Great Smoky Mountains Hikes For Healing Program Announced. GSMNP Superintendent Cassius Cash is inviting the public to participate in a new initiative called Smokies Hikes for Healing. Ten people per hike can join the superintendent on eight scheduled outings. Hikes will be guided by facilitators who will provide opportunities for open conversation about diversity and racism while enjoying one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. The public can also participate by coordinating their own experiences using Smokies Hikes for Healing materials.
“National Parks have long provided a place of healing, and I believe the setting of this mountain sanctuary is a powerful space to bring us together to engage in crucial conversations,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “This year has brought a lot of uncertainty and fear that tends to draw people to their corners. Through this opportunity, I’m inviting everyone to step out and have real conversations about the history of racism locally and globally. In learning about our past, we open the doors to our future.”
The goal of this initiative is to provide a safe space for individuals of all backgrounds and ethnicities to begin difficult conversations that can lead to change. The eight guided hikes will be held August through December in varying GSMNP locations in Tennessee and North Carolina. During the hikes, a facilitator will lead each group in a thought-provoking discussion around race. This safe and trusting environment is perfect for individuals to recognize the long-standing ills associated with racism. Facilitators will equip participants with tools and ideas about how to identify biases through a deeper level of self-awareness and reflection.
Space is limited to up to ten participants for each hike. Groups will follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including social distancing and wearing of facial coverings when the appropriate distance cannot be maintained. Everyone is invited to join the conversation virtually through this digital platform where hike participants can share their stories, realizations, and commitments.
Longtime park partner Great Smoky Mountains Association assisted in the creative development of the program and website, along with additional financial support from park partner Friends of the Smokies. For more information visit NPS.gov.
Source material – GSMNP