TENNESSEE, USA — The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the busiest in the country and is the only national park that doesn't require an entrance fee, that's why it needs help funding necessary projects.
The success of the park doesn't come without the necessary funding and support from nonprofits and generous donors.
Friends of the Smokies is a nonprofit partner to the park, working to make sure all the needs of the park are met through crucial donations.
If money grew on trees, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park would have plenty. But since it doesn't, nonprofits like Friends of the Smokies exist to help make sure the national park can meet all of its needs and serve its visitors.
"The Friends of the Smokies has been outstanding," Alan Sumeriski, the Chief of Facility Management for GSMNP said. "They are a true partner. The philanthropy they provide allows us time to hold our ground."
Every year, the park and Friends of the Smokies compiles a "needs list" to break down how much money they need to create and maintain a safe trip for guests.
"The Smokies, of course, are the most visited in the nation," Friends of the Smokies founder Gary Wade said.
The park's listed needs help in six different categories.
Just some of those needs are to help suppress the Woolly Adelgid Infestation to protect the hemlock tree population. That comes at a price of $59,300.
In the Resource Education section, the parks as classrooms program allow students to get hands-on learning online and in-person utilizing the park. It needs $139,000 dollars to keep expanding and provide more online resources.
But it doesn't stop there. Funding also helps with the upkeep of the visitor centers, the trails forever program, repairing historic structures, aiding volunteers, improving search and rescue equipment and enhancing parkwide management.
Founder Gary Wade said while federal and state grants are helpful, it's still not enough.
"As generous as that is, it doesn't scratch the surface for the needs that exist. It's ongoing. The needs of the park expands. As we are as thrilled with the visitors, the people need a nice place," Wade said.
That's why donating to Friends of the Smokies is an investment into the future of the park we know and love.
For a full view of the 2020 Needs List and to donate to Friends of the Smokies, visit friendsofthesmokies.org.