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Q: What’s the difference between Great Smoky Mountains Association and Friends of the Smokies?
A: GSMA and FOTS are both non-profit organizations established to support Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The difference in our organizations is how we raise funds. Great Smoky Mountains Association raises most of its park support through sales at our 9 visitor center locations in and around the national park. We also receive nearly $1 million in membership dues each year from individuals, families and businesses. GSMA members receive a slate of benefits, including shopping discounts at this and many other national parks and a subscription to our award-winning “Smokies Life” magazine. And, as a 501(c)(3), we receive donations from generous supports.
GSMA’s Mission: Great Smoky Mountains Association supports the perpetual preservation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the national park system by promoting greater public interest and appreciation through education, interpretation, and research.
FOTS raises most of its park support funding through the North Carolina and Tennessee specialty license plate program, donations and special events, including its highly successful Evergreen Ball, its Classic Hikes series, and new in 2014 the Gran Fondo bike ride. Friends also offers a membership program, for which participants receive a variety of discounts from businesses and attractions around the park boundary.
Friends’ Mission: Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park assists the National Park Service in its mission to preserve and protect the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by raising funds and public awareness, and providing volunteers for needed projects. Click HERE for more information about Friends of the Smokies.
Q: How does shopping in national park visitor center stores and online at www.SmokiesInformation.org support the Smokies?
A: GSMA raises the majority of its park support (more than $7 million a year) through sales at our 9 visitor center locations. All items sold in the visitor centers have passed a rigorous evaluation process based on quality and relevance to this national park. As the major publisher of park-related information, GSMA produces the best and most accurate materials available anywhere. After expenses each year, GSMA contributes on average $1.5 million to the national park to support a variety of programs and services. A list of funding distribution is found HERE.
Q: How often is “Smokies Guide” published?
A: “Smokies Guide,” the official park newspaper, is published at the start of each season in the Smokies: spring, summer, fall, and winter. A second edition is often produced in the fall to be sure all areas of interest are covered during this heavily visited time of year. The current season's issue is available HERE. Digital “Smokies Guides” are found HERE.
Q: Where can I get a copy of “Smokies Guide?”
Q: How often is “Smokies Life" magazine published?
A: “Smokies Life Magazine,” GSMA’s award-winning magazine covering a wide variety of topics related to the national park, is published twice a year: spring and fall. GSMA members receive a free subscription to the magazine; others are invited to look for current and back issues at our visitor center locations and online HERE.
Q: Why are “Smokies Life" magazines not dated?
A: The stories included in each Smokies Life Magazine are timeless tales of this park’s people, its history, and its rich resources. They fall into a category all their own – too long for the park newspaper – the Smokies Guide – but too short for an entire book.
Q: Which “Smokies Life" magazine had that story about…?
A: A list of Smokies Life Magazine stories can be found in the product descriptions for each edition found HERE.
Q: How often is the “Bear Paw” published?
A: “Bear Paw,” GSMA’s membership printed/digital newsletter, is published twice a year: spring and fall. GSMA members have exclusive access to the “Bear Paw” via our website. Within 24 hours of the Bear Paw's digital availability, we send an alert email.
Q: How often is the “Cub Report” published?
A: “Cub Report,” GSMA’s digital-only newsletter, is available to anyone interested in receiving updates about this national park. It is published and distributed on the last Wednesday of each month. Archival copies of this digital-only e-newsletter can be accessed by anyone on GSMA’s website HERE.
Q: How can I receive the “Cub Report” each month?
A: GSMA members are automatically added to the email list when they “Get Rooted in the Smokies.” You can also ask any of our visitor center staff members to add your email or you can use this LINK to register your email.
Q: Once I’m on your email list, how many emails can I expect to receive?
A: In addition to the monthly “Cub Report,” members and others can expect to receive up to two additional emails with sales promotions, all of which support this national park, as well as late-breaking information that been announced after the monthly e-newsletter was published. Very rarely will more than three emails be generated in a given month.
Q: How do I remove my email address from your email list?
A: Each email from GSMA is required to contain an “unsubscribe” link. GSMA personnel cannot remove your email from our list; only you have that right and ability.
Q: Where are the visitor centers located and what are their hours of operation?
A: GSMA staff operates nine visitor center locations in and around this national park. Click HERE to find directions to each visitor center, their hours of operation, and their days open.
Q: How does GSMA choose products to sell in the national park stores?
