A unique way to explore ‘your’ Smokies

A new program called experience Your Smokies is a different method now in place to get to know the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its employees.

“If you have ever wanted to be a park ranger or get a behind the scenes look at what goes on in Park, this is your opportunity,” Superintendent Dale Ditmanson said of the program put together by the park in conjunction with Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountains Association. “This program gives us a chance to make more meaningful connections with our neighbors and for them to do the same with us.”

Experience Your Smokies is designed for local business, civic and educational leaders to get a behind-the-scenes look into the national park while networking with others from Western North Carolina.

“Western North Carolina and the people of this region have such a deep and long connection with the Park,” said Waynesville Town Manager Lee Galloway, who is participating in the program. “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.”

Participants will attend two half-day and three full-day sessions at a variety of locations in the Park, accompanying park employees in activities that may include radio-tracking elk, excavating archeological sites and monitoring salamander populations. They will venture to places like Cataloochee Valley, Deep Creek, Oconaluftee, Clingmans Dome, and Purchase Knob.

Representatives of Smoky Mountain Hosts, the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, the Swain County Chamber of Commerce, the Town of Waynesville and others are helping with the program.

Experience Your Smokies is seeking applicants from the surrounding communities for a program this spring. Program dates are March 13, March 27, April 17, May 1 and May 19. Class size is limited to 25 participants; those attending will be asked to commit to attending all class days. Applications accepted between now and Feb. 15. www.friendsofthesmokies.org/events.html or 828.452.0720.

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