Park leadership recognized for partnership stance
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson and recently-retired Deputy Superintendent Kevin FitzGerald broke the mold at this year’s Association of Partners for Public Lands awards ceremony by being named the agency’s first-ever team recipients of the Agency Partner of the Year.
Prior to this year’s announcement, the Partner of the Year award has traditionally recognized a single individual public lands agency employee who has demonstrated exceptional achievement in cultivating an atmosphere of partnership between his/her agency and the non-profit organizations with which he/she are affiliated. Ditmanson and FitzGerald’s recognition marks the first time in the agency’s history that a team of nominees has been honored.
“When we considered submitting a candidate for Agency Partner of the Year, it became obvious that we have two individuals that have worked diligently together to assist and support our organizations,” said Terry Maddox, Great Smoky Mountains Association executive director speaking on behalf of GMSA and Friends of the Smokies. “(Ditmanson and FitzGerald) have fostered both deep professional bonds and personal bonds of friendship and trust with park partner staff members and their boards of directors.”
The GSMNP management team of Ditmanson and FitzGerald “takes the necessary time and effort to insure its partners are deeply immersed in the daily fabric of GSMNP, with significant and regular sharing of information and collaborative planning for both short-term and long-term needs,” Maddox continued. “Whether it is a road closing for an unexpected landslide, the conversion of an abandoned visitor center comfort station, establishing endowments for trail maintenance, or developing programs for youth involvement, the park’s non-profit partners are provided with sufficient information and guidance to establish clear, integrated missions.”
“It’s an honor for Kevin and me to be recognized by our Park Partners who do so much to preserve and protect this special place,” said Ditmanson.
The impact and strength of partnership between the Ditmanson/FitzGerald team and GSMA/Friends of the Smokies comes through as park management recognizes and openly praises its partners’ accomplishments, Maddox said.
“This was clearly demonstrated during the construction of Oconaluftee Visitor Center, the park’s 75th anniversary, ‘Save the Hemlock’ campaign and the Trails Forever endowment,” he said. “We consider ourselves most fortunate to have such fine agency partners.”
The Association of Partners for Public Lands fosters stewardship and appreciation of public lands and historic sites through effective partnerships. GSMA and Friends of the Smokies are two of APPL’s 85 member organizations serving more than 500 public land sites nationwide. Find out more by visiting APPL.org.
Since its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has supported the preservation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park by promoting greater public understanding and appreciation through education, interpretation and research. A non-profit organization, GSMA has provided more than $30 million to the park during its 60-year history. For more information about GSMA products and membership opportunities, like us at Facebook.com/GreatSmokyMountainsAssociation, visit www.SmokiesInformation.org or call 888.898.9102.
Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park assists the National Park Service in its mission to preserve and protect the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by raising funds and public awareness, and providing volunteers for needed projects. For more information, visit FriendsOfTheSmokies.org.