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Smokies plates lead to annual sales record

Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park appear to have hit a home run with a new license plate design sporting the image of a black bear.

A record number of drivers are sporting the Smokies plate on their bumpers, providing funding for special projects in the park. There has been a 25 percent increase in license plate sales since the new plate design was launched less than a year ago. Last year, the plate raised $188,400 compared to $242,760 this year. The Smoky Mountain News donated the service of its art director Micah McClure to develop the new license plate design.

“Whether you’ve had your plate for eight days or eight years, we want to say thank you to each and every supporter, and invite other North Carolina drivers to join our efforts in the year ahead,” said Stephen W. Woody, vice chairman of the Board of Directors of Friends of the Smokies. “We want to do even more for the park in the days and months to come — from wildlife and education programs to trail and recreation projects, and we gladly welcome anyone who wants to help us help the Smokies.”

The plate costs an extra $30 — $20 of which goes to Friends of the Smokies to support projects and programs on the North Carolina side of the park. The Smokies license plate has now raised a grand total of $1.147 million since the inception of the plate in 1999.

With these funds, Friends of the Smokies has supported a wide variety of projects and programs in 2007:

• Assisting with black bear conservation.

• Providing educational programs for park visitors and local schoolchildren.

• Helping convert the park’s diesel vehicles to B-50 biodiesel fuel.

• Protecting the park’s hemlock forests from the deadly hemlock woolly adelgid.

• Supporting the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center near Maggie Valley.

• Sustaining the country’s largest Student Conservation Association internship program.

• Providing support for the park’s Volunteer Visitor Assistance Program.

The Smokies plate is available any time from any local North Carolina license plate agency office. More information is available online at www.friendsofthesmokies.org or by calling 828.452.0720.

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