. Like the Smokies, each of these parks offer many outstanding hiking opportunities.

Thanks to all of you for your support over the years!



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

Friday, April 13, 2018

National Park Service Announces Plan to Address Infrastructure Needs & Improve Visitor Experience

As part of its ongoing efforts to address aging park infrastructure and improve the visitor experience, the National Park Service (NPS) announced today changes to the entrance fees charged at national parks. The changes, which come in response to public comments on a fee proposal released in October 2017, will modestly increase entrance fees to raise additional revenue to address the $11.6 billion in deferred maintenance across the system of 417 parks, historic and cultural sites, and monuments.

Most seven-day vehicle passes to enter national parks will be increased by $5 and will be implemented in many parks beginning June 1, 2018. Yosemite National Park for example will increase the price of a seven-day vehicle pass to the park from $30 to $35. More than two-thirds of national parks will remain free to enter. A complete list of park entrance fees may be found here.

All of the revenue from the fee increases will remain in the National Park Service with at least 80 percent of the money staying in the park where it is collected. The funds will be used for projects and activities to improve the experience for visitors who continue to visit parks at unprecedented levels. Increased attendance at parks, 1.5 billion visits in the last five years, means aging park facilities incurring further wear and tear.

“An investment in our parks is an investment in America,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Every dollar spent to rebuild our parks will help bolster the gateway communities that rely on park visitation for economic vitality. I want to thank the American people who made their voices heard through the public comment process on the original fee proposal. Your input has helped us develop a balanced plan that focuses on modest increases at the 117 fee-charging parks as opposed to larger increases proposed for 17 highly-visited national parks. The $11.6 billion maintenance backlog isn’t going to be solved overnight and will require a multi-tiered approach as we work to provide badly needed revenue to repair infrastructure. This is just one of the ways we are carrying out our commitment to ensure that national parks remain world class destinations that provide an excellent value for families from all income levels.”

The price of the annual America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass and Lifetime Senior Pass will remain $80.

“Repairing infrastructure is also about access for all Americans,” Secretary Zinke said. “Not all visitors to our parks have the ability to hike with a 30-pound pack and camp in the wilderness miles away from utilities. In order for families with young kids, elderly grandparents, or persons with disabilities to enjoy the parks, we need to rebuild basic infrastructure like roads, trails, lodges, restrooms and visitors centers.”

Fees to enter national parks predate the establishment of the National Park Service in 1916. For example, Mount Rainier National Park began charging an entrance fee in 1908. Factoring in inflation, the $5 entrance fee the park charged in 1914 would be the equivalent of a $123 entrance fee today—more than four times the price of the new seven-day $30 vehicle pass.

Entrance fees collected by the National Park Service totaled $199 million in Fiscal Year 2016. The NPS estimates that once fully implemented, the new fee structure will increase annual entrance fee revenue by about $60 million.

In addition to implementing modest fee increases and enhancing public-private partnerships aimed at rebuilding national parks, Secretary Zinke is working closely with Congress on proposed bipartisan legislation to use revenue derived from energy produced on federal lands and waters to establish a special fund within the Treasury specifically for “National Park Restoration”. The billfollows the blueprint outlined in Secretary Zinke and President Trump's budget proposal, the Public Lands Infrastructure Fund.

The National Park Service has a standardized entrance fee structure, composed of four groups based on park size and type. Some parks not yet aligned with the other parks in their category will raise their fees incrementally and fully incorporate the new entrance fee schedule by January 1, 2020.



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

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Park Plans Prescribed Burn Operation in Little Cataloochee

Great Smoky Mountains National Park fire management officials plan to conduct a 120-acre prescribed burn in Little Cataloochee on Thursday, April 12, weather permitting. Little Cataloochee Trail will be closed to all public use on Thursday, April 12 through Friday, April 13. Visitors should expect to see smoke in the area.

The burn unit is located along Little Cataloochee Trail between the trailhead on Old Highway 284 and the Little Cataloochee Baptist Church. The area is bounded by Little Cataloochee Creek and Coggins Branch. This prescribed burn is one in a series of low-intensity controlled burns used over a number of years to restore oak woodland communities that provide habitat for wildlife including elk. The prescribed burn will be conducted by national park staff and is being funded by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.



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

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Cades Cove Loop Road to Close Early on Thursday, April 12

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced a temporary closure of the Cades Cove Loop Road beginning Thursday, April 12, at 5:00 p.m. for pavement repairs near the Loop Road entrance. This early closure will not affect hours for the Cades Cove Campground, Cades Cove Store, Cades Cove Visitor Center, or Cades Cove Riding Stables. The road will re-open to traffic on Friday morning, April 13. This work is part of the $2.5 million paving contract occurring along Laurel Creek Road, Townsend Entrance Road, and Tremont Road.

The entire project should be completed by June 15, though work schedules are subject to revision as needed for inclement weather. Visitors traveling to Cades Cove should expect weekday, single-lane closures and traffic delays throughout the project. Single-lane closures will be allowed for up to two miles at a time on Laurel Creek Road and half a mile on Townsend Entrance Road and Tremont Road. 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. Contractors may elect to work during the evening and nighttime hours as needed. To better accommodate traffic during periods of heavy visitation, there will no lane closures on weekends, or holidays.

For more information about road conditions, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/temproadclose.htm



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

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Rainbow Falls Trail Project Resumes on April 16th

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that the second phase of a 2-year trail rehabilitation project will begin Monday, April 16 on the popular Rainbow Falls Trail. The trail will be closed April 16 through November 15 on Monday mornings at 7:00 a.m. through Thursday evenings at 5:30 p.m. weekly. Due to the construction process on the narrow trail, a full closure is necessary for the safety of both the crew and visitors. The trail will be fully open each week on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and on federal holidays.

“I encourage everyone to hike the trail this season on the open days to see the transformation taking place first hand,” said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “It is truly inspiring to see the craftsmanship our Trails Forever crew brings into the design of trail improvements. The rehabilitated sections are not only more sustainable and safer for hikers, but they also blend naturally into the landscape.”

The Trails Forever crew will continue to focus rehabilitation efforts on several targeted locations along the 6-mile trail to improve visitor safety and stabilize eroding trail sections. Rainbow Falls Trail is one of the most popular trails in the park leading hikers to Rainbow Falls and Mt. Le Conte. The planned work will improve overall trail safety and protect natural resources by reducing trail braiding and improving drainage to prevent further erosion.

Hikers can still reach Mt. Le Conte, LeConte Lodge, and the Le Conte Shelter by using one of the other four open trails to the summit including Alum Cave Trail, Boulevard Trail, Trillium Gap Trail, and the Brushy Mountain Trail. The Mt. LeConte Lodge will remain open and can be accessed from any of these routes during the Rainbow Falls Trail closure. The Bullhead Trail remains closed due to the 2016 wildfire.

