Tag helps nonprofit reach $1 million mark

Motorists sporting Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park license plates have helped the organization top the $1 million fund-raising mark since the inception of the specialty license plates in 1999.

A new license plate design — sporting the park’s icon, a black bear — helped push the plate program over the $1 million mark with a record quarter following the release of the new plate last fall.

“We’ve had a very favorable response to our new license plate design, which features the mountains and a black bear,” said Elaine Stewart, manager of the Waynesville office of Friends of the Smokies. “Plus, I think most people simply appreciate the fact that we are doing a lot of good things with their money, and that keeps them renewing year after year.”

The revenues from the plate program have supported the return of elk to Cataloochee Valley, black bear conservation programs, a wide variety of education programs for park visitors and local school children, air quality initiatives, backcountry trail and safety programs, and more.

“Whether it’s our ongoing effort to save the park’s hemlocks or our support for summer education programs in the park, we have a lot more to do,” added Stewart. “We are very thankful to all our supporters, and we hope other folks will join our efforts to preserve and protect the Smokies.”

The Smokies plate is available any time from any local North Carolina license plate agency office. Of the extra $30 annual fee for the specialty tag, $20 goes to Friends of the Smokies to support projects and programs on the North Carolina side of the park. More information is available online at www.friendsofthesmokies.org or by calling 828.452.0720.

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