115 Park Headquarters Road
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
"Great Smoky Mountains Association supports the perpetual preservation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the national park system by promoting greater public understanding and appreciation through education, interpretation, and research."
The purpose of Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA) is to assist Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Through sales, labor, donations, and volunteer efforts, GSMA provides the National Park Service with additional tools for fulfilling its mission.
Great Smoky Mountains Association is a nonprofit organization authorized by Congress to support the Park's educational, scientific, and historical programs. Our purpose is to enhance public enjoyment and understanding of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
To accomplish this goal GSMA participates in a variety of activities that include: distribution and publication of educational books and guides, funding visitor center exhibits and artifact collections, sponsoring free historic demonstrations and festivals, funding the Park's library, and helping fund the environmental education program at the Institute at Tremont. Since its creation in 1953, GSMA has contributed aid to the Park totaling more than $18.15 million.
Publications, sales, and membership dues sustain these operations. Revenue from online purchases also go directly toward accomplishing our mission.
Membership in the Association has been possible from the beginning. In 1953 we had less than 10 members. As we began to actively encourage membership in the 1980's, memberships increased rapidly and it has continued. Membership now exceeds 8000.
Members of Great Smoky Mountains Association receive benefits that include: a subscription to the Association's newsletter, The Bearpaw, a subscription to Smokies Life Magazine, a 15% discount on books and other items, a subscription to the Park's quarterly news paper Smokies Guide, participation in the Association's annual meeting, day hikes, and other special programs and entertainment events.
The first Board of Directors consisted of R. A. Wilhelm, Arthur Stupka, Henry Lix, Edward Hummel, Robert White, Granville Liles, A.P. Koster, and Ida Ealy. The first officers were: President R. A. Wilhelm, Secretary Granville Liles, Treasurer/Business Manager Ida Ealy, and Executive Secretary Arthur Stupka.
Initial operating capital was a $100 interest-free loan from Mount Rainier Natural History Association. Gross sales the first year amounted to $3,341.27 from the following sales items: six color post cards, Zim's $1.00 book on flowers, birds, and trees, and the Appalachian Trail Guide. In 2007 gross sales were $6,367,777.
Although too numerous to mention, one of our most important ongoing functions for over fifty years has been our publication of the many specific trail leaflets, auto touring guides, and other free or almost free publications that are provided for the Park visitor. We have produced literally millions over the years.
Continual growth and other circumstances during the years have necessitated many relocations. GSMA headquarters was at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center from 1953 until the departure of Ida Ealy in 1958. Upon the hiring of Shirley McHan Boykin the operation moved to the basement of Park Headquarters. With the opening of the new Sugarlands Visitor Center in 1960, GSMA moved into that facility and utilized several different spaces prior to returning to the basement of NPS Headquarters in 1977. In 1983, GSMA moved to a portion of the garage located behind Park Headquarters. As we continued to grow additional space in the garage was assigned to us and converted into office space. In the fall of 1991 the garage was renovated and a second floor was added to the building. GSMA has occupied the renovated garage since late February, 1992.
As one of GSMNP’s primary nonprofit partners, our roles include financial support and assistance in the planning and execution of special events throughout the year. Additionally we will produce the official commemorative publication and a selection of unique commemorative and replica sales items that demonstrate the rich 75-year history of the Park and surrounding area.