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Voting contest yields funds for Smokies tower restoration

out clingmansClingmans Dome Observation Tower will get a makeover thanks to a $250,000 grant that supporters of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park landed through participation in an online voting contest. 

The grant, provided by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, will be awarded to Friends of the Smokies by September 2016 with work to restore the tower slated to begin in 2017. 

“We are so thankful for the community support during this competition,” said Jim Hart, Friends of the Smokies’ president. “Our friends helped spread the word and their votes kept the Smokies among the top spots right from the beginning. We’re excited to put this grant money to work.”

The money will correct up to 4 inches of foundation settlement currently existing at the tower and address deterioration along the stone masonry walls, concrete and flagstone terrace. Completed in 1959, the tower is still structurally sound but needs maintenance to prevent a more extensive structural repair in the future. 

Partners in Preservation is a community-based initiative created to raise awareness of the importance of preserving historic places. In honor of the National Park Service Centennial, it committed to awarding a total of $2 million to national park sites. Twenty different sites were selected for the online voting contest, with awards distributed to the top nine after a voting contest May 25 to July 5. 

“We are grateful for this opportunity, which not only resulted in securing much needed funds, but also provided a great chance to share this unique feature of our park with so many people,” said Great Smoky Mountains National Park spokesperson Dana Soehn.

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