Smokies Rededication – Sept. 2, 2009

Dolly Parton at Newfound GapYes, this is Dolly Parton at Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

On Sept. 2, 1940, Pres. Roosevelt dedicated the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park; he was the first and only sitting president to visit the Smokies.

On Sept. 2, 2009, 75 years later, the park was rededicated with a commemorative
ceremony at Newfound Gap. This was the crowning event of a year busy with
celebrations.

Newfound Gap Road was closed for two days.

Superintendent Dale Ditmanson, Master of Ceremony, welcomed
everyone “to your national park. It is a time to rejoice but also a time to
remember all those who had to leave their home to make way for the National
Park.” It was the first time that all congressional delegates that represented
the Smokies were in the park at the same time.

Rep. Heath Shuler pointed out that “people come here because
of the beauty of the park but stay here because of the people.” He then
introduced the descendants of Horace Kephart, who settled in Bryson City and
wrote many articles advocating for the park.

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen said that “the Smokies were
a gift of the people to the Government, not from the government to the people.”
Congress authorized the national Park in 1926 but it took until 1934 for North
Carolina and Tennessee to raise the money to buy the land and another six years
for FDR to come to the Smokies. The chair where he sat was displayed on the
podium.

Dan Wenk, Acting Director of the National Park Service,
recognized community groups including Carolina Mountain Club
and Smoky Mountains Hiking Club. He also welcomed ten Civilian
Conservation Corp (CCC) members, of the 4,000 men who had worked in the
park.

I
talked to Don Shoulders who worked in the Smokies from 1936 to 1939 and built a
trail between Tremont and Elkmont. Before he joined the CCC, he had never had a
job except working on his sister’s farm for nine dollars a month. When she
couldn’t afford even that, he signed up.

 

Clarence Allison grew up in Haywood County. His school only went to the sixth
grade. He hung around home until “I inflated my age a little and joined up in
1940.” He worked on roads, in the kitchen, whatever there was to do. He went
straight from the CCC to the army in 1942.

U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar,
representing President Obama, pointed out that the Smokies is not only the most
visited park in the nation but has the largest economic impact of all the
national parks, bringing in $700 million last year.

Finally, Dolly Parton.

 As
75th anniversary ambassador for the park, she wrote and released a CD which
raised $200,000 for the park. The CD is only available in the park visitor
centers and on Great Smoky Mountain
Association website
. She performed My Mountains, My Home, the lead
song on her CD.

After her standing ovation, Dale Ditmanson said,”There are 391 units of the
National Park System. Let them beat this!”

Dolly finished the program with Forever Home, another song from her
CD. She then said thank ya’ll for coming, but I don’t know about ya’ll but I
need to V.I.Pee
. She is funny.

The rangers in their spiffy summer uniforms were friendly and helpful; the
buses taking us to Newfound Gap were fast and efficient; there were plenty of
Port-o-Johns. And the weather was perfect.

I can’t wait for the 100th anniversary of the Great Smoky Mountains National
Park.

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