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Wednesday, 21 December 2011 15:11

Friends save tract bordering the park

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park got an early Holiday gift on Dec. 14 when the Friends of the Smokies officially transferred 20 acres of new land to the national park.

The land lies along Soak Ash Creek in the Pittman Center, Tenn., community just east of Gatlinburg.

The Friends purchased the tract at auction in the summer of 2010 at a cost of $775,500, sparing the park from encroaching private development.

“We had been interested in acquiring that property for many years if it ever came on the market because it is surrounded by park land on three sides and is ripe for development,” Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson said. “We are very happy to be able to prevent potentially intensive development right on the park’s boundary, and it also protects an intact wetland.”

The park, as part of the gift, also inherited a five-bedroom house that it intends to make available to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The house includes a large conference space which might host some park field trips when foul weather forces participants indoors.

The annual “Picnics in Pittman for the Park” at the Emerts Cove home raised more than $500,000, which became the core of the Friends’ purchase price. Other significant support included a $25,000 grant from the Foothills Land Conservancy.

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