The Mt. Le Conte backcountry shelter will be closed to the public for eight, 7-night periods beginning July 18 through October 24 to accommodate members of the American Conservation Experience trail crew working on the rehabilitation project. For more information on the shelter closure, please contact the Backcountry Office at 865-436-1297.

Trails Forever is a partnership program between Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Friends of the Smokies. The Friends have donated over $1,500,000 to support the program, in part through the generosity of the Knoxville based Aslan Foundation. The Trails Forever program provides the opportunity for a highly skilled trail crew to focus reconstruction efforts on high use and high priority trails in the park including the recently restored Alum Cave Trail, Chimney Tops Trail, and Forney Ridge Trail. The program also provides a mechanism for volunteers to work alongside the trail crew on these complex trail projects to assist in making lasting improvements to preserve the trails for future generations.

For more information about you can volunteer to support the Trails Forever program, please visit https://friendsofthesmokies.org/trailsforever/volunteer/.



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

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Intro to Backpacking Courses to Help Prepare Appalachian Trail Hikers

Aspiring Appalachian Trail (A.T.) hikers now have an opportunity to hone their backcountry skills by participating in “How to Hike the A.T.” backpacking courses. Developed by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), these courses are designed to enhance participants’ understanding of important backpacking practices and lead to a lifelong love of hiking.

Designed for novice hikers, each course will cost $375 and include all meals and snacks. Participating hikers will be taught by expert ATC staff members and former thru-hikers, exploring important topics such as gear selection, choosing and setting up campsites, and Leave No Trace backcountry principles. Participants will gain first-hand experience in sleeping, cooking, packing efficiently and other important backpacking skills. Course graduates should leave as competent, responsible hikers and have an increased confidence to prepare for future hiking adventures.

“These courses will help aspiring thru-hikers move one step closer to achieving their dream of hiking the Appalachian Trail while gaining a new sense of appreciation for the A.T. as a public resource, as well as the work that goes into managing it,” said ChloĆ« de Camara, course instructor and trail education specialist for the ATC.

Each course is an intensive three-day, two-night backpacking trip — rain, snow or shine. Courses will be held once monthly at the following locations:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – June 8-10
Pisgah National Forest – July 27-29
Nantahala National Forest – August 17-19
Great Smoky Mountains National Park – September 14-16
Pisgah National Forest – October 5-7

To submit your application and view additional information, including course agendas and gear lists, visit appalachiantrail.org/HikingCourses.



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

Monday, April 2, 2018

Pisgah Ranger District seeks public input on proposed recreation project

The Pisgah National Forest will be holding an open house on Tuesday, April 10 from 5-7 p.m. at the Pisgah Ranger Station to discuss a proposed project to increase the sustainability of recreation.

"The project is not intended to address all possible improvements on the Pisgah Ranger District, but includes timely projects that consider the social, ecological, and economic elements of sustainable recreation," said Dave Casey, District Ranger. "This includes construction of connector trails, re-routing trails, trail head modifications, change of authorized trail use, select roadside campsite closures, watershed improvements, road decommissioning, and heavy trail maintenance." The proposed changes to the trail system fit within the larger trail system goals below:

Reduce erosion and sedimentation associated with trails
Reduce trail user conflicts
Create beginner trail user and loop opportunities
Maintain clean/safe trails
Increase education about responsible trail use
Increase support of and recruitment of volunteers and partnerships

Public input will help to evaluate the proposed actions and identify potential issues. Comments for the project can be submitted by attending the open house on April 10 or by submitting them online at https://cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public/CommentInput?project=53329

Comments can also be submitted by visiting the Pisgah Ranger Station from 9:00 am-4:30 pm or mailed to Pisgah Ranger District, USDA Forest Service, Attn: Jeff Owenby, 1600 Pisgah Highway, Pisgah Forest, NC. Comments will become part of the project record and may be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

To be most useful, please submit comments within the official 30-day scoping period which ends April 27.

More details on the project can be found on the project website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=53329



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

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

2018 Season Opening Schedule For Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced plans to open Clingmans Dome Road this weekend beginning Saturday, March 31. At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the park and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi. Park visitors can enjoy views from the parking area or climb the steep, half-mile walk to the observation tower to the summit of Clingmans Dome which offers spectacular 360° views of the Smokies. Visitors may also receive information and trip planning advice at the Clingmans Dome Information Center which includes a bookstore managed by Great Smoky Mountains Association.

The road will continue to be monitored for hazardous conditions and could be closed due to inclement weather. For the most up to date information on road closures, visitors should follow SmokiesRoadsNPS on Twitter.

Campgrounds, picnic areas, roads, and concession operations are opening across the park for the 2018 season. See the full opening schedule listed below:

Roads – Forge Creek Road opened on March 10; Clingmans Dome Road and Round Bottom/Straight Fork Road will open on March 31; Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Rich Mountain Road, and Little Greenbrier Road will open on April 7; and Balsam Mountain Road and Heintooga Ridge Road will open on May 26. Cades Cove Loop Road will be closed for bicycle use only on Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10:00 a.m. from May 9 through September 26. Due to road damage and hazard trees, Parson Branch Road will remain closed in 2018.

Campgrounds open on a staggered schedule that started on March 9. See the chart below for exact dates. Camping fees range from $17.50 to $27 per site per night. The park’s developed campgrounds at Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain, Big Creek, Cataloochee, Elkmont, Cades Cove, Smokemont, and some sites at Cosby are on the reservation system through Recreaction.gov for at least a portion of their seasons. Recreation.gov provides visitors an opportunity to make reservations to many federally-managed recreation areas, including National Park Service areas, across the country. The system allows campers to reserve specific campsites and to make reservations 6 months in advance. Group campsites and picnic pavilions can be reserved up to 12 months in advance. Visitors can make reservations at the five campgrounds, all group campsites, horse camps, and picnic shelters by booking sites online at Recreation.gov or by calling 877-444-6777.

Advance reservations are required at Abrams Creek, Balsam Mountain, Big Creek, and Cataloochee Campgrounds throughout their entire seasons. Reservations are recommended at Cades Cove, Elkmont, and Smokemont for the period from May 15 through October 31. During the rest of the open season, these three campgrounds are first-come, first-serve. At these three campgrounds, campers also have an opportunity to reserve a generator-free campsite. Cosby Campground, which has mostly first-come, first-serve campsites, has a limited number of reservable sites.

Group Camping is available at the following seven campgrounds by reservation only through Recreation.gov: Big Creek, Cataloochee, Cosby, Deep Creek, Elkmont, Cades Cove, and Smokemont. See the following schedule for exact dates. The cost for group camps ranges from $30 to $75 per site per night.

