More bears on the road thanks to Friends’ plate buyers
This holiday season Friends of the Smokies is thankful for North Carolinians’ continued support by proudly purchasing and displaying a record number of license plates this past quarter. The North Carolina “black bear” license plate brought in $123,500 in the last quarter to support park improvements on the North Carolina side of the Smokies, the highest quarterly total since the North Carolina Friends plate debuted in 1999. Individual North Carolina Smokies license plate owners from across the state have now collectively raised more than $3 million. Of the extra $30 annual fee for each specialty tag, $20 provides support for important needs in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park and one of the largest on the East coast. As one can imagine with so many visitors the Park has a variety of needs to help protect and preserve the National Park experience. One of the projects provided for by plate revenues includes educating Park visitors about safe viewing of the Park’s herd of more than 100 elk by the Elk Bugle Corps volunteers.
Plate money also helps provide for thousands of N.C. students by supporting the Parks as Classrooms program, which provides hands on, state standard guided learning in the park. It also provides opportunities for Student Conservation Association interns, who work in the national park teaching programs, working on trails, and gaining valuable job experience.
Another program supported by plate funding is the prevention of wild ginseng poaching in the park through management, marking, and monitoring. Further projects provided for include roadside assistance, support for the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center at Purchase Knob, and bear management.
This holiday season with North Carolinians’ love of the bear plate, programs that enhance the Smokies experience are thriving. Friends of the Smokies seeks to preserve, protect, and provide for Great Smoky Mountains National Park through donations from individuals, businesses, and foundations.
The Smokies plate is available from any local North Carolina license plate agency office or from the N.C. Department of Transportation website. Applications and more information are available at www.friendsofthesmokies.org or call 452-0720.