On Saturday, September 24, Great Smoky Mountains National Park will celebrate National Public Lands Day by hosting several volunteer projects in a unified effort with many public lands across the country. National Public Lands Day is the nation's largest hands-on volunteer effort to improve and enhance the public lands that Americans enjoy. Those interested in participating at the Smokies will have a chance sign up for either a trail rehabilitation or a native meadows restoration project.
The Trails Forever program - a partnership between the national park and Friends of the Smokies - will be hosting a Forney Ridge Trail project. Adult volunteers (18 years old or older) can work with the park trail crew to reconstruct a section of this popular trail. The work will include collecting, moving, breaking and setting rock as well as naturalizing some sections where work as already been completed. To RSVP to participate in this opportunity or for more information, contact Trails & Facilities Volunteer Coordinator, Christine Hoyer at 828/497-1949 or by email.
Park resource managers are recruiting for volunteers to help restore native meadows in Cades Cove. Remnant stands of our native Indian Grass remain scattered throughout the Cove. Volunteers can help the park collect seed from this native grass that provides outstanding wildlife cover and nourishment for a variety of wildlife including ground nesting birds, small mammals, turkeys, and deer. To RSVP to participate in this opportunity or for more information, contact Volunteer Coordinator, Dana Soehn at 865/436-1265 or by email.
Also occurring on the same day, the long-time B&W Y-12 Help to the Smokies Volunteer Team plans to participate by working at the popular Chimney's Picnic Area to improve a majority of the picnic sites with replacement of new and improved stand up grills. Over the years, these grills have developed rusted holes and corroded walls due to the extreme weathering conditions at the 3,000 foot elevation site. The volunteer crew will install 68 new grills with a cement foundation anchored in gravel picnic pads. These pads were also rebuilt with the help of B&W Y-12 during previous rehabilitation of the Chimney's Picnic Area. This year, B&W Y-12 is celebrating its 15 year partnership with the Park in providing annual volunteer support and corporate funding to accomplish visitor facility improvements.
In addition, several volunteers trained in the teaching of Leave No Trace principals will be stationed at popular visitor areas at Clingmans Dome, Sugarlands Visitor Center, and Oconaluftee Visitor Center. They will reach out to the public to discuss and promote responsible recreational practices. The Smokies' Leave No Trace program strives to educate all those who enjoy the outdoors about the nature of their recreational impacts as well as techniques to prevent and minimize such impacts that are created by combined effects of millions of outdoor enthusiasts.