The giving spirit is visible on the roads across Tennessee and North Carolina this holiday season with Friends of the Smokies license plates. Sales of specialty plates in Tennessee and North Carolina play an essential role in raising funds for Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This year, the specialty plates generated nearly $815,000. Since its launch in 1999, the program has raised more than $13.3 million in support of America’s most-visited national park.
Drivers sporting the plates contribute to a range of park projects and programs like restoration and preservation of historic places, defense of at-risk species like the ash tree, and many more.
Protecting historic places and preserving the park’s irreplaceable cultural resources is made possible by the specialty plate program. This year, the historic preservation staff is working to repair the chimneys and fireplaces of six structures, which includes relaying loose stones, removing and replacing failed mortar, and using historically accurate methods and materials.
Emerald Ash Borer, a non-native wood boring beetles, threatens both of the national park’s species of ash trees. Funds raised through the specialty license plate program support systemic treatment of ash trees in developed areas, like campgrounds, picnics, and parking areas. The program contributes to both the ecological health of the park and the safety of visitors by mitigating hazardous tree dangers resulting from damage by the invasive species.
Tennessee drivers could see a change to Friends of the Smokies license plate in the near future. The public is invited to vote on a potential new plate for Tennessee from designs created by Kristin Designs of Knoxville. Voting is open through the end of the year online at www.FriendsOfTheSmokies.org.
“We are really excited at the prospect of a new design for Tennessee plates,” said Brent McDaniel, marketing director at Friends of the Smokies. “As the most popular plate out of more than 100 to choose from, we want to do as much as possible to support our park and keep that top spot.”
Friends of the Smokies 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.