The National Park Service is turning 99 years old on August 25, 2015 and Great Smoky Mountains National Park invites you to join the party! Park visitors are encouraged to participate in one of the many ranger-led programs at park visitor centers or enjoy exploring the park along a scenic roadway, trail, or river.
“We invite everyone to join us in celebrating the founding of the National Park Service as we head into our second century of service,” said Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The NPS Centennial provides us an opportunity to reflect, but more importantly, to inspire the next generation to cherish and care for America’s treasures like the Smokies.”
On Tuesday, August 25 at 11:30 a.m., the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Council will present a birthday cake to Superintendent Cash at Park Headquarters to honor the occasion.
“Together we recognize and value the natural, historical and cultural significance of our park. As importantly, we want to express our most sincere appreciation to the individuals who keep these assets and treasures safe today and will continue to do so in the future,” said Leon Downey, chairman of the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Council representing Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Sevier County.
In preparation for next year’s big centennial celebration, the National Park Service is inviting everyone to Find Your Park. To encourage people to discover everything a park experience can be, the National Park Service has posted a fun list of ideas at http://findyourpark.com/nps99 (99 ways to Find Your Park).
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great place to try several suggestions on the list. On Tuesdays, visitors can try # 35, Be Bear Aware, by joining park rangers at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center for a bear program at 2 p.m. or they can try #50, Immerse Yourself in a Living History Program, by going back in time to discover what it was like to live in a mountain community and go to school in a one-room schoolhouse at Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse near Metcalf Bottoms at 11 a.m. or 2 p.m. Visitors can share their park experiences with others by posting on social media with the hashtag #FindYourPark.
On August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed legislation to create the National Park Service. Today, there are 408 national parks throughout the country and each one tells an important part of the American story. Some commemorate notable people and achievements, others conserve magnificent landscapes and natural wonders, and all provide a place to have fun and learn.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934 preserving a wealth of natural and cultural resources along with over 385 miles of scenic roads, 800 miles of trails, 2,900 miles of streams, and 522,427 acres of mountains with 16 peaks exceeding 6,000 feet in elevation. Last year, more than 10.1 million park visitors enjoyed the park and added $806 million to the local economy and supported 12,759 area jobs.
The mission of the National Park Service also extends beyond park boundaries. Community partnerships help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. To see what is happening in North Carolina and Tennessee, go to www.nps.gov/NC or www.nps.gov/TN.
While Great Smoky Mountains National Park has no entrance fees, park officials invite visitors to enjoy not only the Smokies, but also National Park units across the country that will waive entrance fees on August 25 in honor of the founding of the National Park Service.
For more information about things to do in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/things2do.htm.