The leaders of the two primary Great Smoky Mountains National Park partners were recently presented with the Department of Interior Citizen’s Award for Exceptional Service.
Terry Maddox, executive director of the Great Smoky Mountains Association and Jim Hart, president of the Friends of the Smokies, were recognized for their outstanding support to the Smokies and the National Park Service.
Maddox has led the GSMA since 1990. The nonprofit corporation runs bookstores in the park and markets Smokies’ interpretive products outside the park as well. Under his leadership, the Association has grown from a small book retailer to a major publisher of award-winning educational products including books for adults and children, field guides, maps, videos, podcasts and web-based material.
Hart has served as president of Friends since 2002. Under his guidance, the Friends group has substantially increased the public’s awareness of the value of the park and its various threats. They have placed a strong emphasis on providing educational programs for young people who will be the stewards of the Park in coming years by funding fieldtrips and ranger programs for area schools as well as internships for high school and college students.
Over the nine years of Hart’s tenure, Friends donations have swelled from about $1.8 million a year to over $3.5 million, supporting everything from the restoration of historic buildings to black bear preservation. The Friends have also created a new “Trails Forever” endowment, which is approaching $4 million.
The two groups also worked together to fund the construction of the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center at the North Carolina entrance to the Smokies.