A: Our product support director collects and accepts nominations for sale items throughout the year. Approximately three times a year these materials are brought before a committee made up mostly of National Park Service staff, all experts in their fields. This committee votes up or down on a product based on its subject matter and/or its relevance to the Smokies. Once an item has been approved, GSMA management, along with a subcommittee of our board of directors, decides how and when to introduce an item into our stores based on a variety of factors, including time of year and warehousing logistics.
Q: Who do I call for online order questions?
A: Our Mail Order Customer Service Department can be reached at 865.436.7318 ext. 226. Our toll-free number is 888.898.9102. Our fax number is 865.436.6884. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Can I return something I bought at Sugarlands to Townsend?
A: Yes, you may return items purchased on any of our visitor center locations to any other location. Please be sure to bring your receipt with you.
Q: Who do I call if I need a refund?
A: Our Customer Service Department can be reached at 865.436.7318 ext. 226. Our toll-free number is 888.898.9102. Our fax number is 865.436.6884. You can also email us at email@example.com.
Q: What’s an Acorn membership?
A: An annual Acorn membership is available for $15 for youth through age 14. Acorn members receive a membership card, a fun activity worksheet and a free gift. A website with even more Smokies-related activities is in the works. For more information about the benefits of being an Acorn, click HERE.
Q: What’s a Buckeye membership?
A: An annual Buckeye membership is available for $35 for individuals ages 15+. Buckeye members receive a list of benefits, which are described HERE. Buckeyes can create a Family Tree Membership by adding members of their immediate household for a fraction of the original cost. See more below under “Family Tree Memberships.”
Q: What’s a Chestnut membership?
A: An annual Chestnut membership is available for $100 for individuals ages 15+. Chestnut members receive all the benefits of the Buckeye level (described HERE), plus their names are added to our Legacy Fund list of donors. Chestnut members can create a Family Tree Membership by adding members of their immediate household for a fraction of the original cost. See more below under “Family Tree Memberships.”
Q: What’s a Dogwood membership?
A: A Dogwood membership is available for $200 per year, per person, with the goal of reaching $1,000 in five year, at which time the level of membership is automatically upgraded to Hemlock. Dogwood members receive all the benefits of the Chestnut level, plus they receive a $50 coupon to use in our visitor center stores after their fourth payment is processed. Dogwood members can create a Family Tree Membership by adding members of their immediate household for half the original cost. See more below under “Family Tree Memberships.”
Q: What’s a Hemlock membership?
A: A Hemlock membership is available for $1,000 per person, making them lifetime supporters of the Smokies. Hemlock members receive all the benefits of Dogwood members, plus they are entitled to attend all monthly “Branch Out Programs” at no costs. Hemlock members can create a Family Tree Membership by adding members of their immediate household for half the original cost. See more below under “Family Tree Memberships.”
Q: I became a lifetime member prior to April 2015. Does that mean I'm now considered a Hemlock member?
A: No. Most lifetime members contributed to GSMA at the $500 level and had their status and benefits grandfathered in prior to the membership level changes in April 2015. Any lifetime member who'd like to upgrade to Hemlock, may do so. See below for details.
Q: What’s a Family Tree membership?
A: Members of the same family residing at the same location are invited to come together to create a Family Tree membership. Buckeyes can add other buckeyes; Chestnuts can add other Chestnuts (or Buckeyes); Dogwoods can add other Dogwoods (or Buckeyes/Chestnuts); and Hemlocks can add other Hemlocks (or Buckeyes/Chestnuts/Dogwoods). Our Family Tree program is designed to be flexible to meet any possible need you can think of. Requirements to form a Family Tree are that an initial, full-price membership is purchased and that additions must reside at the same location as the initial purchaser. With the added Acorn membership, even the youngest members of your family can get involved and support this national park.
Q: Can I still purchase an “installment” membership?
A: Yes and no. Yes, our Dogwood level is considered an installment plan, with a goal of attaining Hemlock status after five (5) $200 payments within five (5) years. No, the previous installment plan that earned lifetime status after four $125 payments is no longer offered.
Q: I was an installment member prior to April 1, 2015. Can I continue to make installment payments online?
A: Yes. Start by loggging into your GSMA account, then use this LINK to make a payment.
Q: Can I still purchase a lifetime membership?
