GSMA announces name change
After completing its 70th year supporting preservation in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains Association has adopted a new name. The nonprofit will now be known as Smokies Life.
“Though GSMA was founded as an association, its work today surpasses what that word can convey,” said CEO Laurel Rematore. “Today, we move forward under the name Smokies Life, welcoming neighbors and visitors to engage in meaningful ways with all the park has to offer. Guided by our organization’s ongoing mission of education, interpretation and research, our role as a partner to this incredible park is to encourage deeper connections to life in the Smokies.”
Since its founding, Smokies Life has provided more than $50 million in direct aid to the park, operating 11 visitor centers and contact stations, maintaining a roster of more than 29,000 members and publishing an array of park-related books and multimedia.
This is not the first name change in the organization’s history. Founded in 1953, Smokies Life was initially known as the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association. Its name was shortened to the Great Smoky Mountains Association in 2002 to better encompass its support for both natural and cultural history. Made effective Feb. 1, the most recent name changed followed an intensive planning process that began in 2021, involving members of the staff and board of directors with input from regional stakeholders.
“Our new name is expansive — just like the park, with its rich history, vast landscape, natural wonders and thousands of species,” said Geoff Cantrell, board chair. “Smokies Life, too, reflects the diversity of the park’s visitors, their inspirations for coming and the experiences they have while here.”
Today, Smokies Life is driven by the same vision that motivated the association’s founders: the desire to protect and preserve an ancient mountain range that supports more than 21,000 species of life and continues to carry deep cultural significance as the homeland of the Cherokee people as well as the home of African Americans and White settlers who lived here before the park’s creation in 1934.
This past December, Smokies Life opened its newest visitor center location, the Great Smokies Welcome Center in Townsend, Tennessee. Smokies Life maintains a daily presence at seven other visitor centers and retail bookstores in and around the park in coordination with the National Park Service, local communities, and other partners. In Tennessee, these include Cades Cove Visitor Center, Gatlinburg Welcome Center, Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont Visitor Center and Sugarlands Visitor Center. North Carolina locations include Clingmans Dome Visitor Center, Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Swain County Visitor Center and Museum.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the new Smokies Life name, as well as the grand opening of the new Great Smokies Welcome Center in Townsend, Tennessee, is being planned. The event will take place at 7929 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway in Townsend, with details to be announced later this winter or in early spring.