Park celebrates Foothills Pkwy link

GSMNP -Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials recently hosted a celebration for the bridging of the Foothills Parkway’s ‘Missing Link.’ Lane Construction Company of Charlotte, NC recently completed a seven-year project to design and build five bridges at a cost of $48.5 million. This marks the first time that vehicles can travel the entire 16-mile section of the Foothills Parkway extending from Walland to Wears Valley, TN.

“We are excited to mark another milestone in the completion of this spectacular section of the Foothills Parkway,” said Acting Superintendent Clay Jordan. “With the missing link now bridged, we look forward to finishing the final paving and then opening the roadway to the public by the end of next year.”

Construction of the 16-mile section of Foothills Parkway began in 1966. Most of the roadway was completed by 1989 when the project came to a halt due to slope failures and erosion during construction of the last 1.65 miles – known as the ‘Missing Link.’ The engineering solution included the construction of nine bridges to connect the roadway in an environmentally sustainable manner. These last five bridges mark an important milestone by completing the ‘Missing Link.’ Since 1966, $178 million has been invested in this 16-mile section of the Foothills Parkway spanning parts of Blount and Sevier Counties. Photo: GSMNP.

“The Lane Construction Corporation is proud to have completed this complex signature project safely with significant support from the local community,” said Lane Construction Corporation District Manager Tom Meador. Since 2010, approximately 250 Lane Construction Corporation and subcontract team members have worked on the project.

Federal Highway Administration’s Eastern Federal Lands Division Engineer Melisa Ridenour and Lane Construction Corporation District Manager Tom Meador joined National Park Service representatives to commemorate this monumental achievement.

Lisa Brown receives Park award

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is pleased to announce the selection of Lisa Brown as the Park’s 2016 “Employee of the Year.” This marks the 33rd anniversary of an important partnership between the park and its neighboring communities which recognizes the outstanding work of park employees in all disciplines. A public event was held recently to make the award on the lawn at Park Headquarters near Gatlinburg, TN.

Employee of the Year, Lisa Brown, began her career at the Smokies 26 years ago as an administrative assistant with the Resource and Visitor Protection Division. Lisa is responsible for a wide variety of administrative processes. In 2016, Lisa processed over 480 special use permits for the public with great efficiency, outstanding customer service, and coordination with park staff to ensure park resources and visitor experiences were not negatively affected by special events. She also processed over 110 search and rescue report packets and oversaw the park wide monthly visitation statistics in addition to completing routine administrative tasks in a timely manner.

“To me, Lisa Brown sets the standard for all employees to strive to achieve,” said North Carolina District Ranger Joe Pond. “Lisa has a deep rooted love for the park, the local community and a strong vision for how we, as public servants, should be serving the public. She is a relentless, unwavering professional”.

Both park staff and visitors benefit greatly from the incredible amount of work that Lisa accomplishes. Lisa serves as a mentor to all her coworkers by sharing her years of institutional knowledge and offering a helping hand to anyone in need.

“Lisa’s positive attitude and exceptional work ethic is inspirational to say the least,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “She represents the National Park Service well and we are honored she calls the Smokies home.”

Evergreen Ball raises $725k for Park

KNOXVILLE, TN – Friends of the Smokies gathered for an evening of elegance at Cherokee Country Club to celebrate Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) and to raise more than $725,000 for the park’s annual needs at the 2017 Evergreen Ball.

The fundraiser featured a silent auction, wine auction, and live auction which included one-of-a-kind experiences and vacation packages to the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Andes Mountains of Argentina.

The recent fires in Gatlinburg weighed heavy on the heart of Rev. Dr. Matthews, a North Carolina native.

“Our brothers and sisters on this side of the mountains have been through so much this past year,” Matthews said. “Let’s come together tonight and show the world what Smokies Strong looks like.”

At the close of the evening’s live auction Sharon Miller Pryse, President and CEO of The Trust Company and Friends of the Smokies board member, announced a challenge gift of $30,000 to establish the Cades Cove Preservation Fund in recognition of The Trust Company’s 30th anniversary.

Generous donations by the guests in attendance exceeded this goal, for a total of more than $75,000 dedicated to the preservation of Cades Cove. Cades Cove is one of the most popular areas of America’s most-visited national park, claiming more than 2 million of GSMNP’s 11 million total visitors in 2016.

Friends of the Smokies has raised more than $55 million in support of GSMNP since the organization was founded in 1993.

