Results of third quarter contributions from specialty license plate sales to the non-profit Friends of the Smokies have been announced by the State of Tennessee, and the good news couldn't have come at a better time. Revenue for organizations that assist the park was impacted by the recent government shutdown, so rising sales from vehicle tags will help with lost retail sales.
Third quarter contributions from the plates to the Friends group were $114,012, the highest quarter of the current year, bringing total Tennessee specialty plate income for 2013 to over $388,000. When a Friends of the Smokies specialty plate is either purchased or renewed by a Tennessee motorist, $31 of the $35 fee goes toward supporting Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) through the partner organization.
“Our East Tennessee communities were greatly impacted during the government shutdown, and GSMNP was not exempt from the strain. With the peak of fall leaf color, October is the Smokies’ busiest month. It goes without saying that contributions from specialty license plate sales matter now more than ever to help the Park recover from this difficult time, “ explains Friends of the Smokies President Jim Hart.
Group Supports a Wide Variety of Projects in the Park
According to the group's website, the Friends of The Smokies "provided $1,032,893 to fulfill its commitment to support Resource Management and Science, Resource Education, Facility Management, and Resource and Visitor Protection" activities in the park.
Specific projects funded by the group include protection and treatment of eastern hemlock trees, support for the Appalachian Bear Rescue Center , maintenance and replacement of bear cables at 120 backcountry sites and shelters, providing Student Conservation Association interns, Parks as Classrooms program expansion and curriculum revisions, preservation of historic log cabins and churches, and funding for volunteer programs such as the Volunteer Visitor Assistance and Elk Bugle Corps.
An ongoing effort by the organization is $4 million Trails Forever endowment, which is funding a third permanent trail maintenance work crew to perform major trail reconstruction projects on the park's 800+ miles of hiking trails. This year's work has included the second phase of the reconstruction of the popular Chimney Tops Trail.
Smokies Specialty Tags Available for Both Tennessee and North Carolina
According to a Friends of the Smokies spokesperson, "You can purchase a Friends of the Smokies specialty license plate now, even if your current plate is not expired. Go to your Tennessee County Clerk’s office or to this state website. If you already have a Friends specialty plate, please continue to renew your registration."
A similar program by the State of North Carolina offers specialty tags from that state, and those sales also benefit the park through the Friends group. You can learn more about the options from both states at this link.