Great Smoky Mountains National Park invites the public to join Superintendent Cassius Cash for a National Public Lands Day (NPLD) kickoff event on Saturday, Sept. 24 at 9 a.m. at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Park staff and volunteers will lead half-day and full-day service opportunities for people of all ages in celebration of the 29th National Public Lands Day.
“National Public Lands Day is the perfect opportunity for us to celebrate the many benefits of the park, while also rolling up our sleeves to help take care of it,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The park both protects some of American’s best treasures and provides a vital space for people to improve their physical and mental health.”
The public is invited to help perform trail maintenance along the Oconaluftee River Trail; pick up litter along trails and overlooks; remove roadside graffiti; or assist in campground and picnic area cleanup. The Save our Smokies volunteer group will coordinate litter and graffiti removal. Discover Life in America scientists will also be onsite from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. to invite the public to collect information about the plants and animals they see during their park visits using the iNaturalist app. In addition, park rangers and volunteers will be providing Leave No Trace information and leading activities at visitor centers and on trails throughout the park.
Last year, the park experienced more than 14.1 million visits. Park staff depend on the help of volunteers and partners to care for resources. More than 2,700 volunteers provided 108,890 hours of service in 2021. Support for the Volunteers in Park program is provided annually by park partners, Friends of the Smokies (FOTS) and Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA). For the NPLD kickoff event, the FOTS are providing morning refreshments and GSMA is providing a $10 coupon for all NPLD volunteers for use at visitor center bookstores.
Volunteers should wear long pants, sturdy closed-toed shoes, and layered clothing for varying temperatures. The park will provide gloves, safety gear, and tools for the day. All participants should bring lunch, water, and rain gear. Please register for the opportunity by emailing GRSM_Volunteer_Office@nps.gov by Friday, Sept. 23. For more information, call Trail and Facilities Volunteer Coordinator Adam Monroe 497-1949 or Volunteer Coordinator Nick Yarnell (865) 436-1265.
Established in 1994 and held annually on the fourth Saturday in September, National Public Lands Day is traditionally the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort. It celebrates the connection between people and green space in their community, inspires environmental stewardship, and encourages use of open space for education, recreation, and health benefits. For more information, please visit https://www.nps.gov/subjects/npscelebrates/public-lands-day.htm.
- National Park Service release