Friday, June 22, 2018

Celebrating Cosby: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are excited to announce the “Celebrating Cosby: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” community programs to be held every Friday starting June 22 through August 17 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Cosby Campground Amphitheater.

“We appreciate this opportunity to work so closely with the Cocke County Partnership and the Cosby community in offering such a great lineup of programs this summer,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash.

“Celebrating Cosby” will honor the rich cultural and natural history of the Cosby area. Join park staff and community members in celebrating Cosby through the programs and in discovering new opportunities to enjoy this section of the park. Programs topics will vary each week, including mountain music, moonshiners, storying telling, sunset and lantern hikes, farming and orchards, clogging, cooking, and more.

“We are so happy that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is bringing this program to our Cosby Campground,” said Cocke Country Partnership Tourist Director, Linda Lewanski. “We all know how talented our Cocke County folks are and we are delighted to be able to showcase them.”

The first program on June 22 will feature local banjo player, David McClary, who will play claw-hammered style banjo music. On June 29, Mark Ramsey, Digger Manes and Friends will share stories about the moonshining. The July and August schedules will be available at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. In the event of rain, “Celebrating Cosby” programs will move to the covered picnic pavilion adjacent to Cosby Campground. Programs will be held rain or shine. Visitors are welcome to find seating in the amphitheater or bring their own chairs or blankets.



Jeff
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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge Invites Public Comments on Appalachian Trail Reroute

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) is pleased to announce the release of the Environmental Assessment for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (the Trail) Reroute through the Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge (the Refuge). The Service plans to move a portion of the Trail from where it crosses the Wallkill River via Oil City Road in Orange County, New York, and relocate the Trail within the Refuge in Sussex County, New Jersey. The National Park Service is participating as a cooperating agency for this project. The agencies are soliciting comments beginning June 20 through July 20, 2018.

The purpose of the project is to provide Trail and Refuge visitors a safe and more aesthetically pleasing alternative for crossing the Wallkill River that is in keeping with the desired experience for those hiking the Trail. The length of the Trail proposed for realignment is approximately 1.3 miles (figure 1). This segment contains one of the longest sections of the Trail that co-aligns with a public roadway, Oil City Road, a two-lane road with little to no shoulder. As development in the surrounding area continues to increase, the number of cars on Oil City Road is likely to increase, causing additional safety concerns to hikers. Oil City Road and the Trail also currently experience floods and overland flow, which affects the safety and accessibility for trail and refuge visitors. Further, this road walk does not provide maximum outdoor recreation potential, one of the objectives for National Scenic Trails, as stated in the National Trails System Act (16 USC 1241-51).

Public participation is an important element of the planning process and we welcome your comments and ideas on the environmental assessment. The document can be viewed beginning June 20, 2018 by visiting the refuge website:

Please share your written comments no later than July 20, 2018 via one of the following methods:

Email comments to: chelsea_utter@fws.gov

Mail or hand-deliver comments to:

Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Attn: Appalachian Trail Reroute
1547 Route 565
Sussex, New Jersey 07461



Jeff
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Monday, June 18, 2018

Second man sentenced to prison for 2015 murder in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Following an interagency investigation by Special Agents with the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch (ISB), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Cherokee Indian Police Department, a second man will serve time in prison for his role in a 2015 homicide within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Johnathan Hill, age 25, was recently sentenced to 48 months incarceration followed by two years of supervised release.

Court documents show that on March 29, 2015, a 911 call alerted officers to a stabbing that had taken place inside Oconaluftee (Smokemont) Baptist Church inside the park. Paramedics found the deceased victim with multiple stab wounds. Records also show that Johnathan Hill, Forrest Dakota Hill (no relation), and the victim drove to the church together, and over the course of their visit, Forrest Hill stabbed the victim with a knife during an unprovoked attack, causing the victim’s death. Investigators determined that the victim was stabbed at least 16 times in the chest, back, neck and elsewhere. Court records list the cause of death as “internal hemorrhage due to multiple stab wounds.”

Following the fatal stabbing, Johnathan Hill and Forrest Hill drove away from the church. Along the way to the home of Johnathan Hill’s relatives, he threw the knife handle believed to have been used in the attack out the car window. After arriving at the relatives’ home, both men burned the clothes they wore during the stabbing.

Forrest Hill pleaded guilty to second degree murder in April 2016 and was sentenced to more than 16 years imprisonment. Johnathan Hill pleaded guilty at a separate court hearing in December 2017 to a charge of accessory after the fact to second degree murder; his sentence was handed down in June 2018. The case was prosecuted by the US Attorney’s Office and adjudicated by the US District Court, both for the Western District of North Carolina.



