For many national parks, their best partners are their neighbors in surrounding communities. With that in mind, the folks at Great Smoky Mountains National Park are working with Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountain Association to strengthen connections with leaders in surrounding communities.
The three partners have created a program -- Experience Your Smokies -- to help local civic, business, and educational leaders get a better understanding of the park and its staff while networking with others from western North Carolina.
"If you have ever wanted to be a park ranger or get a behind the scenes look at what goes on in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this is your opportunity," said Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. "Our surrounding communities and their leaders are very important to us, and this program gives us a chance to make more meaningful connections with our neighbors and for them to do the same with us."
Those selected to participate in the program will attend two half-day and three full-day sessions at a variety of locations in Great Smoky, accompanying park employees in activities that might include radio-tracking elk, excavating archeological sites, and monitoring salamander populations.
"This is a perfect way to get an insider's look at park operations as we explore areas like Cataloochee Valley, Deep Creek, Oconaluftee, Clingmans Dome, and Purchase Knob," park officials said, in a release.
Assisting in planning for the program are representatives of Smoky Mountain Hosts, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, the Swain County Chamber of Commerce, the Town of Waynesville and others.
"Western North Carolina and the people of this region have such a deep and long connection with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park," said Waynesville Town Manager Lee Galloway. "This program is intended to give participants an inside look at the day to day operation of the Park and a better understanding of this wonderful asset we have in our region."
Experience Your Smokies is seeking diverse applicants from the surrounding communities for a program this spring. Program dates are: Tuesday March 13th and 27th, April 17th, May 1st and Saturday May 19th. Class size is limited to 25 participants. Those attending will be asked to commit to attending all class days.
Applications will be accepted between now and February 15. Please visit www.friendsofthesmokies.org/events.html or call 929-452-0720 for an application.