Show Menu +

Great Smoky Mountains Association’s aid-to-park funding tops $2 million in 2017

Posted by | 04.27.2018

Great Smoky Mountains National Park may have experienced an eclipse in 2017, but the support it received from one of its largest retail partners was anything but eclipsed, with more than $2 million contributed to a vast array of activities during the year by Great Smoky Mountains Association.

In its recently released annual report of activity for 2017, GSMA listed its contributions to the national park at $2,357,024. As the operator of the park’s visitor center bookstores, GSMA experienced its second-best year for sales and its best year ever for membership income, said Chief Executive Officer Laurel Rematore.

Volunteers In Park and special demonstrations,
including sorghum making at Oconaluftee and
Cades Cove visitor 
centers, are just a few of the
many ways 
Great Smoky Mountains Associations
supports work in the national park. Photo by Lisa


“This (2017) was the second year in a row that park visitation exceeded 11 million people, eclipsing the prior year by more than 26,000 visitors,” she said. “And speaking of eclipses… 2017 was the year of the Great American Total Solar Eclipse.”

In addition to helping stage special events and viewing locations during this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle, GSMA sold $173,231 in educational eclipse merchandise between April and August, with $43,051 of the business being done Friday through Monday the week of the eclipse, Rematore said. “We broke nine daily sales records at various stores during this time period.”

The non-profit’s Get Rooted in the Smokies membership program continued to break records in 2017, with new recruitment numbers topping 11,000 and a total membership base of some 25,000 individuals from across the U.S. and from six countries, reported Lisa Duff, GSMA’s marketing and membership director.

‘“Once a member, always a steward,’ we like to say, and many agreed,” said Duff, who highlighted especially strong membership retention figures for the year. “Our members overwhelming agree that their love of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, along with the many benefits of membership they enjoy, keep them engaged year after year.”

In addition to the eclipse frenzy and its membership program, GSMA maintained its focus on retail sales, publications and customized product development throughout 2017. National park-related books published in 2017 included Hazel Creek: The Life and Death of an Iconic Mountain Community by Daniel Pierce; and Into the Mist: Tales of Death and Disaster, Mishaps and Misdeeds, Misfortune and Mayhem in Great Smoky Mountains National Park by David Brill. A Place Called Cades Cove, the newest Smokies Explorer film, was also released to much acclaim.        

“In 2017, Great Smoky Mountains Association contributed over $2 million in support of Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Not only are these funds essential for many of the routine services in which we provide, but they also enable us to better preserve and protect a multitude of park resources. Many of our educational opportunities and unique visitor experiences, such as the Great American Total Solar Eclipse viewing events, was possible because of the support from Great Smoky Mountains Association.”  

GSMA’s aid-to-park funding in 2017 was $2,357,024, capping another strong year of support. The association’s contributions to Great Smoky Mountains National Park fall into three broad categories:

- $1,067,536 in cash donations, which are provided for a host of educational, historical, interpretive and scientific projects, including the popular Parks As Classrooms program, wildlife management personnelhemlock woolly adelgid control and the Volunteer In Parks recognition event;

- $840,807 for in-kind services, which primarily covers labor expenses at the park’s eight visitor centers in Tennessee and North Carolina;

- $188,663 for publications and digital media, which include development costs and publications made available to the public free of charge, including the park’s official newspaper, Smokies Guide.

Copyright @ GSMA April 2018