Horse Camps are available by reservation only through Recreation.gov at Anthony Creek, Big Creek, Round Bottom, Tow String and Cataloochee See the following schedule for exact dates. The horse campsite fees are $23 at all horse camps except for Big Creek, where it is $29.

LeConte Lodge, accessible only by trail, opened on March 19. Reservations are required and can be made by calling 865-429-5704, fax 865-774-0045, or email at reservations@lecontelodge.com. One night at the lodge costs $148 per adult and $85 for children 4-12 (tax not included). Children 3 and under are free. The price includes two meals–dinner and breakfast. Day hikers and backpackers can purchase a prepared bag lunch and snacks/beverages at the lodge.

Operating Hours for Backcountry Office – The Backcountry Office located at the Sugarlands Visitor Center, near Gatlinburg, TN, is open every day from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Backcountry reservations and permits can also be obtained online at smokiespermits.nps.gov or by calling 865-436-1297.

To see the full list of all spring opening dates, please click here.



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

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Smokies Recruits Trail Volunteers

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced several volunteer workdays beginning April 5 through April 28 along heavily-used trails and nature loops as the park prepares for the busy summer season. These opportunities are ideal for people interested in learning more about the park and the trails program through hands-on service alongside experienced park staff.

Volunteers will help clear limbs and debris that have fallen over the winter months along with helping repair eroded trail sections. Workdays will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in North Carolina on April 5, April 7, and April 19 and in Tennessee on April 12, April 21, and April 28. Prior registration is required.

Please contact Trails and Facilities Volunteer Coordinator Adam Monroe at 828-497-1949 or adam_monroe@nps.gov for workday details and to register. Interested volunteers can also contact Monroe to learn about additional volunteer opportunities throughout the year including the ‘Adopt-a-Trail’ program and the Trails Forever ‘Working Wednesdays’ opportunities on Rainbow Falls Trail beginning April 25 through August 29. These opportunities are perfect for those with busy schedules who would like to volunteer once a month.

For the April trail workdays, volunteers must be able to safely hike while carrying tools up to 4 miles per day and be prepared to perform strenuous, manual labor. After receiving proper training, participants will be expected to safely use hand tools such as shovels, rakes, loppers, and hand picks. Minimum age of participants is 16. Those under 18 must be accompanied by a responsible parent or guardian.

Volunteers will need to wear boots or sturdy closed toed shoes, long pants and appropriate layers for cold and inclement weather. Volunteers should bring a day pack with food, water, rain gear and any other personal gear for the day. The park will provide instruction, necessary safety gear, and tools for the day.

For more information about the volunteering in the park, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/getinvolved/volunteer.htm.



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

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Blue Ridge Parkway Recruiting Volunteers for Spring Campground Clean-up

The National Park Service is excited to announce Project Parkway - Campground Cleanup on Saturday, April 21, 2018. The goal of this first-of-its-kind event is to rally Parkway lovers, volunteers, partners and staff to prepare all 8 of the Parkway's campgrounds for the May opening during a single morning of dedicated service in celebration of National Park Week. This single-day volunteer project will help complete much needed work across the park and is ideal for people interested in learning more about the park through hands-on service.

Each location will provide tasks appropriate for a wide range of ages including students, scout troops, civic organizations, visitors, families, and retirees. Projects may be anything from leaf blowing and limb clearing to painting or basic trail work. Volunteer projects will begin at 9 a.m. and last until noon at most locations. Each project will be followed by lunch with staff provided by the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation and Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

“It is support in the form of partnerships and donations of time by those who love the Parkway that make projects like this one possible,” said park Superintendent J.D. Lee. “ We are excited to meet new Parkway enthusiasts and proud to have the support of Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation on this special day.” Tools and safety gear, including gloves and high visibility safety vests, will be provided on site.

If you are interested in participating please contact Project Manager, Natalie Lester, at 828-348-3419 or BLRI_Volunteers@nps.gov by April 6, 2018.



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

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Smokies Recruits Volunteers for Oconaluftee Area

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is recruiting volunteers to assist park visitors by roving the Oconaluftee River Trail, Mountain Farm Museum, and fields along Newfound Gap Road near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Volunteers are needed from mid-April through mid-November and typically work one, four-hour shift per week.

Volunteers will provide information to visitors about park regulations that best protect wildlife including proper waste disposal and safe wildlife viewing distances. When elk are present in the fields, volunteers assist Park Rangers with traffic management to provide for visitor and wildlife safety. In addition, volunteers provide information about cultural resources found at the Mountain Farm Museum and natural resources along the Oconaluftee River Trail.

All interested volunteers are required to attend a training session on Tuesday, April 3 from 10:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at the Oconaluftee Multi-Purpose Room near the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Volunteers should bring a bag lunch to the training.

To register for training or for more information, contact Kathleen Stuart at 828-497-1914 or kathleen_stuart@nps.gov. For more information on elk, please visit the park’s website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/elk.htm.



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

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Get on the Trail with Friends & Missy this Spring

Spring is right around the corner and that means wildflowers! Friends of the Smokies hopes that you will join them and Olympian Missy Kane as they hit the trails this April to catch some of the Smokies best blooms.

April 4 | Chimney Tops - Difficult, 3.5 miles

April 11 | Deep Creek and Indian Creek Waterfall Loop - Moderate, 6.5 miles

April 18 | Turkey Pen Ridge to Schoolhouse Gap - Moderate, 7.2 miles

April 25 | Little River Trail - Moderate 8.5 miles

Cost for each hike is $20 per person. A complimentary Friends membership is provided with registration of the entire series.

To prepare for the hikes, Friends of the Smokies suggest doing an aerobic workout 3-4 days/week on a regular basis. Bring day pack, water, snacks, hiking poles, rain gear, appropriate shoes & medications.

Space on the hikes is limited. You must pre-register by calling 865-541-4500. Please call to cancel if you can't make a hike as they do have a waiting list. Also, don't forget about the Friends of the Smokies Classic Hike Series!



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

Friday, March 9, 2018

Park Recruits Volunteers for Mingus Mill

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is recruiting volunteers to provide informational tours of the historic Mingus Mill. The mill is located one half mile north of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, North Carolina. Volunteers will help educate visitors about the general role of milling in the Smokies including the unique turbine wheel at Mingus Mill.

Mingus Mill, built in 1886, offers visitors a unique look into the inner workings of a mill that custom ground everything from corn to wheat or rye. The intricacy of the turbine-driven mill provided local patrons with custom ground cornmeal or flour in a fraction of the time needed by other types of mills.

