Great Smoky Mountains Association Earns Prestigious National Awards


Great Smoky Mountains Association, a long-time, education partner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, earned multiple top honors recently for projects unveiled during 2016, the National Park Service’s Centennial celebration year. Presented annually by the Public Lands Alliance during their convention, the awards honor individuals, organizations, publications, products, programs and services that embody leading-edge achievements in the preservation of public lands and the enrichment of visitors.

“Pictures for a Park,” a large-format book highlighting early photographers who helped persuade the public and Congress to create Great Smoky Mountains National Park, received PLA’s prestigious Publication of the Year award. Written by Rose Houk and designed by Lisa Horstman, the book includes the work of such Smoky Mountain luminaries as Jim Thompson, George Masa, Laura Thornburgh, and Dutch Roth. Great Smoky Mountains Association developed the book in conjunction with the NPS Centennial, making it available in hard cover and paperback.

“These early photographers worked hard for their images,” said Steve Kemp, GSMA’s interpretive products and services director. “They were tramping through the backcountry, often without benefit of trails, hauling massive cameras, tripods, and glass plates. We were all happy to finally give these talented photographers the credit they deserve for the quality of their craft and their success at making the dream of a national park in the Great Smoky Mountains come true.”

PLA’s Publication of the Year award recognizes a book or other publication created in partnership by a nonprofit organization and a public land that embodies innovation in educating and interpreting public lands to its readers, and impacts a substantial audience.

GSMA’s compact disk “On Top of Old Smoky: New Old-time Smoky Mountain Music” won top honors in the Innovative Product of the Year category. More than two dozen of the most accomplished musicians in the folk, bluegrass, and Americana genres donated their performances for the CD, including Dolly Parton, Norman Blake, Dom Flemons and Carol Elizabeth Jones. Songs recorded for the CD were largely based on the recordings made in the Great Smokies by songcatcher Joseph S. Hall in the 1930s and ’50s.

“Nearly all the musicians on this project donated their performances to GSMA and the park as a way of helping us with our educational and historical efforts,” said Kemp. “These folks are authentic and the best in the business. We are indeed fortunate.”

PLA’s Innovative Product of the Year award recognizes an interpretive product created in partnership by a nonprofit organization and land management agency that embodies a path-breaking approach to achieving a public lands mission.

The Southern Appalachian Public Lands Outdoor Recreation Map, which came into existence thanks to a collaboration between GSMA, Partners of Cherokee National Forest and other regional agencies and nonprofits, earned PLA’s first-place award in the Outstanding Public Engagement category. A variety of public lands, including national forests, national parks, and state parks are featured on the map, making it an indispensable tool for outdoor recreationists traveling in the Southern mountains.

During the spring of 2016, a variety of large-scale murals were created and installed at Knoxville’s McGhee-Tyson Airport, also as part of the National Park Service Centennial celebration. The murals highlight all National Park Service sites within 200 miles of the airport. Participants include Obed Wild and Scenic River, Big South Fork, Andrew Johnson, Cumberland Gap, Stones River, Overmountain Victory, and Great Smoky Mountains. This cooperative project earned an honorable mention from PLA.

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