Great Smoky Mountains Association Rebranded As “Smokies Life”

The Great Smoky Mountains Association, which has a seven-decade history of working to support Great Smoky Mountains National Park, is now operating as Smokies Life.

Founded in 1953, the association long has supported the preservation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Over the decades, the organization has thrived — and grown — having provided more than $50 million in direct aid to the park since its inception, operating a total of 11 visitor centers and contact stations, maintaining a roster of 29,000-plus members, and publishing a vast array of park-related books and multimedia. 

“Though GSMA was founded as an association, its work today surpasses what that word can convey. Today, we move forward under the name Smokies Life, welcoming neighbors and visitors to engage in meaningful ways with all the park has to offer,” said Smokies Life CEO Laurel Rematore. “Guided by our organization’s ongoing mission of education, interpretation and research, our role as a partner to this incredible park is to encourage deeper connections to life in the Smokies.”

One of four nonprofit partners to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the organization was originally founded under the name Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association. In 2002, the board of directors shortened the name to Great Smoky Mountains Association to better encompass its support for both cultural and natural history.

After an intensive planning process that began in 2021 involving members of the staff and board of directors and with input from regional stakeholders, the organization’s board officially approved the new Smokies Life name, branding, and logo to be announced and made effective in the first quarter of 2024. 

“Our new name is expansive — just like the park, with its rich history, vast landscape, natural wonders and thousands of species. Smokies Life, too, reflects the diversity of the park’s visitors, their inspirations for coming and the experiences they have while here,” said Geoff Cantrell, chair of the Smokies Life board of directors. 

Today, Smokies Life is driven by the same vision that motivated the association’s founders: the desire to protect and preserve an ancient mountain range that supports more than 21,000 species of life and continues to carry deep cultural significance as the homeland of the Cherokee people as well as the home of African Americans and White settlers who lived here before the park’s creation in 1934.

This past December, Smokies Life opened its newest visitor center location, the Great Smokies Welcome Center in Townsend, Tennessee. Smokies Life maintains a daily presence at seven other visitor centers and retail bookstores in and around the park in coordination with the National Park Service, local communities, and other partners. In Tennessee, these include Cades Cove Visitor Center, Gatlinburg Welcome Center, Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont Visitor Center and Sugarlands Visitor Center. North Carolina locations include Clingmans Dome Visitor Center, Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Swain County Visitor Center and Museum.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the new Smokies Life name, as well as the grand opening of the Great Smokies Welcome Center, is being planned at the Townsend location, 7929 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway, with details to be announced later this winter or in early spring.
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