“After a challenging season, it is heartwarming to see the outpouring of love and support for the Smokies shine through,” said Superintendent Cash. “We are so thankful for the support of Friends of the Smokies and all of you here tonight.”

2017 Evergreen Ball Co-Chairs Tim Chandler and Sam Curtis with their wives Katie Chandler and Jody Curtis. The evening’s program was emceed by WBIR anchors Robin Wilhoit and Russell Biven, and included welcome messages by Friends of the Smokies board chair Rev. Dr. Dan Matthews and GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash. Photo by Bob Franklin.

GSM National Park plays mountain music

GSMNP – Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host the twelfth annual “Music of the Mountains” celebration September 9-10, 2016. The event tells the story of music in the Southern Appalachians through its diverse history by letting visitors experience a variety of music that was played in the region or represents old-time music’s roots. Performances throughout the event tell the story of how mountain music grew out of traditional Celtic and religious roots to become something that would be played on front porches all over the Smokies.

“The music in these mountains tells such a wonderful story,” said Park Ranger Brad Free. “This event provides the opportunity to find the type of traditional music that you love and learn how the stories that the music tells connect it to this place and its people.”

The two-day event begins with a concert of Celtic music by Four Leaf Peat on Friday, September 9, 2016 at 7:00 p.m. at the Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center in Townsend, TN. General admission is $5.00. The event continues on Saturday, September 10 with a series of free performances supported by Public Radio Station WDVX (89.9 FM) in celebration of the National Park Service Centennial. Musicians will play on Park Headquarters lawn from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with music from Pappy Fisher, the John Myer’s Band, Red Shoes and Rosin, and more. WDVX will broadcast portions of the program live from Park Headquarters starting at 11:00 a.m.


The late afternoon performances by John Lilly, The Brother Boys, Dale Jett and Hello Stranger (pictured above), and Amythyst Kiah from 3:00 p.m to 5:00 p.m. will feature music from the recently released album, “On Top of Old Smoky: New Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music,” which was one of several National Park Service Centennial recognition projects produced by Great Smoky Mountains Association in honor of the 100 year anniversary. The traditional American music on the CD features artists of today recreating songs performed by Smoky Mountain residents at the time of the development of the national park.

The event will be held rain or shine, but performances may be moved to the adjacent Sugarlands Visitor Center theatre in case of inclement weather. Participants are encouraged to bring blankets or chairs for sitting on the lawn. Event parking and restrooms are provided at Sugarlands Visitor Center. Handicap parking is available at both Park Headquarters and Sugarlands Visitor Center.

Schedule of Events:

September 9 – Great Smoky Mountain Heritage Center in Townsend, TN
Admission: $ 5.00
7:00 p.m. – Celtic Music by Four Leaf Peat

September 10 – Park Headquarters Lawn adjacent to Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, TN
Admission is Free

10:00 a.m. Pappy Fisher
11:00 a.m. Red Shoes and Rosin
12:00 p.m. The Bearded
1:00 p.m. John Myer
3:00 p.m. John Lilly
3:30 p.m. The Brother Boys (Ed Snodderly and Eugene Wolf)
4:00 p.m. Dale Jett and Hello Stranger
4:30 p.m. Amythyst Kiah


Park and non-profit jointly awarded

GSMNP – Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA) were jointly awarded a prestigious national award during the recent Public Lands Alliance annual convention and trade show in Spokane, WA.

Superintendent Cash and Exec Dir Laurel Rematore

Park Superintendent Cassius Cash and GSMA Executive Director Laurel Rematore were recently awarded the Public Lands Partner Award which recognizes achievement to protect and preserve our country’s public lands. Photo submitted.

Judges placed special significance on GSMA and the park’s more recent effort in 2014 to open the Swain County Visitor Center in Bryson City, N.C., along with other partners including the Swain County Chamber of Commerce, Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

“Great Smoky Mountains Association supports us year after year in providing new products and services that help visitors better understand and enjoy the park,” said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Through our partnership, we are inspired to continue developing unique opportunities to engage with our visitors as we celebrate the National Park Service Centennial and move into the second century of service.”

Formerly known as the Association of Partners for Public Lands, the Public Lands Alliance works to build and elevate effective nonprofit organizations and exceptional public-nonprofit partnerships for the benefit of public lands and their users.

Support for GSMA is derived primarily from visitors to the national park, center sales of ranger-approved educational products and membership dues.