May 17th, 12:04pm

Two surprising facts we’ve learned about the Smokies - it’s the most visited Park in the country, (11 million visitors in 2015!), and is the only National Park to not collect any fees. This makes the work of Friends of the Smokies more difficult, but also more vital. The Friends raise funds & organize volunteers to support the park in its mission to preserve and protect the land for public use.

We met with Brent McDaniel, Director of Marketing for the Friends of the Smokies. Originally from Atlanta, Brent volunteered with AmeriCorps in Denver, which brought him to the Friends’ North Carolina office, where moved into his current position in the Sevierville, Tennessee location, hometown of Dolly Parton. While we were aware of the biological diversity, he blew us away with this crazy fact - take any square mile of the park, and the salamanders alone would weigh more than every other species in that square mile.

One of the biggest thing the Friends fund is major trail rehabilitation - this year, is the popular Alum Cave trail. And Brent credits the community of the park as great supporters, who understand that their donations and support ultimately take care of the place and keep it open for anyone who wishes to visit.