Great Smoky Mountains National Park held two ribbon-cutting ceremonies to unveil over 10 new pieces of alternative fuel equipment. The events were held at Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, N.C. and Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tenn. on September 30, 2015.With the new pieces of alternative fuel equipment, the Smokies implemented three new facets of the park’s Climate Friendly Parks program through funding from a joint U.S. Departments of Interior (DOI) and Energy (DOE) initiative called the “Clean Cities National Park Initiative.” The new equipment helps the park leave a smaller carbon footprint and allows the public to join in the effort.
In partnership with its two neighboring DOE “Clean Cities” coalitions, the East Tennessee Clean Fuels Coalition and the Land of Sky Clean Vehicles Coalition, the park installed the following new pieces of equipment to improve air quality in the Smokies:
Five gasoline mowers were converted to run on propane autogas. These mowers operate near visitors on a regular basis as they mow diverse areas including roadways and fields in Cades Cove. The park also purchased two additional propane mowers. All of these mowers now run exclusively on propane.
Three new, low-speed electric vehicles were purchased for use in park campgrounds. These vehicles emit no pollution at the tailpipe and replaced larger gasoline vehicles, increasing fuel economy from 20 MPG to the over 100 MPGe (equivalent).
Two kinds of electric vehicle recharging equipment were installed on either end of Newfound Gap Road in the Smokies. Both 220V “Level 2” charging and 208V “DC Fast Charging” equipment were added at Sugarlands and Oconaluftee Visitor Centers to allow visitors with electric vehicles to enjoy more mobility within the park while creating zero tailpipe emissions. Future park electric vehicles will also be able to utilize this equipment for recharging needs.
“Putting this equipment in use will help us meet our goal of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions from 2006 levels by 20% by 2020,” said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Today celebrates another step closer to achieving that goal.”
The park also installed signs encouraging drivers to reduce carbon emissions by turning off their vehicles when parked at popular destinations such as Sugarlands Visitor Center, Oconaluftee Visitor Center, and Newfound Gap. The signs ask drivers to “Be our idol, Don’t Idle.”
“We really enjoy doing anything we can to help the Smokies. We are even more proud of this partnership now that we have enabled Smokies’ visitors to get in the game by using the electric vehicle charging equipment, or even reducing their idling time,” said East Tennessee Clean Fuels Director Jonathan Overly.
Coordinator of the Land of Sky Clean Vehicles Coalition Bill Eaker said, “Air quality has greatly improved in the park and region due to emission reductions from power plants, industries and motor vehicles. The park is a clean transportation leader within the National Park Service and is setting a great example for other parks and fleets across the nation. We are thrilled to be a part of this partnership.”
The joint DOI/DOE funding is helping multiple national parks across the country advance their goals towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions from park operations and maintenance vehicles and improving air quality overall in and around the parks.