Tuesday, November 30, 2010

N.C. side of Smokies to get fleet of hybrids

"A handful of shiny, new hybrid Ford Escapes will soon be tooling about the North Carolina side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, thanks to a grant from the North Carolina Department of Transportation," says National Parks Traveler.

“One of the most serious threats that the Smokies faces is the impact of air pollution on the Park’s plants, soils and aquatic life," said Deputy Superintendent Kevin FitzGerald. “We strive, through education and through our own example, to inform the public of ways that they can work towards cleaner air. One way we do this is by gradually transitioning our vehicles and equipment towards cleaner technology.”

According to the article, the park purchased the seven rigs with nearly $200,000 from the transportation department's Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program. The CMAQ funding is U.S. Department of Transportation money that was allocated by the Rural Planning Organizations of the Land-of-Sky Regional Council and Southwestern Commission.

The goal of the CMAQ Program is to reduce air emissions in counties where air quality is in non-attainment of EPA Clean Air Act standards. The portions of Swain and Haywood counties that lie within Great Smoky are both in non-attainment due to elevated levels of ground level ozone, according to park officials.

The new vehicles are replacing seven "much more polluting vehicles, including two full-size pickups, three station wagons, and a sedan, some of which are over 20 years old, so emissions reduction are projected to be substantial," a park release said.

The new vehicles will be used in North Carolina park operations ranging from ranger patrols in the campgrounds to trail maintenance.

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