The goal of the Experience Your Smokies program, established in 1999, was to help community leaders get more involved with the National Park through an inside look and hands-on experience with Park issues.
The Park had been experimenting with the Experience Your Smokies program in Gatlinburg and it was suggested that Blount County consider this as a basis but to expand it and develop a program that had participation from Blount County leaders.
Park personnel and community leaders worked closely together to come up with the programs including topics and relevant issues critically important to the Park.
The first EYS program reached the goals that had been outlined and the first class graduated in 2001. Over 350 Tennessee residents have completed the six-month EYS program. The program has been so successful that in 2013 it was opened to any resident in the state of Tennessee.
In 2001 the National Park Service presented the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with the coveted Keeper of the Light Award in recognition of its work with the Blount County EYS program.
Sponsors of the Experience Your Smokies program are the National Park Service, Great Smoky Mountains National Park Association, Friends of the Smokies, Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau, Blount County Chamber of Commerce, Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, the Gatlinburg Gateway Foundation and others.