A: Yes and no. Yes, our Hemlock level is considered a "Lifetime of Support" for the Smokies. It is available for $1,000 per person or can be attained by starting at the Dogwood level. No, the previous $500 lifetime level is no longer offered.
Q: How do I upgrade my membership?
A: Most GSMA members join initially at the Buckeye, or basic, level. Upgrades beyond Buckeye include Chestnut, Dogwood and Hemlock. Upgrades can be purchased at any of our visitor center locations, on our website (within 30 days of renewal) or by calling our Membership Department at 865.436.7318 ext. 222.
Q: I'm a lifetime member. Can I upgrade to a Hemlock?
A: Yes! lifetime members need only contribute an additional $500 to become a Hemlock member. This can be done in one or multiple payments in no more than 2 years. As a Hemlock member, your benefits will change slightly. While your shopping discount will drop to 20% savings, you'll be entitled to attend all Branch Out events free of charge.
Q: How to Check Your Membership Status
1. Log into your online account as a "Returning Customer" with your email and password. (If you do not remember your password, use the "Forgot Password" option and an email will be sent to you with instructions on how to update it.)
2. Click "My Account" found just above the Calendar on our website's home page
3. Your membership expiration date is listed on "My Account" page
Q: How often is the “Bear Paw” published?
A: “Bear Paw,” GSMA’s membership newsletter, is published twice a year: spring and fall. GSMA members have exclusive access to the “Bear Paw” via our website. Within 24 hours of the Bear Paw's digital availability, we send an alert email.
Q: How do I get my Bear Paw newsletter delivered to my mailbox?
A: While reducing printing and mailing costs associated with the Bear Paw saved GSMA many thousands of dollars annually, we heard from many members who missed home delivery of this publication. To address both those who want home delivery and those who do not, we added a box to everyone’s online account to allow you to choose. You’ll find this box immediately after logging into your online account. (See directions to log into your online account in the Website FAQs section below.)
Q: Is my membership dues tax deductible?
A: A portion of each membership is tax deductible, with that portion determined annually and published on our website HERE. Receipts for the upcoming tax year are available by EMAIL until March 31 the next year.
Q: Who do I call for membership questions?
A: Our Membership Department staff is here to serve you Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. EST at 865.436.7318 ext. 226, 254 or 325.
Q: How do I get a replacement membership card?
A: Email us HERE or call us M-F, 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. EST at 865.436.7318 ext. 226, 254 or 325. Replacement cards are usually made available within 2-4 weeks after a request has been made.
Q: What is a Business Membership?
A: GSMA is proud to receive support through annual memberships from more than 170 businesses around the national park in both North Carolina and Tennessee. In return for joining GSMA at the Business Member level, GSMA says “Thank You” with a list of unique benefits. Most of these businesses additionally show their support by offering discounts to our individual members. A list of business members can be found HERE, as well as information on how your business can support the Smokies.
Q: I know I receive a discount when shopping in the Smokies, but where else does my membership card earn discounts?
A: GSMA is proud to receive support from more than 170 businesses in and around the Smokies, in both North Carolina and Tennessee, through our Business Membership Program. Many of these businesses offer discounts to our Buckeye, Chestnut, Dogwood, Hemlock, Installment and Lifetime members. A list of these businesses is found HERE.
Q: How do I use my GSMA membership card to receive discounts at other national parks?
A: Many other public lands, like the Smokies, are supported by non-profit partner organizations like Great Smoky Mountains Association. As a group these partner organizations offer reciprocal discounts to members of other associations. Discounts vary from association to association and proof of membership may be required for discounted purchases. Click HERE to find a list of associations that participate in the reciprocal program.
Q: How do I give a gift membership?
A: Giving the Gift of a Smokies membership is easy. (1) Stop by any of our visitor center locations and ask a sales associate about gifting the Smokies. (2) Visit our website and click on “Members Get Rooted.” (3) Call our Mail Order Department at 865.436.7318, Ext. 226 or toll-free at 888.898.9102.
Q: Where does my membership dues go?
A: GSMA gives on average $1.5 million to the national park to support a variety of programs and services. A list of funding distribution is found HERE.
BRANCH OUT PROGRAMS
Q: What are Branch Out programs?
A: Because education is one of GSMA's mission objectives, we've designed our Branch Out programs to help our members learn more about this national park. Programs are diverse - from day hikes to indoor, hour-long session. With few exceptions, Branch Out programs are scheduled each month in various park locations. We try to accommodate all, but some programs may not be appropriate for everyone, especially longer, harder hikes.
