Ecological experience

Class of 2008 graduates from Experience Your Smokies

The Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont recently hosted the graduation ceremony of the Experience Your Smokies (EYS) program, a learning experience for community leaders interested in local ecology and learning about the Great Smoky Mountain National Park..

EYS is a collaborative endeavor between representatives from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park’s Resource Education Division and a volunteer board of directors composed of Blount County citizens.

For the last eight years from July to December, community leaders selected for the program have met monthly to learn about the resources and challenges of the National Park and surrounding area through hands-on experiences. The group’s meetings are held almost entirely in the field and are led primarily by park personnel.

EYS graduates learn about air quality, park archaeology, historic preservation, citizen science, wildlife management and dealing with the hemlock wooly adelgid, among other things.

This year’s 30 participants were selected based on leadership within the community, interest in the National Park and commitment to stewardship. For the last four years, EYS graduates have completed service projects. The 2008 class combed Cades Cove to harvest seed from beardgrass, now scarce in the park.

The graduation of EYS class of 2008 featured a presentation by the well-known local storyteller Charles Maynard as well as remarks from Kevin Fitzgerald, the deputy superintendent of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. More than 100 people attended the event, including a large number of the program’s alumni.

The Experience Your Smokies program is currently accepting nominations for the Class of 2009. For more information or a copy of the nomination form, call 865-982-2466. For more information about Tremont, visit or call 865-448-6709.

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