Who are these people?
These folks are the present and future board members of the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA). The name of the organization may not be familiar to you but you know of their work. If you go to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and go into a visitor center like the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, you’ll see a bookstore. That store is managed by GSMA.
But GSMA also is a publisher. They put out books and maps of the Smokies, like Hiking Trails of the Smokies, History Trails of the Smokies, etc. In National Park Service parlance, they’re known as a cooperating association. Every National park unit that sells anything (and that’s all of them) has a cooperating association. On the Blue Ridge Parkway, Eastern National has that role.
GSMA then donates a large chunk of their profits to the park. This organization should not be confused with Friends of the Smokies who also donates to the park. But Friends only fundraises. They don’t sell anything.
I’m honored to be on the board of directors of GSMA. The board is a group of folks who love the park and can contribute their knowledge to guide the GSMA staff. Every non-profit has a board.
We have four meetings a year where we talk about GSMA issues.
Dale Ditmanson, the Superintendent of the Smokies, and other high-level park personnel always attend the meetings. Ditmanson is retiring at the end of the year so this was his last GSMA meeting. We presented him with a Kephart knife as a retirement momento. Terry Maddox, the Executive Director, is in on the left.
This meeting was in Gatlinburg, the gateway town to the Smokies, but unfortunately I didn’t get to hike in the park. Last night was the Christmas party for park employees and park partners like Friends and GSMA.
Good day but no hiking!