Great Smoky Mountains National Park recently took delivery of seven Ford Escape Hybrid vehicles that were purchased using a $197,550 grant from the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Program. The CMAQ funding is U.S. Department of Transportation money which came through the State of North Carolina and was allocated by the Rural Planning Organizations (RPOs) of the Land-of-Sky Regional Council and Southwestern Commission.
The goal of the CMAQ Program is to reduce air emissions in counties where air quality is in non-attainment of EPA Clean Air Act standards. The portions of Swain and Haywood Counties that lie within Great Smoky Mountains National Park are both in non-attainment due to elevated levels of ground level ozone.
The Park’s new cleaner hybrids will replace seven much more polluting vehicles, including two full-size pickups, three station wagons, and a sedan, some of which are over 20 years old, so emissions reduction are projected to be substantial. The new vehicles will be used in North Carolina Park operations ranging from Ranger patrols in the campgrounds to trail maintenance.
“One of the most serious threats that the Smokies faces is the impact of air pollution on the Park’s plants, soils and aquatic life.” Park Deputy Superintendent Kevin FitzGerald said. “We strive, through education and through our own example, to inform the public of ways that they can worktowards cleaner air. One way we do this is by gradually transitioning our vehicles and equipment towards cleaner technology.”
Fitzgerald continued, “We sincerely appreciate the support channeled through the Land-of-Sky Regional Council and Southwestern Commission to help us clean up our fleet. In 2006 we used a $33,600 state grant to acquire the infrastructure to convert all of our heavy equipment and large trucks to run on B-50 bio-diesel and we received a second grant of $31,900 to purchase two emission-free electric vehicles. Those grants required at least a 20 percent match from the Friends of the Smokies, but this latest one funded purchase of the hybrids 100 percent.”
With the addition of these new Escape Hybrids the Park now has 16 hybrid vehicles in service.