Volunteers will work alongside Great Smoky Mountains Association employees. Each volunteer is asked to work at least one, four-hour shift per week from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. during the peak visitation season from April through the November. Interested persons will be provided orientation and training before beginning at the mill.

New volunteers are required to attend training on Friday, March 23, 2018 from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm. The training will be held at the Oconaluftee Administration Building near Cherokee, NC. A lunch break will be in the schedule. Please plan to bring a bag lunch.

If interested in this exciting volunteer opportunity please call to reserve a space for training. For questions or to receive more information, please contact Park Resource Education Ranger Florie Takaki by phone at 828-497-1906 or by email at florie_takaki@nps.gov.



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

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Smokies Announces Paving Project between Townsend and Cades Cove

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that a paving project will begin the week of March 12 on Laurel Creek Road, Townsend Entrance Road, and Tremont Road. The project should be completed by June 15, though work schedules are subject to revision as needed for inclement weather.

Visitors traveling to Cades Cove should expect weekday, single-lane closures and traffic delays throughout the project. Single-lane closures will be allowed for up to two miles at a time on Laurel Creek Road and half a mile on Townsend Entrance Road and Tremont Road. 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. Contractors may elect to work during the evening and nighttime hours as needed. To better accommodate traffic during periods of heavy visitation, there will no lane closures on weekends, holidays, or the time period from March 26 through April 6.

The Federal Highway Administration awarded the $2.5 million paving contract to Bryant’s Land and Development. Roadwork will include the application of a thin pavement overlay along with patching, crack sealing, new signage, and pavement markings.

For more information about road conditions, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/temproadclose.htm



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

Monday, March 5, 2018

National Park System Sees More Than 330 Million Visits

The National Park Service (NPS) today announced 330,882,751 recreation visits in 2017 – almost identical to the record-setting 330,971,689 recreation visits in 2016. While numbers were steady, visitors actually spent more time in parks during their 2017 visits compared to 2016.

Increased attendance at parks, 1.5 billion visits in the last five years, also means aging park facilities are incurring further wear and tear. President Trump has proposed legislation to establish a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund that would help address the $11.6 billion maintenance backlog in the National Park System. The fund would take new revenue from federal energy leasing and development and provide up to $18 billion to help pay for repairs and improvements in national parks, national wildlife refuges and Bureau of Indian Education funded schools.

“Our National Parks are being loved to death," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. "As visitor rates continue at a high level, we must prioritize much-needed deferred maintenance including aging facilities, roads and other critical infrastructure. President Trump's proposal to establish a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund is a step in the right direction. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, this is an American issue, and the President and I remain ready to work with anyone in Congress who is willing to get the job done.”

National Park System 2017 visitation highlights include:

• More than 1.44 billion recreation hours in 2017, an increase of 19 million hours over 2016

• Most – 385 of 417 parks in the National Park System – count park visitors

• 61 of the 385 reporting parks set new visitation records (about 16 percent of reporting parks)

• 42 parks broke a record they set in 2016

• 3 parks had more than 10 million recreation visits – Blue Ridge Parkway, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park

• 10 parks had more than 5 million recreation visits

• 81 parks had more than 1 million recreation visits – one more million-visitor park than 2016

• Half of national park visitation occurred in 27 parks

• The total solar eclipse last August brought visitors in record numbers to several parks


Top 10 Visitation National Parks: Recreation Visits (Deferred Maintenance Amount)

1) Great Smoky Mountains National Park: 11,388,893 ($215,451,902)

2) Grand Canyon National Park: 6,254,238 ($329,437,054)

3) Zion National Park: 4,504,812 ($65,291,893)

4) Rocky Mountain National Park: 4,437,215 ($84,234,245)

5) Yosemite National Park: 4,336,890 ($582,670,827)

6) Yellowstone National Park: 4,116,524 ($515,808,707)

7) Acadia National Park: 3,509,271 ($59,858,099)

8) Olympic National Park: 3,401,996 ($120,719,515)

9) Grand Teton National Park: 3,317,000 ($178,630,525)

10) Glacier National Park : 3,305,512 ($153,838,276)



Jeff
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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Volunteers Needed to Staff Clingmans Dome Information Center

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is recruiting volunteers to help provide visitor information at Clingmans Dome. The information center sits at 6,300 feet in elevation providing a unique opportunity for park volunteers to assist in educating visitors about high-elevation spruce-fir forests, while also providing recreational, trip planning, and directional information.

The information center, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps, originally served as a comfort station, but was converted into a seasonal information center in 2010. The center also includes a bookstore area managed by the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA) offering visitors the opportunity to purchase guides and maps, outdoor apparel, and other GSMA products. Volunteers will work alongside GSMA employees. Each volunteer is asked to work one four-hour shift per week from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. April 1 through November 30, 2018.

At this time, there are openings for new volunteers on each day of the week except Thursday. New volunteers must attend two orientation sessions focusing on resource interpretation and working with the public. At each training, guest speakers will share unique biological and historical information to help volunteers learn more about the Clingmans Dome area.

The first training session will be held at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center training room near Cherokee, NC on March 16 from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. The second training session will be held at the Sugarlands Visitor Center training room near Gatlinburg, TN on Friday, March 30 from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Volunteers must RVSP for training sessions and bring a lunch.

To sign up for this volunteer program or receive more information, please contact Park Resource Education Ranger Florie Takaki by phone at 828-497-1906 or by email at florie_takaki@nps.gov.



Jeff
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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Park Completes Clean Energy Project in Cades Cove

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced the completion of a solar energy project at Cades Cove that will annually reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 23 tons and reduce fuel costs by $14,000. Formerly, the park used a diesel-fuel generator for power at the site which often caused noise disruptions to park programs and the visitor experience to the historic landscape.

“This is a great step in making our park operations more environmentally friendly,” said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The solar panels will provide a great, natural source of energy for the Cable Mill Area that enables us to provide a better visitor experience and to be better stewards of the park.”

The newly installed solar array includes 80 panels that provide a silent energy source to serve the small visitor center, bookstore, and restroom facility in the Cable Mill area. The panels are located behind the restroom in an area that receives maximum exposure from both morning and afternoon sun. A low berm planted with native vegetation was created around the array to minimize the visual intrusion on the historic landscape and the area’s natural beauty.

Cades Cove receives approximately 2 million visitors per year. Many of these visitors stop at the Cable Mill area to visit the exhibit of historic structures assembled there. Given its remote location at the west end of Cades Cove, the Cable Mill area is off the commercial power grid and all power must be generated on site.

The Southeast Region of the National Park Service provided the funding for this project. The work was completed by Solar Power Integrators, a veteran-owned company. For more information on sustainable projects across the National Park Service, please visit https://www.nps.gov/subjects/sustainability/be-energy-smart.htm.