Jeff
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Monday, June 11, 2018

Smokies Hosts Women’s Work Event 6/16

Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host the annual Women’s Work Event at the Mountain Farm Museum on Saturday, June 16 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. This event honors the vast contributions made by the women of Southern Appalachia. Park staff and volunteers will showcase mountain lifeways and customs that women practiced to care for their families in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

As part of the celebration, demonstrations among the historic buildings will include hearth cooking, soap making, cornshuck crafts, and use of plants for home remedies. Exhibits of artifacts and historic photographs will also provide a glimpse into the many and varied roles of rural women. The Davis-Queen house will be open for visitors to walk through with an audio exhibit featuring the last child born in the house. This event provides families with a chance not only to see into the past, but also participate, through hands-on activities of traditional southern Appalachia.

In addition to the Women’s Work Festival activities, visitors will also be treated to a music jam session on the porch of the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Music jam sessions are held every first and third Saturday of the month on the porch from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

All activities are free to the public. The Mountain Farm Museum is located on Newfound Gap Road adjacent to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, 2 miles north of Cherokee, North Carolina. For additional information call the visitor center at 828-497-1904.



Jeff
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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

#Hike4Hope to raise awareness and funds to end extreme poverty

Trey and Madison Cason, a young couple embarking on a journey to hike the Appalachian Trail, recently announced their intent to raise $219,000 for work to end extreme poverty through Global Hope Network International. Trey and Madison both gave notice to their employers, transitioning from well-paying professional positions, to become humanitarian aid workers this past month. To launch their career shift, the couple will begin hiking the trail from Maine on June 13th, which is expected to last until late fall 2018.

Madison shared, “Growing up with families who took us to different state parks to hike and camp, cultivated an appreciation for the outdoors and a love for nature. As a couple, we’ve been dreaming about hiking the Appalachian Trail for several years. We want to follow this dream while impacting the lives of those living in South Asia by offering a ‘hand-up’ not a ‘hand-out’.” When asked about personal comforts, Madison confessed, “While I officially get to put my record of not showering for six days to the test and Trey is excited to up his facial hair game from Duck Dynasty to Full Chewbacca!” This couple is serious!

Global Hope Network International (GHNI.org)

GHNI.org seeks to bring help and hope to the hidden and hurting through the empowerment of villagers seeking to end their own extreme poverty utilizing local resources and labor. With a small amount of donated funds ($12,000 to $18,000 annually), villages become self-sustaining in just five years. That’s only $60,000 to $90,000 total to bring an average of 1500 people out of extreme poverty!

Getting Involved

While Trey and Madison are excited to begin the journey, traveling with friends along the way and being encouraged along is an added benefit. Individuals can truly track progress and work to meet up with Trey and Madison along the way for short periods, hike locally near their home or even on their treadmill! Wherever you hike, get pictures and video and post them using #Hike4Hope. To join the fun financially, show your support by giving through Hike4Hope.Rocks or email daphne.keys@ghni.org to set up your own Hike4Hope donation page!

However, you participate, follow along the blog to learn how Trey and Madison process along their journey and if they run into any fun challenges! GHNI will be posting regularly at Hike4Hope.Rocks. Finally, you can check out this short message from Trey and Madison:





Jeff
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Monday, June 4, 2018

Smokies Service Days Return

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials are excited to announce that the popular “Smokies Service Days” volunteer program will resume this month. Park staff will lead service opportunities on Saturdays beginning June 9. Individuals and groups are invited to sign up for any of the scheduled service projects that interest them including unique opportunities to help care for park campgrounds, native plant gardens, and other natural and cultural resources within the park boundaries.

This volunteer program helps complete much needed work across the park and is ideal for those seeking to fulfill community service requirements, including high school and college students; scout troops; civic organizations; visitors; families; and working adults with busy schedules. Each project will provide tasks appropriate for a wide range of ages. Volunteer projects will begin at 9:00 a.m. and last until noon on Saturday mornings. In addition, each project will be followed by an optional enrichment adventure to immerse participants in the abundant natural and cultural resources of the park.

Tools and safety gear, including gloves and high visibility safety vests will be provided by park staff. Participants are required to wear closed-toe shoes and other Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as directed. Volunteers planning to stay for the optional enrichment activity must also bring a sack lunch.

Those interested in volunteering need to contact Project Coordinator, Logan Boldon, at 865-436-1278 or logan_boldon@partner.nps.gov prior to the scheduled event date to register. Space may be limited.

