More than 32,000 drivers in Tennessee and North Carolina are giving back this holiday season with Friends of the Smokies specialty license plates.
Sales of full-color specialty license plates in Tennessee and North Carolina support critical projects in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Projects supported by the license plate fees include Student Conservation Association internship positions as well as Parks as Classrooms and Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner programs in both states.
License plate sales in Tennessee and North Carolina generated more than $805,000 in 2015. Since the program launched in 1999, specialty license plates have raised more than $12.5 million in support of America’s most-visited national park.
Friends of the Smokies specialty license plates can be purchased for $30 in North Carolina and $35 in Tennessee, independent of plate expiration date. Plates may be purchased at North Carolina tag offices, Tennessee County Clerk offices and online at www.FriendsOfTheSmokies.org.
These contributions help fund multiple projects in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including support for seasonal environmental internship positions through the Student Conservation Association. Student interns gain a deeper understanding of park ecology while conducting scientific research, assisting with resource management projects, and eradicating non-native plants and pests.
Through the Parks as Classrooms program, approximately 18,000 students from Tennessee and North Carolina visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park each year for ranger-led curriculum-based environmental education. By utilizing the national park as a science classroom, students develop an appreciation for the natural and cultural resources in subject areas including math and science.
Over the past 15 years, the Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner program works to protect resources and enhance the hiking experience along the Appalachian Trail within the national park. Ridgerunners educate backpackers and day hikers, clear trail debris, help report emergencies, and pack out litter along more than 70 miles of the Appalachian Trail in the park.