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Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Partners Develop Program To Strengthen Connections With Surrounding Community



For many national parks, their best partners are their neighbors in surrounding communities. With that in mind, the folks at Great Smoky Mountains National Park are working with Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountain Association to strengthen connections with leaders in surrounding communities.

The three partners have created a program -- Experience Your Smokies -- to help local civic, business, and educational leaders get a better understanding of the park and its staff while networking with others from western North Carolina.

"If you have ever wanted to be a park ranger or get a behind the scenes look at what goes on in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this is your opportunity," said Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. "Our surrounding communities and their leaders are very important to us, and this program gives us a chance to make more meaningful connections with our neighbors and for them to do the same with us."

Those selected to participate in the program  will attend two half-day and three full-day sessions at a variety of locations in Great Smoky, accompanying park employees in activities that might include radio-tracking elk, excavating archeological sites, and monitoring salamander populations.

"This is a perfect way to get an insider's look at park operations as we explore areas like Cataloochee Valley, Deep Creek, Oconaluftee, Clingmans Dome, and Purchase Knob," park officials said, in a release.

Assisting in planning for the program are representatives of Smoky Mountain Hosts, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, the Swain County Chamber of Commerce, the Town of Waynesville and others.

"Western North Carolina and the people of this region have such a deep and long connection with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park," said Waynesville Town Manager Lee Galloway. "This program is intended to give participants an inside look at the day to day operation of the Park and a better understanding of this wonderful asset we have in our region."

Experience Your Smokies is seeking diverse applicants from the surrounding communities for a program this spring. Program dates are: Tuesday March 13th and 27th, April 17th, May 1st and Saturday May 19th. Class size is limited to 25 participants. Those attending will be asked to commit to attending all class days.

Applications will be accepted between now and February 15. Please visit or call 929-452-0720 for an application.


I would suspect GSM is one park that has the worst relationship with the locals because of hunting bans. Anyone have local knowledge on that? Does the NPS address hunting in these outreach programs?

This is lipstick on a pig of discontent.  Another example of Supt Ditmanson kissing the rear ends of big business while screwing the actual park user groups through proposed fees.  Friends is nothing more than a Ditmanson love society.  Real locals despise this superintendent but he cares naught.  It's money that drives this park, corporate money.

That is what the National Forests are for. I've never heard of a National Park allowing hunting. There has got to be somewhere that is a sanctuary for wildlife. The park is surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of Nat Forest Game Lands. Is that not enough?

Seth, sport hunting is permitted in many National Park System units, including the 18 National Preserves, and with certain exceptions, the National Seashores, National Lakeshores, and National Recreation Areas. (This is not an all-inclusive listing.) Carefully regulated public hunts for are even conducted for culling purposes in some of the 58 National Park-designated units, including Grand Teton National Park and Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The point here is not that hunting is widespread in the nearly 400 national parks.  I'm simply pointing out that it is not banned on a systemwide basis.

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