Jeff
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Friday, February 23, 2018

Public Invited to Learn About 2018 Blue Ridge Parkway Happenings

The National Park Service invites the public to attend the 2018 Blue Ridge Parkway Season Preview, a showcase of upcoming Parkway activities and projects. The event takes place on Wednesday, February 28, 2018, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Folk Art Center, Milepost 382, on the Parkway. Parkway staff will provide a “behind the scenes” look into projects and operations to promote awareness and understanding among Parkway communities, neighbors and visitors of the National Park Service’s stewardship mission.

The event will highlight over 20 initiatives organized into information stations. Park staff will be available at each station to answer questions and discuss projects such as restoration of historic facilities including Manor House and Bluffs Coffee Shop, upcoming pavement preservation projects, vista management, resource education initiatives, and more.

“We’re excited to welcome park neighbors, visitors, and all those who love this place, to spend time learning about how our management decisions today translate into projects that protect our resources and enhance visitor experiences for years to come,” said J.D. Lee, incoming Parkway Superintendent. “This is the first event of its kind for us, and we see it as an important outreach opportunity and model for building meaningful relationships with park stewards.”

Representatives from Parkway partner groups including the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway and other non-profits who support the Parkway will also be on hand to discuss the roles each group plays and how to get involved in this work.

The Blue Ridge Parkway’s mission, as one of over 400 units of the National Park Service, is to protect a vast array of natural and cultural resources across the park while at the same time providing opportunities for education, enjoyment and inspiration for this and future generations. In order to maintain and manage these resources, numerous projects are identified and implemented each year across the 469-mile Parkway. The February 28 event invites the public to share in this stewardship mission.

2018 Blue Ridge Parkway Season Preview
When: 4-7 p.m., Wednesday, February 28
Where: Folk Art Center, Milepost 382 – Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville



Jeff
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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Landslide Leads to Emergency Closure of Big Creek River Access and Picnic Area in Big South Fork

Effective immediately, a landslide caused by recent heavy rains has resulted in an emergency closure of the access route to Big Creek boat launch and picnic area to all public and unauthorized traffic.

This closure is conducted in the interest of public safety and to ensure park staff are able to concentrate completely on making necessary repairs.

The closure to the area is temporary and expected to reopen for public use Saturday, February 24, 2018.



Jeff
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Appalachian Trail Landscape Conservation Boosted by $3 Million Grant

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) has received a significant donation from The Volgenau Foundation to work with communities toward the protection of lands, waters and unique cultural features of the most important landscape east of the Mississippi, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.) and its surrounding lands.

“The Volgenau Foundation has established leadership in recognizing the vital and timely need to make certain that the Appalachian Trail, one of America’s great icons, and surrounding lands are preserved for generations to come,” said Suzanne Dixon, president and CEO of the ATC.

The Foundation's investment will support the A.T. Landscape Partnership, a dedicated coalition of local, state and federal partners led by the ATC and the National Park Service. This coalition works to educate and engage Appalachian communities to protect a high quality of life and to support recreation-based rural economies.

Noted for being one of the longest footpaths in the world, the A.T. extends 2,191 miles along the crest of the Appalachian Mountain Range through 14 states from Maine to Georgia. The natural, historic and cultural resources of the Trail corridor and adjacent lands are essential to millions of residents in the eastern United States. These landscapes are important for sustaining clean water and air, maintaining wildlife migration patterns and preserving our country’s cultural and historic resources.

More than half of America’s population resides within a day’s drive of some part of the A.T. and visitors travel from around the world to experience a hike through the Appalachian Mountains. Hundreds of communities along the Trail benefit from strong and healthy recreation-driven travel, with more than 3 million people visiting the A.T. every year.

The Volgenau Foundation was launched in 1994 to pursue greater protection for natural resources, better education opportunities for children and greater exposure to the arts.



Jeff
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Monday, February 19, 2018

USDA Secretary Announces Infrastructure Improvements for Forest System Trails

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced the selection of 15 priority areas to help address the more than $300 million trail maintenance backlog on national forests and grasslands.

Focused trail work in these areas, bolstered by partners and volunteers, is expected to help address needed infrastructure work so that trails managed by USDA Forest Service can be accessed and safely enjoyed by a wide variety of trails enthusiasts. About 25 percent of agency trails fit those standards while the condition of other trails lag behind.

“Our nation’s trails are a vital part of the American landscape and rural economies, and these priority areas are a major first step in USDA’s on-the-ground responsibility to make trails better and safer,” Secretary Perdue said. “The trail maintenance backlog was years in the making with a combination of factors contributing to the problem, including an outdated funding mechanism that routinely borrows money from programs, such as trails, to combat ongoing wildfires.

“This borrowing from within the agency interferes with other vital work, including ensuring that our more than 158,000 miles of well-loved trails provide access to public lands, do not harm natural resources, and, most importantly, provide safe passage for our users.”

This year the nation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the National Trails Systems Act which established America’s system of national scenic, historic, and recreation trails. A year focused on trails presents a pivotal opportunity for the Forest Service and partners to lead a shift toward a system of sustainable trails that are maintained through even broader shared stewardship.

The priority areas focus on trails that meet the requirements of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act of 2016, which calls for the designation of up to 15 high priority areas where a lack of maintenance has led to reduced access to public land; increased risk of harm to natural resources; public safety hazards; impassable trails; or increased future trail maintenance costs. The act also requires the Forest Service to “significantly increase the role of volunteers and partners in trail maintenance” and to aim to double trail maintenance accomplished by volunteers and partners.

Shared stewardship to achieve on-the-ground results has long been core to Forest Service’s approach to trail maintenance, as demonstrated by partner groups such as the Pacific Crest Trail Association and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Each year, more than 84 million people get outside to explore, exercise and play on trails across national forests and grasslands and visits to these places help to generate 143,000 jobs annually through the recreation economy and more than $9 million in visitor spending.

The 15 national trail maintenance priority areas encompass large areas of land and each have committed partners to help get the work accomplished. The areas are:

Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and Adjacent Lands, Montana: The area includes the Bob Marshall, Scapegoat, and Great Bear Wilderness Areas and most of the Hungry Horse, Glacier View, and Swan Lake Ranger Districts on the Flathead National Forest in northwest Montana on both sides of the Continental Divide. There are more than 3,200 miles of trails within the area, including about 1,700 wilderness miles.

• Methow Valley Ranger District, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, Washington: Methow Valley is a rural recreation-based community surrounded by more than 1.3 million acres of managed by the Forest Service. The area includes trails through the Pasayten and Lake Chelan-Sawtooth Wilderness Areas and more than 130 miles of National Pacific Crest and Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trails.

• Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and Eagle Cap Wilderness, Idaho and Oregon: This area includes more than 1,200 miles of trail and the deepest river canyon in North America as well as the remote alpine terrain of the Seven Devil’s mountain range. The area also has 350,000 acres in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, the largest in Oregon.

• Central Idaho Wilderness Complex, Idaho and Montana: The area includes about 9,600 miles of trails through the Frank Church River of No Return; Gospel Hump; most of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness areas; portions of the Payette, Salmon-Challis, Nez Perce and Clearwater national forests; and most of the surrounding lands. The trails inside and outside of wilderness form a network of routes that give access into some of the most remote country in the Lower 48.

• Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico: The trail’s 3,100 continuous miles follows the spine of the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada, including more than 1,900 miles of trails across 20 national forests. The trail runs a diverse route with some sections in designated wilderness areas and others running through towns, providing those communities with the opportunity to boost the local economy with tourism dollars.

• Wyoming Forest Gateway Communities: Nearly 1,000 miles of trail stretch across the almost 10 million acres of agency-managed lands in Wyoming, which include six national forests and one national grassland. The contribution to the state’s outdoor recreation economy is therefore extremely important in the state.

• Northern California Wilderness, Marble Mountain and Trinity Alps: There are more than 700 miles of trails through these wilderness areas, which are characterized by very steep mountain terrain in fire-dependent ecosystems that are subject to heavy winter rainfall and/or snow. As such, they are subject to threat from flooding, washout, landslide and other erosion type events which, combined with wildfires, wash out trails and obstruct passage.

• Angeles National Forest, California: The area, which includes nearly 1,000 miles of trails, is immediately adjacent to the greater Los Angeles area where 15 million people live within 90 minutes and more than 3 million visit. Many of those visitors are young people from disadvantaged communities without local parks.

• Greater Prescott Trail System, Arizona: This 300-mile system of trails is a demonstration of work between the Forest Service and multiple partners. The system is integrated with all public lands at the federal, state and local level to generate a community-based trail system.

• Sedona Red Rock Ranger District Trail System, Coconino National Forest, Arizona: About 400 miles of trail provide a wide diversity of experiences with year-round trail opportunities, including world-class mountain biking in cooler months and streamside hiking in the heat of the summer.

Colorado Fourteeners: Each year, hundreds of thousands of hikers trek along over 200 miles of trail to access Colorado’s mountains that are higher than 14,000 feet. The Forest Service manages 48 of the 54 fourteeners, as they are commonly called.

• Superior National Forest, Minnesota: The more than 2,300 miles of trail on this forest have faced many catastrophic events, including large fires and a major wind storm downed millions of trees in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in 1999. A similar storm in 2016 reached winds up to 85 mph and toppled trees on several thousand acres and made the western 13 miles of Kekekabic Trail impassible.

• White Mountain National Forest Partner Complex, Maine and New Hampshire: Approximately 600 miles of non-motorized trails are maintained by partners. Another 600 miles of motorized snowmobile trails are adopted and maintained by several clubs. Much of that work centers on providing safe public access to the mountain and valleys of New Hampshire and Maine.

• Southern Appalachians Capacity Enhancement Model, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia: The more than 6,300 miles of trails in this sub region include some of the most heavily used trails in the country yet only 28 percent meet or exceed agency standards. The work required to bring these trails to standard will require every tool available from partner and volunteer skills to contracts with professional trail builders.

• Iditarod National Historic Trail Southern Trek, Alaska: In southcentral Alaska, the Southern Trek is in close proximity to more than half the state’s population and connects with one of the most heavily traveled highways in the state. The Chugach National Forest and partners are restoring and developing more than 180 miles of the trail system, connecting the communities of Seward, Moose Pass, Whittier, and Girdwood.



Jeff
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Sunday, February 18, 2018

15th Annual Evergreen Ball raises thousands for Great Smoky Mountains

Friends of the Smokies gathered for the 15th annual Evergreen Ball at Cherokee Country Club on Saturday, January 27th to celebrate Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) in grand style. This year’s black-tie gala has raised more than $700,000 for the park’s annual needs.

The fundraiser featured a silent auction, wine auction, and live auction with more than 500 items, including one-of-a-kind experiences and vacation packages to HGTV’s Dream Home in Gig Harbor, Washington and the Grand Canyon. The evening’s program was emceed by WBIR anchors Abby Ham and John Becker, and included welcome messages by board chairman Rev. Dr. Dan Matthews and GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash. The evening also featured live music from The Music City Toppers.

Money raised from the event will also help to support education, conservation, historic preservation and wildlife protection programs in GSMNP. This special event also kicked off celebrations of Friends of the Smokies’ 25th anniversary. The organization has raised more than $60 million in support of GSMNP since it was founded in 1993.

“We are so thankful to the many people who have helped support the Friends of the Smokes over the last 25 years with gifts of donations, time, and service,” added GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash. “We know we can count on their generous support to protect this park for generations to come.”

A portion of the proceeds raised at the 2018 Evergreen Ball will go towards Friends of the Smokies’ 25th anniversary signature project – a campaign to replace the Park’s emergency radio system. The fundraising goal of $1.25 million will be matched by federal funding and grants for a total of $2.5 million needed to replace the aging communication system.

“We are humbled again by the tremendous support we receive from our friends in East Tennessee and beyond,” added Friends of the Smokies president Jim Hart. “Many of the important projects being done in the Smokies would not be possible without this overwhelming generosity, so we give heartfelt thanks to our guests and sponsors.”

The 2018 Evergreen Ball was presented by Scripps Networks Interactive and the Travel Channel and was sponsored by Boyd’s Jig & Reel, The Charlie and Moll Anderson Family Foundation, Citizens National Bank, Clayton Homes, Haslam Family Foundation, Jim and Natalie Haslam, Home Federal Bank, Pilot Travel Centers, SmartBank, Toyota of Knoxville, Charles Blalock & Sons, Inc., Pete & Cindi DeBusk, Dollywood, LeConte Lodge, Martin & Company, Nisus Corporation, Paine Bickers LLP, The William B. Stokely, Jr. Foundation, Regal Entertainment Group, with special underwriting from Connor Concepts, Shafer Insurance, Pugh CPAs, All Occasions Party Rentals, Stowers Machinery Corporation, EST8TE, Ullrich Printing, Mortgage Investors Group, The Trust Company, Beverage Control, Inc., Harper Auto Square, and Sugarland Cellars



Jeff
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Thursday, February 15, 2018

President Trump’s proposed $2.7 Billion Budget for NPS includes legislation to address $11.6 Billion in deferred maintenance

President Donald J. Trump has proposed a $2.7 billion budget for the National Park Service (NPS) in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019, which includes legislation to establish a Public Lands Infrastructure Fund that would help address the $11.6 billion maintenance backlog in the National Park System. The fund would take new revenue from federal energy leasing and development and provide up to $18 billion to help pay for repairs and improvements in national parks, national wildlife refuges and Bureau of Indian Education funded schools.

