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When you drive through Cades Cove, you’ve probably seen a few donation boxes. While you most likely know the boxes are there to benefit the national park, you may not know where the money goes and what it’s used for. We want to tell you what you need to know about the Cades Cove donation boxes! Here’s everything you need to know about the donation boxes in Cades Cove:
Why Are There Donation Boxes?
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the only national parks in the United States that doesn’t charge an entrance fee. This agreement was reached before the park was a park. North Carolina’s and Tennessee’s governments agreed to and funded the Newfound Gap Road, which connected the two states through the mountains. The federal government wanted to own this road, so they approached the two states about it. North Carolina handed over the deed to save money on annual maintenance. Tennessee agreed to the deal as long as the government conceded to an eternal land deed restriction, meaning “no toll or license fee shall ever be imposed” on the road.
Because of this transaction, there’s no fee to get into the park. Therefore, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park relies heavily on donations for maintenance, upkeep, and updating. Friends of the Smokies, a nonprofit organization founded in 1993, actually put up the donation boxes you see throughout the park, including the ones in Cades Cove.
Do the Boxes Get Broken Into?
People have tried to break into the donation boxes before. During the government shutdown in 2013, someone tried to open a donation box with a blow torch, but they didn’t find any money inside. Friends of the Smokies actually frequently empty the boxes. If the boxes are ever damaged, they usually have to be replaced completely since they can’t easily be repaired. In 2017, students from the University of Tennessee’s engineering school built new donation boxes to ensure they withstand all kinds of weather and tampering.
Where Does the Money Go?
When you place your money in the donation box, Friends of the Smokies takes it and typically puts it together with the other money they get from memberships and special events. Every year, a Park Support List is created to share with people what needs to be done in the park. Some of the money you give will go towards this list, while some of it can also go to the Trails Forever program to update and ensure hiking trails throughout the park are safe or general maintenance needs.
Why Should You Visit Cades Cove?
If you’ve never been to Cades Cove, you should definitely go the next time you’re in the Smokies. Cades Cove is one of the most popular destinations in the national park. You can drive along the Cades Cove Loop, an 11-mile paved road through a valley in the mountains where you can see the mountain range, meadows where wildlife grazes, and historic buildings that give you a better idea of what life was like as a pioneer. There’s even hiking trails throughout the area, and you can stop virtually anywhere along the loop to get out and explore.
Do you have more questions about Cades Cove? Look at this blog that answers the most popular questions about Cades Cove for more information.