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Outdoor Updates: Adaptive Training in the Smokies + Painting with Otters at Grandfather Mountain

Adaptive Programs in Great Smoky Mountains National Park Offer Volunteer Training 

Looking for unique volunteer opportunities in the Smokies? Great Smoky Mountains National Park is offering Adaptive and Equipment Training on Friday, September 8th from 10 am-12 pm. The training comes after the park announced an initiative to make the outdoors more accessible in partnership with Knox County and Catalyst Sports back in July.   

“Programs in Great Smoky Mountains National Park play a vital role in fostering an adaptive community, as they offer an opportunity for individuals to connect with and understand the natural world around them,” Catalyst Sports CEO Eric Gray said in a statement announcing the new program. “People can engage in activities that promote environmental awareness and conservation thereby cultivating a deeper sense of stewardship and responsibility for the park’s resources.”

According to park officials, the off-road wheelchairs offered to guests require assistance from two volunteers. Trainees will learn disability etiquette and how to use equipment to help with events and future programs. The training will take place at Sugarland Visitor Training Room near the Gatlinburg entrance to the park. Those interested can register to volunteer by emailing Katherine Corrigan at [email protected].

Otter Painting at North Carolina’s Grandfather Mountain

This year, a new program at Grandfather Mountain offers participants the chance to paint with otters. Open on Saturdays and Sundays through October, visitors can come to Wilson Center for Nature Discovery in Linville, N.C., for a behind-the-scenes look at the habitat enclosures the animals live in and to watch an otter create a painting that they get to take home. 

“Viewing areas give you an up-close perspective of the animals as they live in the wild,” the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation states on its website. “Separated from the animals by moats or elevated above the habitats on large retaining walls, these viewing areas allow you to stand only a few feet away from animals you probably wouldn’t see in your everyday life.”

With a guide, each group gets to meet the otters and pick out which colors for them to use for a painting. Using non-toxic paint, a guide then sprays the ground around sheets of paper for the otters to create a masterpiece. Those interested can make reservations by emailing or calling the Grandfather Mountain Habitats Office at [email protected] or 828-733-8715.

Cover photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

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