Q: Why does GSMA charge fees for Branch Out Programs?
A: Our goal when we establish a Branch Out fee is to cover the cost of our program leader, who many times is a professional naturalist who earns his or her living from the park. Must programs are $20 for members and $35 for non-members, which includes an annual Buckeye membership and all the benefits of our membership program at that level.
Q: Is it true that Hemlock level members may attend Branch Out programs at no fee?
A: Yes. With very few exceptions as listed, Hemlock members are invited to participate in our Branch Out activities free of charge.
Q: How do I give to Legacy Fund?
A: GSMA members are invited via mail twice a year to make an additional show of support for the Smokies: first, to accompany their annual renewal; and second, during what most would say is the park’s most spectacular time of year, the fall color season. Members can, however, choose to give donations at any time of year for any reason at our visitor center locations, on our website (you must log in and click on “Smokies Insider” to donation this way) or by calling us at 865.436.7318, Ext. 222 or 325.
Q: Are donations to the Legacy Fund tax deductible?
A: Yes, Legacy Fund donations are 100% tax deductible. Each donation is followed within 2-4 weeks by a letter of thanks, which can serve as validation of support at tax time.
Q: Is it safe to submit a credit card to SmokiesInformation.org?
A: Yes, all credit card information is encrypted and pages are protected by SSL certificate. When you type in your credit card number, you are entering it into a page that is encrypted so that even if someone were electronically eavesdropping, he/she would not be able to acquire the number. Once you click the “buy” button, the order information, along with your credit card number, is sent directly through an encrypted connection to a merchant gateway, which checks the validity of the card, available funds, and tests for fraud.
Q: How do I update my mailing address so I don't miss an issue of Smokies Life?
1. Log into your online account with your email and password (if you do not remember your password, use the "Forgot Password" option and an email will be sent to you with instruction on how to update it).
2. Click "My Account" found just above the Calendar on our website's home page
3. Click "Change your billing information, Email and Password"
4. Make all necessary updates to the information and click "Submit."
Q: How do I update my email address for the Cub Report?
A: Several options are available to update your email address to be sure you don’t miss the monthly Cub Report, including using the “Subscribe” link on our website homepage; by logging into your account and updating your contact information; and by calling us at 865.436.7318, Ext. 222 or 325.
Q: How do I login to the website?
A: When you joined GSMA, we created an online account for you. We used your email address as your log in, leaving the password up to you to create the first time you access your account. Start at www.SmokiesInformation.org, use the “Log In” link at the top of the page, type your email address in the field under “Returning Customer,” and then click on “Forgot Password.” You’ll be prompted to create a password to continue to your account.
Q: Why should I log on to the site?
A: If you wish to shop at our online location, you must first log in and access your membership account to receive your shopping discount. If, as a member, you do not log in correctly or cannot log in for any reason, please give us a call. DO NOT create an account as a New Customer if you are a member.
Q: I’m logged into my account, but I do not see discounted merchandise. Why?
A: Most likely because your membership has lapsed. If that’s the case, simply renew and you should see discounted merchandise prices within 2-3 days. Another reason could be that you have duplicate accounts in our system. This most often happens when existing customers and members create multiple accounts with “Express Checkout.” If you believe you have multiple accounts, please let us know at 865.436.7318, Ext. 254 or 222.
Q: How do I access the Wildflower and Fall Foliage reports?
A: First, you must be a member to access these report. (See above for details about membership.) After that, simply log into your online account with your email and password, click on "Smokies Insider," and find both reports in the left navigation list.
Q: I’m a member. How do I choose to receive the Bear Paw with my fall Smokies Life Magazine in the mail?
A: As stewards of this national park and environmental resources in general, many of our members choose not to receive extra printed materials from us, opting instead to read the membership newsletter on our website. However, we understand that many members still enjoy holding the printed Bear Paw and leafing through it leisurely. If you fall into the latter category of members, here’s how to ensure your Bear Paw is mailed to you with each fall:
- Visit us at www.SmokiesInformation.org
- Log in as a “Returning Customer”
- Uncheck the box on the next screen that says: “Be Green”
Note: This does not apply to Smokies Guide, the park’s official newspaper. We are committed to our decision not to print extras. They are available for free HERE (shipping charges apply) on our website HERE and at all our visitor center locations.
Question for You: Did we miss anything? Let us know HERE.