I first really understood what goes on behind the scenes in the Great Smoky Mountains national park (GSMNP) as a member of media. Past the press releases, events and hoopla, in my research I saw what it took to educate the public, protect the cultural and natural resources and make the park a place where more than 9 million visitors a years are drawn too.
Working as a volunteer in the park in various programs, I see firsthand how Friends of the Smokies has responded to the needs of the park, forever positively influencing its resources and visitors. For example, I volunteer in the parks Elk restoration program. The all electric vehicle I drive along with the elk would not be here without the Friends.
Less obvious to any visitor, but crucial to science, is the GSMNP’s All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) project where scientists with the help of citizen volunteers such as myself, have found more than 7,101 new species previously not known to be in the Park, and 910 species new to mankind.
This ATBI project could not have happened without the years of support offered from Friends of the Smokies. Scientists will be forever grateful for what has been found as a result of this program.
Hike on a trail that has been, or is being restored, visit the cabin in Little Cataloochee that was vandalized and completely rebuilt, marvel and learn from the displays in the new visitor center in Oconaluftee, fish in a stream that has had its native brook trout restored – it is all because of the Friends of the Smokies and those that support this great organization.
The park service cannot do what needs to be done alone, and it is only going to get worse. Every day more species are disappearing from the park even before we can find them, historic buildings need bats removed along with other restoration work performed in order to protect them for future generations, and through public education, a visitor experience will improve as well as resource protection. With the Friends support, this can be done.
I know at anytime that the great staff at the Friends is just a phone call or email away.
I can’t imagine my life without the Great Smoky Mountains national park, nor can I imagine the park without Friends of the Smokies. It just wouldn’t be the same.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
In my volunteer work in the park, as a very involved park visitor, as a citizen living in the vicinity and a journalist who covers the park and issues that impact the park.
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
Have the Cades Cove Loop Lupe a yearly fundraising event. I would be glad to help as a volunteer again every year as well!
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What is unique about this organization?
A great staff that gets things done
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