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Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of 23 national parks selected to receive a 2014 Impact Grant from the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks. The $25,000 grant supports the restoration of wetland vegetation in a 3-acre wetland in the Ravensford floodplain near Cherokee Central Schools in NC.
Now in its seventh year, the Impact Grants program provides national parks with the critical financial support they need to transform innovative, yet underfunded, ideas into successful in-park programs and initiatives.
“Through our Impact Grants, we will help make a profound difference in our national parks by providing much-needed funding for projects that support habitat restoration, wildlife protection, and conservation research,” said Neil Mulholland, President and CEO of the National Park Foundation.
Wetland habitats are uncommon in the park and provide critical habitat for diverse native plants and animals, some found nowhere else in the park. The unique Ravensford wetland has been severely impaired by invasive exotic plants reducing habitat for native species. Through this project, park staff along with youth volunteers, will remove invasive plants and collect native seed from remnant wetland vegetation that will be used to propagate native species for plantings. Restored wetland vegetation will help create a buffer along the edge of the wetland to better filter sediments and potential contaminants from nearby roads. The restored site will not only improve natural habitat and wetland function, but also provide educational opportunities for park visitors and students.
“We are grateful to the National Park Foundation for providing us the opportunity to both restore this wetland community and provide a unique hands-on learning opportunity,” said Acting Superintendent Cindy MacLeod. “We’ve already had youth assist us from the Cherokee Central School summer culture camp along with the Oconaluftee Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center and look forward to developing more educational and service opportunities as the restoration continues.”
The 2014 Impact Grants were made possible, in large part, through the support of Disney and Subaru of America. A listing of these parks and their Impact Grants project descriptions can be found on the National Park Foundation website.
For more information on how Smokies biologists identify and map wetlands, please visit https://www.nps.gov/grsm/