"President Trump is absolutely right to call for a robust infrastructure plan that rebuilds our national parks, refuges, and Indian schools, and I look forward to helping him deliver on that historic mission," said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. "Our Parks and Refuges are being loved to death, but the real heart break is the condition of the schools in Indian Country. We can and must do better for these young scholars. This is not a republican or democrat issue, this is an American issue, and the President and I are ready to work with absolutely anyone in Congress who is willing to get the work done."

"This budget reflects President Trump’s call for a robust infrastructure plan that rebuilds our national parks and public lands to ensure they may be enjoyed by future generations of Americans,” said National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith. “Focusing on addressing the maintenance backlog now is critical to our core mission of preserving our parks and the world-class experience our visitors expect. The infrastructure proposals included in this budget offer innovative solutions to restoring our parks while fulfilling our duty to curb spending and in some cases make tough but necessary decisions to save tax dollars on other programs.”

Infrastructure – The National Park Service estimates that in FY 2017 there was more than $11.6 billion in backlogged maintenance and repair needs for the more than 5,500 miles of paved roads, 17,000 miles of trails and 24,000 buildings that service national park visitors. In 2017 330 million people visited the 417 NPS sites across the country. The NPS retired over $650 million in maintenance and repair work in FY 2017, but aging facilities, increased visitation, and resource constraints have kept the maintenance backlog between $11 billion and $12 billion since 2010.

In addition to the proposed Public Lands Infrastructure Fund proposal, the President’s budget provides $241 million to fund construction projects, equipment replacement, project planning and management, and special projects. This includes $157 million for specific line-item construction projects like reconstructing an unsafe cave trail at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky and replacing the roof of the Eielson Visitor Center at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

The budget provides $99 million for repair and rehabilitation projects to address the deferred maintenance backlog as well as $113 million for cyclical maintenance projects to ensure maintenance is done in a timely manner and does not become “deferred” in the first place.

These discretionary fund sources are critical to help address the deferred maintenance backlog in the National Park System. Additionally, the recreation fee program allows the NPS to collect recreation fees at selected parks to improve visitor services and enhance the visitor experience. In 2017, NPS leveraged $107 million in recreation fees to address priority maintenance projects to improve the visitor experience. The budget includes a legislative proposal to permanently authorize the recreation fee program.

Park Operations – The FY 2019 NPS budget requests $2.4 billion for park operations, which includes $900,000 for NPS’s role in the Department of the Interior’s reorganization to common regional boundaries to improve service and efficiency.

State Assistance – The budget proposes a continued shift from discretionary funding to mandatory funding from oil and gas leases for state conservation grants. These grants provide funding to states to acquire open spaces and natural areas for outdoor recreation and access purposes, and develop outdoor recreation facilities. Permanent funding for these grants in 2019 is estimated to be $89 million.

NPS's FY 2019 Budget Justification is available here, and additional details on the President's FY 2019 Budget proposal are available on the Department of the Interior’s website.



Jeff
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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Smokies Recruits ‘Adopt-a-Plot’ Volunteers

Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers are recruiting volunteers to adopt a monitoring plot in areas throughout the park. In an effort to track nature’s calendar, or phenology, volunteers will collect information as part of an important research project tracking seasonal biological data such as plant flowering dates and the presence of migratory birds.

Previous experience is not necessary but an interest in science and love for nature are characteristics of a successful volunteer. A 3-hour training workshop is provided and will include topics like tree identification techniques, stages of tree change throughout the year, fruit and flower identification, and phenology data collection protocols. Volunteers must attend one of these training opportunities which will be held at Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, TN on Saturday, February 24 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and at Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, NC on Saturday, March 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Plots are available for adoption near parking areas at several locations in the park. Volunteers will monitor their adopted plot at least two times per month from the first leaf bud in spring to the final leaf drop in fall. The Adopt-a-Plot project helps us better understand how changing weather patterns affect our diverse ecosystem and the seasonal timing of wildflower blooms and fall color.

If you are interested in this exciting volunteer opportunity, please contact Jessica Stump at jessica_stump@partner.nps.gov or 828-497-1945 to register for the training. For more information about phenology research efforts across the country visit the National Phenology Network at https://www.usanpn.org/.



Jeff
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Sunday, February 11, 2018

North Carolina State Parks Report Record 19.4 million visitors in 2017

State parks and recreation areas welcomed 19.4 million visitors in 2017, a 3.4 percent increase over the 18.8 million who came during 2016. It was the fourth consecutive year of record visitation.

Among 39 state parks and recreation areas, 27 reported increases in visitation in 2017. Jockeys Ridge State Park in Dare County reported the greatest visitation at 1.56 million, and was among six state park units logging more than a million visitors. The others were Fort Macon and William B. Umstead State Parks and Falls Lake, Jordan Lake and Kerr Lake State Recreation Areas. Six other state park units had more than 750,000 visitors including Lake Norman State Park, which crept closer to a million this year with more than 962,000 visitors.

North Carolina State Parks strive to focus on the quality of each visit above the quantity, according to Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Susi H. Hamilton.

“We are pleased North Carolinians and visitors to our state continue to love, enjoy and experience our parks,” Hamilton said. “In 2017 we also acquired 2,075 additional acres. The acquired lands will be added to eight state parks, four state natural areas and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.”

Visitation at state parks and state recreation areas has increased more than 44 percent during the last decade. In 2007, 13.5 million people visited a state park unit—6 million fewer than last year.

Following the system’s Centennial year in 2016, North Carolina State Parks engaged visitors with its Passport and 100-Mile Challenge programs, which promote a healthy, active lifestyle through goal-setting and accountability.

Parks officials attribute the continued increase in visitation to new trails, improvements in parks and greater public awareness brought on by a more aggressive social media effort. The uptick in enjoyment of the parks further confirms the wisdom of including State Parks in the Connect NC Bond initiative approved by voters in March 2016. Using those funds, the Division of Parks and Recreation will add new campgrounds, visitor centers, and additional conveniences to parks, as well as acquiring new lands across the state.

State parks reporting significant increases in visitation included Medoc Mountain State Park in Halifax County (40 percent), Eno River State Park in Orange County (31 percent), Carolina Beach State Park in New Hanover County (21 percent), Haw River State Park in Guilford and Rockingham Counties (19 percent) and Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Dare County (19 percent).



