Trails Forever Program Facilitates High-Priority Trail Improvements at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Trails Forever program needs volunteers. Friends of the Smokies photo.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been able to increase the size of its trail crews this year, thanks to donations from Friends of the Smokies and the ASLAN Foundation of Knoxville under the banner of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Trails Forever program. The program is currently funded by a $2 million endowment, but the Friends hope to reach the $4 million mark in time for the park’s 75th Anniversary celebration in 2009.

The Friends point out that the Endowment serves an important purpose:

The annual proceeds from the Endowment will be used to fund an annual trails improvement program which will undertake high-priority trail projects throughout the Park. Examples are major trail reconstruction and relocation of trails, building trails elevated on logs – i.e. “turnpiking” to carry them across wetlands, or installing new foot-logs and bridges across streams.

The work would be accomplished by a dedicated workforce, in coordination with the Park’s existing Tennessee and North Carolina Trail Maintenance Crews who continue to conduct the recurring routine maintenance tasks needed to keep trails from deteriorating. The Trails Forever Crew will be created each season from a combination of paid trail seasonal workers, volunteers, Student Conservation Association Crews and others, with the composition of the workforce to vary each year depending upon the type and complexity of the projects selected.

On Monday the park announced that additional volunteers are needed for a current Trails Forever project, the rebuilding of the Ramsey Cascades and Forney Ridge Trails. The volunteers must be “energetic” and willing to work with the park's two trail crews throughout the mountains. “We are interested in hearing from people who enjoy being in the outdoors and love visiting the Great Smoky Mountains, and want to contribute to improving the park,” said Superintendent Dale Ditmanson.

For additional information, visit the Trails Forever site. If you would like to help rebuild the Ramsey Cascades and Forney Ridge Trails, or perhaps work on future trails projects, contact Jeremy Sweat at (865) 436-1711.