Current service opportunities include:

June 9: Campground Clean-Up at Elkmont
June 16: Campground Clean-Up at Smokemont
June 30: Gardening at Oconaluftee
July 7: Picnic Area & Campground Clean-Up at Deep Creek
July 21: Campground Clean-Up at Cosby



Jeff
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Thursday, May 31, 2018

Secretary Zinke Announces 19 New National Recreation Trails in 17 States

Continuing his work to expand recreational opportunities on public lands, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today designated 19 national recreation trails in 17 states, adding more than 370 miles to the national recreation trails system of more than 1,000 trails in all 50 states.

"By designating these new national trails, we acknowledge the efforts of local communities to provide outdoor recreational opportunities that can be enjoyed by everyone," said Secretary Zinke. "Our network of national trails provides easily accessible places to exercise and connect with nature in both urban and rural areas while boosting tourism and supporting economic opportunities across the country."

On Saturday, June 2, hundreds of organized activities are planned as part of National Trails Day, including hikes, educational programs, bike rides, trail rehabilitation projects, festivals, paddle trips, and trail dedications. Trails of the National Recreation Trails system range from less than a mile to 485 miles in length and have been designated on federal, state, municipal and privately owned lands.

"The network of national recreation trails offers expansive opportunities for Americans to explore the great outdoors," said National Park Service Deputy Director Dan Smith. "As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System, I hope everyone will take advantage of a nearby national trail to hike or bike."

While national scenic trails and national historic trails may only be designated by an act of Congress, national recreation trails may be designated by the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture in response to an application from the trail's managing agency or organization.

The National Recreation Trails Program is jointly administered by the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, in conjunction with a number of Federal and not-for-profit partners, notably American Trails, which hosts the National Recreation Trails website.

For more information on the newly designated trails, please click here.



Jeff
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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Clingmans Dome Tower Temporarily Closed June 4 through June 15

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials announced that the Clingmans Dome Observation Tower will be closed Monday, June 4 through Friday, June 15 to complete a rehabilitation project that began last year. Workers need to apply a final surface overlay along the tower ramp.

While visitors will not be able to climb the tower, the Clingmans Dome parking overlook area will remain open and offers outstanding mountain top views. The visitor contact station and store, the trail up to the tower, and all access to the trailheads in the vicinity will remain open. Visitors should expect some construction traffic in the vicinity of the contact station and along the trail.

Last year, contractors repaired deteriorated areas on the concrete columns and walls, stabilized support walls at the base of the ramp, and repaired stone masonry. This work has been made possible through funding received from a Partners in Preservation (PIP) grant. The $250,000 grant was awarded in 2016 to the Friends of the Smokies on behalf of the park after being one of the top nine, most voted for parks in the Partners in Preservation: National Parks Campaign.

Straddling the North Carolina and Tennessee state line at 6,643 feet, the tower is a prominent landmark and destination as the highest point in the park. The observation tower is a precedent-setting design of the National Park Service’s Mission 66 program, which transformed park planning, management, and architecture and fundamentally altered the visitor experience in national parks. Since 1959, millions of visitors have climbed the tower, where they can see distances of up to 100 miles over the surrounding mountains and valleys. Some minimal preservation work today on the tower will ensure that visitors continue to experience this unique structure spiraling up from the highest point in the park.

For more information about the Clingmans Dome Tower, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/clingmansdome.htm.

About Partners in Preservation: Partners in Preservation is a program in which American Express, in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, awards preservation grants to historic places across the country. Since 2006, Partners in Preservation, a community-based partnership, has committed $16 million in preservation funding to nearly 200 diverse sites in eight different cities across the country.

Through this partnership, American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation seek to increase the public’s awareness of the importance of historic preservation in the United States and to preserve America’s historic and cultural places. The program also hopes to inspire long-term support from local citizens for the historic places at the heart of their communities.



Jeff
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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Parkway Extends Linn Cove Viaduct Closure

Blue Ridge Parkway officials announced today the continued closure of the Linn Cove Viaduct, at Milepost 304, due to continued and heavy rainfall in the area. The final steps in completing an ongoing project at that location require a minimum of 48 hours of dry weather. Project managers will resume and complete the project as soon as conditions improve.

Heavy rainfall in the area has also closed the original detour route on a section of US 221 around the Viaduct due to a road washout. Variable message boards located on the Parkway at both the north and south approach of the Viaduct provide alternate route information using NC 105.

Visitors are encouraged to visit the Parkway’s website for real time road information and a map of the suggested route around the Viaduct.

Access to Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Price Park Campground, and the popular Beacon Heights, Rough Ridge and Boone Fork trail heads remains open. A section of the Tanawha Trail below the Viaduct remains closed.

The Linn Cove Viaduct closed in March of 2018 to undertake a comprehensive road maintenance project to remove and replace the asphalt pavement, waterproofing membrane and joints on the bridge and complete repairs to the supporting structure, stone curb, railing and drainage features.



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

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