On August 25, Secretary Zinke and Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Todd Willens celebrated the National Park Service's 101st birthday (Founders Day) in Tennessee and North Carolina, at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway.
Founders Day started with the team at Great Smoky Mountains. The Secretary met with Park leadership and held a town hall-style staff meeting before cutting a Founders Day birthday cake. U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander joined for a hands-on briefing about trail maintenance and the two helped the American Conservation Experience youth crew crush boulders to rebuild a popular hiking trail.
The Secretary then headed east to North Carolina's Blue Ridge Parkway, a scenic mountain route that connects the Smokies with Shenandoah National Park. At Blue Ridge, he met with the Superintendent and the Park staff for a tour of their campgrounds and discussion about the parkway's maintenance backlog and public-private partnerships. He also cut a Founders Day cake for Park staff and visitors.
On Saturday, the Secretary returned to the Smokies and embarked on a 4-mile hike on the Chimney Tops 2 trail for a mountain-top survey and briefing about the 2016 Chimney Tops fire, along with Superintendent Cash, the mayor of Gatlinburg, and other Park officials. Before departing later in the afternoon, the Secretary and NPS law enforcement rangers hiked five miles of the Appalachian Trail up to Clingmans Dome.