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Park Maintenance and Historic Preservation with Experience Your Smokies

Over the next several months, my Locally Grown column will feature details related to my sessions with Experience Your Smokies, an educational program that receives essential funding and scholarships each year from Great Smoky Mountains Association.

Since 1999, Experience Your Smokies has fostered a greater appreciation for Great Smoky Mountains National Park by offering opportunities for community members to engage with park personnel on issues of mutual interest. Their goal is to engage community leaders with multiple hands-on experiences.

As a member of this year’s class, I attended my first EYS session last month. My classmates and I visited the Appalachian Club House – built in 1910 – at Elkmont and met with the heads of the park’s Facility Maintenance division and Trails and Facilities Volunteer Programs. The largest in GSMNP, the Facility Management division employs 80 permanent staff and oversees fleet management, 238 miles of paved roads (and counting), 537 structures, and 4,847 grave sites.

After a presentation detailing the history and evolution of Elkmont, park maintenance and volunteer programs, we were given an opportunity to participate in hands-on activities alongside historic preservation specialists. We worked with hand saws, broadaxes, froes, drawknives, and chisel axes to make chair legs, shingles, and logs. I was also taught how to restore original pigments using paint chips taken from wood.

As someone who works within the park boundary and has lived in its shadow my entire life, I was surprised at how much I still have to learn about the past, present and future of our public lands. I am even more eagerly looking forward to my remaining courses.

Great Smokies

Welcome Center

Hours of Operation

(subject to change)

Open year round (closed December 25)

January - February

Open Daily 9:00 am - 4:30 pm

March - November

Open Daily 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Open Daily 9:00 am - 4:30 pm

The Great Smokies Welcome Center is located on U.S. 321 in Townsend, TN, 2 miles from the west entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Visitors can get information about things to see and do in and around the national park and shop from a wide selection of books, gifts, and other Smokies merchandise. Daily, weekly, and annual parking tags for the national park are also available.

Physical Address

7929 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway Townsend TN 37882


865.436.7318 Ext 320