by Julie Dodd
Supporters of Great Smoky Mountains National Park kicked off the holiday season with gifts totaling $17,424 for Giving Tuesday.
“This was an incredible show of support for our beloved park,” said Sarah Herron, Director of Marketing and Communications. “Funds raised for Giving Tuesday were purely gifts from individuals – no matching gifts, no corporate sponsors – just people who love and appreciate the park.”
Giving Tuesday is a worldwide celebration of generosity, powered by social media. #GivingTuesday is recognized every year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and encourages individuals to donate to nonprofit organizations.
Friends of the Smokies celebrated #GivingTuesday by unveiling 22 projects they hope to fund in 2022, and challenged supporters to make a gift of $22 or more. You can still make your #GivingTuesday donation online or mail a check.
Check out the complete list of 22 Park Programs & Projects revealed on #GivingTuesday.
Here are five highlights:
Look Rock Campground Site Improvements
Look Rock Campground improvements are slated to be completed in 2022, enabling the reopening of this campground nestled along the Foothills Parkway. These funds will provide 45 new picnic tables and 10 new ADA accessible fire rings to complete the renovations and ensure that the campground provides a welcoming experience for all users.
Mules and horses provide the labor to deliver supplies in the backcountry for trail rehabilitation projects. Funds will allow the purchase of one horse and two mules. Read about the bridge on the Alum Cave Trail that was transported from the trailhead by mules.
Parson Branch Road Reopening
Parson Branch Road is a rustic road that leads out of Cades Cove and ends at US 129, a.k.a. “The Dragon.” Parson Branch Road has been closed for five years due to a high concentration of more than 1,700 standing dead hemlocks along a mile-section of roadway. During a recent assessment, park managers determined that the number of hazards along the roadway had diminished due to a significant number of trees naturally falling. These funds support the safe removal of the remaining hazardous trees, which will enable the park to safely reopen the unique gravel roadway.
African American Experience in the Smokies
The African American Experience in the Smokies project is in the fourth year with the goal of adding the stories of African Americans to the stories of the early white settlers and Cherokees who lived in the area. The funds support research into the historic presence and influence of African Americans in the southern Appalachians from the 1540s through today. Through this work, we will complete research briefs for staff and the public, conduct new oral histories, and facilitate public outreach events — from virtual town halls to in-person cultural festivals.
Cades Cove Vehicle-Free Parking Trail
As part of the popular Vehicle-Free Day access to Cades Cove, the park hardened a field near the beginning of the Cades Cove Loop Road for additional parking. This new area provides access for up to 80 vehicles, allowing more people to experience the special opportunity of cycling or walking the Loop. These funds support the construction of a path from the parking lot directly to the Loop Road so that bicycles and pedestrians do not have to navigate the busy Campground Road area for access to the vehicle-free area.
A BIG YEAR IN 2022
Herron said 70 special projects and programs are on the ‘2022 Park Needs List,’ which will be available online in the coming weeks.
“The 2022 list of needs the park has submitted to Friends is a testament to how hard park staff are working to give visitors the best experience possible while preserving and protecting the historical and natural resources of the Smokies. Giving Tuesday was an opportunity to showcase the park staff’s great work as they prepare for a big year in 2022.”