The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway are playing host to a visiting entourage from Iceland, who are looking to the parks here as a model for a new national park of their own called Vatnakokull.
Specifically, the new Icelandic National Park hopes to copy the relationship between the Smokies and its non-profit support arm, Friends of the Smokies. A non-profit Friends group for the Icelandic park enlisted George Ivey of Waynesville, the former director of N.C. Friends of the Smokies, as a consultant to help them get started.
“Vatnajokull and the Smokies are different in many ways,” said Ivey, who also family roots in Iceland. “However, they share many common interests, including support for educational programs, scientific research, recreation, volunteer programs, and park philanthropy. We see a lot of potential for the two parks and the two friends groups to learn from each other over time.”
Vatnajokull National Park includes Europe’s largest glacier, Europe’s largest waterfall, and tremendous volcanic and geological resources. At more than 5,000 square miles in size and covering around 13 percent of the entire country of Iceland, Vatnajokull National Park is more than six times bigger than the Smokies.