Jeff
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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Iconic Linn Cove Viaduct to Receive Facelift during Upcoming Closure

The National Park Service announces the closure of the Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway for surface repaving and bridge maintenance from March 1, 2018 through May 24, 2018. These projects require a full closure of the Parkway, including closure of the trail below the bridge; with the reopening coinciding with Memorial Day weekend. The Linn Cove Viaduct is located at Milepost 304.

A traffic detour will be put in place from Milepost 298.6 (Holloway Mountain Rd) to Milepost 305.1 (US 221). Gates will be located at MP 303.6, Wilson Creek Overlook on the north and MP 305.1, US 221 on the south end of the work zone. Within the closed area, including the trail areas beneath the viaduct, the Parkway will be closed to all uses including motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. The public’s cooperation with these closures will provide for the most efficient work schedule and will ensure the safety of staff and visitors.

During the closure, crews will remove and replace the asphalt pavement, waterproofing membrane and joints on the bridge. Repairs to the supporting structure, stone curb, railing and drainage features will also be made.

The Linn Cove Viaduct was completed in the mid-1980s, and is commonly known as the “missing link” that signaled the completion of the entire 469-mile Parkway route. The Linn Cove Viaduct is often celebrated as an engineering marvel with the road wrapping around the contours of Grandfather Mountain. It is 1243 feet long, contains 153 segments weighing 50 tons each, and is supported by seven permanent piers.

The Blue Ridge Parkway inventory of paved roads includes bridges, tunnels, parking areas, spur roads, service roads, campground and picnic area roads, and the 469-mile Parkway motor route itself. Across the Parkway, many of these areas exceed recommended life cycles for pavement and are in need of repairs estimated to total over $300 million. Funding for road maintenance on the Parkway comes in large part from the Highway Trust Fund, which is derived from a federal fuel tax. The Blue Ridge Parkway annually identifies projects and competes for these funds to repair and maintain park roads.

For more information about the Linn Cove Viaduct: http://go.nps.gov/linncove



Jeff
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Injured Black Bear Released Back Into Park

On December 04, 2017 a juvenile black bear, which was seriously injured by a motor vehicle four months prior, was returned to Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Due to the release of the bear in a remote area of the park, during evening hours, this activity was not open to the public.

On August 18, park visitors reported an injured bear on the road, near Bandy Creek Visitor Center. Upon reaching the site, National Park Service (NPS) staff found the injured six-month-old bear. A subsequent check confirmed that the bear had several broken bones, but no fatal injuries from a motor vehicle collision.

NPS staff anesthetized, then transported the cub to University of Tennessee for examination and surgery. The bear was transferred to a rehabilitation facility, and was cared for with minimal human contact, where it gained over 100 pounds. When released, the young bear was healthy and had completely healed from its injuries.

"Although this accident ended on a high note, vehicular collisions with wildlife often do not. This event serves as a cautionary reminder to motorists to be alert for the presence of wildlife on or along the roadways, especially during the low light conditions between dusk and dawn," said Superintendent Niki Stephanie Nicholas.



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

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Big South Fork NRRA Reveals New All-inclusive GO BIG 2018 Challenge

Get up and get moving in 2018! Join in the fun and participate in Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area’s new all-inclusive GO BIG 2018 Challenge. This year-long self-paced challenge was designed to encourage ALL visitors to explore and experience Big South Fork while maintaining a healthy lifestyle, reducing stress, and being physically active.

Until December 8, participants will earn points on the honor system by answering questions about the nature and history of the park that will require exploration in search of site-specific information. Points will also be given for miles hiked, biked, paddled, or equestrian-ridden. All participants who earn at least 100 points are eligible for the GO BIG 2018 Challenge patch that was specially designed for this event.

For more information, and to download the challenge booklet, please click here. You can also pick up the booklet at Bandy Creek Visitor Center. The challenge booklet is broken up into five different challenge categories. Pick and choose the challenges that are right for you or choose to do them all!

The challenge will wrap up on December 8 at 10 AM (ET) with a GO BIG celebration. All visitors that participate in the challenge and are present will be recognized for their accomplishments and considered for an award in various categories.

For more information, please call Bandy Creek Visitor Center at (423) 286-7275.



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

Monday, February 5, 2018

Trails Forever Nominated for Public Lands Award - They Need Your Help!

The Trails Forever program, a $5 million+ endowment that funds a full-time trail crew in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, has just been nominated for an Outstanding Public Engagement award. However, they need your vote to actually win the award!

Voting for the award is open to the public (18+) until February 28, when the winners will be announced at the Public Lands Alliance awards ceremony. You will need to provide your email address or login via Facebook to vote (one vote per email address).

Simply click here to cast your vote today, then forward this blog to your friends and family to help spread the word!



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

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Friends of the Smokies Kicks Off 8th Annual Classic Hike Series

Hike to help your national park this year through Friends of the Smokies’ eighth annual Classic Hikes of the Smokies series. Monthly guided day hikes of varying length and difficulty raise money for the Trails Forever endowment to help maintain the nearly 900 miles of trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Mountain vistas, historic structures, wildflowers, and waterfalls are just a few of the highlights participants can expect, as well as the opportunity to see up close the impact of the restoration work done by the Trails Forever crew.

The first Classic Hike of 2018 is Tuesday, March 13th at the Deep Creek area of the park near Bryson City. The hike is an easy 5.5-mile loop and includes stops at three waterfalls. Gracia Slater, two-time member of the Smokies 900-mile club and dedicated trail caretaker, will lead.

“When Friends of the Smokies asked me to lead a hike in Smokemont in April 2011, I could not imagine that the program would turn out to be so varied or successful.

We’ve led hikers from all over the South and even as far away as a visitor from New Zealand. Just as amazing, we’re still designing new hikes and experiences for walkers and supporters who come back year after year,” says Danny Bernstein, founder of the Classic Hikes of the Smokies Series and hiking expert and author.

An all-inclusive overnight in Townsend, Tennessee will provide the chance to experience Cades Cove on June 11-12th. Participants will choose from three guided hikes in this special and highly popular part of the park. More details and registration for this special fundraiser will be available mid-February.

Other hikes in the series include Ramsey Cascades, Albright Grove Loop, Chimney Tops and Kephart Prong, among others.

To learn more or register for any Classic Hike visit Hike.FriendsOfTheSmokies.org. Individual hikes are $20 for current Friends of the Smokies members and $35 for new and renewing members. Hikers interested in registering for the full nine-hike series (excluding the overnight experience) can mail a check before March 1 to Friends of the Smokies, PO Box 3179, Asheville, NC 28802 for the discounted series registration rate of $160. The Classic Hikes of the Smokies series is sponsored by Smoky Mountain Living, Mission Health, Diamond Brand Outdoors, Equilibar, HomeTrust Bank, Smoky Park Supper Club, and Leap Frog Tours.



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