The leaders of the two primary Great Smoky Mountains National Park partners were recently presented with the Department of Interior Citizen’s Award for Exceptional Service.
Terry Maddox, executive director, Great Smoky Mountains Association and Jim Hart, president of the Friends of the Smokies, were recognized for their outstanding support to the Smokies and the National Park Service.
Maddox has led the GSMA since 1990. The nonprofit corporation runs bookstores in the park and markets Smokies’ interpretive products outside the park as well. Under his leadership, the Association has grown from a small book retailer to a major author and publisher of award-winning educational products including books for adults and children, field guides, maps, videos, podcasts and web-based material.
“For years our bookstores offered mostly generic guidebooks, but our publications are now tailored to tell visitors specifically when and where they can expect to find a particular wild flower, bird, or tree. We also offer vivid stories on the Park’s history and prehistory,” said Smokies superintendent Dale Ditmanson.
Hart has served as president of Friends since 2002. Under his guidance, the Friends has substantially increased the public’s awareness of the value of the park and its various threats. They have placed a strong emphasis on providing educational programs for young people who will be the stewards of the Park in coming years by funding fieldtrips and ranger programs for area schools, as well as internships for high school and college students.
Over the nine years of Hart’s tenure, Friends donations have swelled from about $1.8 million a year to over $3.5 million, supporting everything from the restoration of historic buildings to black bear preservation. The Friends have also created a new “Trails Forever” endowment which is approaching $4 million.
The two groups also worked together to fund the construction of the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center at the North Carolina entrance to the Smokies.
“The outstanding leadership provided by Terry Maddox and Jim Hart is a tremendous asset to the Park’s preservation and to the service we provide to over 9 million visitors,” Ditmanson said. “Their service stands as a vivid reminder that the public support and individual stewardship which set aside created and developed this priceless national treasure is still alive and well 75 years after the Park’s creation.”