Waynesville, North Carolina – Friends of the Smokies, and any hiker who has hiked the Forney Ridge trail by Clingmans Dome to spectacular mountain ridge views, are thankful to Trails Forever volunteers and the support the Smokies Trails Forever program receives from Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI). REI has donated $5,000 to support the Trails Forever crew and many dedicated volunteers to improve well-loved trails in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).
The Smokies Trails Forever program in its fifth year of operation continues needed trail improvements in GSMNP with highly trained trail building staff and a high rate of returning volunteers. Volunteers work one on one with experienced trail building staff to re-construct trails using sustainable materials in order to preserve the trail and protect the resources around the trail corridor. The work that is completed is not only lasting but also greatly improves the visitor experience and safety on the trails in the park.
Over the past few years REI has funded trail reconstruction along Forney Ridge and Chimney Tops Trails, as well as a Trails Forever equipment trailer, facilitating tool and equipment storage helping each workday run more smoothly. REI continues to support GSMNP also by promoting volunteer opportunities with the Smokies Trails Forever program and other opportunities to learn about and assist GSMNP.
Smokies Trails Forever volunteers include people who have donated their time and skills with trail work in previous years, who volunteer with the Park in other ways, and still others who are volunteering in the Smokies for the first time. Some families spend their week vacation volunteering with the Trails Forever crew. Last year volunteers worked alongside the highly skilled crew for more than 6,000 hours.
The highly successful Smokies Trails Forever model of integrating skilled Park staff with enthusiastic volunteer hands and private funding support, like REI, continues with additional critical trail improvements in 2013. More information about how individuals, groups, and businesses can help protect the natural places they love is available at www.friendsofthesmokies.org or call (828) 452-0720.
Additional Online Resources:
Friends of the Smokies - http://www.friendsofthesmokies.org
Smokies Trails Forever - http://smokiestrailsforever.org
REI - http://www.rei.com/about-rei.html
Since 1993, the not-for-profit Friends of the Smokies organization has raised more than $40million to help maintain Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a crown jewel of the national park system, including the establishment of the $4 million Trails Forever endowment to improve Smoky Mountain hiking trails in perpetuity.