Mission & History


In partnership with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, our mission is to deliver experiential learning for youth, educators, and adults through programs that promote self-discovery, critical thinking, and effective teaching and leadership.

From our home in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, our research and residential programs investigate the diversity that sustains all life, develop a sense of place, and cultivate a stewardship ethic that will influence lifelong decision-making.

We have been connecting people and nature for over 50 years. See our history.

We achieve our mission through:

Tremont achieves our mission through residential programs, research that complements our learning laboratory, community engagement, and advocacy for outdoor learning

Personal, Local, and Relevant

Personal – Student-centered learning is personal. You create and are included in the experience. You are needed. Education that is personal helps people see how they fit in. It goes beyond taking in facts.

Local – Learning is most powerful when grounded in a place. By learning outdoors and within our communities and our  every day spaces, we see the impact of our actions and the reality of the connections throughout the land.

Relevant – Why does this matter? What can I do with this information? What are my next steps? What do I want to know more about? Seeing the relevance in a lesson empowers people to think and brings about action.

Click on the graphic to learn more. 


Pre- Tremont

  • 1859 Will and Nancy Walker settle in the valley
  • 1919 Will Walker dies
  • 1924 Railroad tracks laid by Little River Lumber Company, Logging begins
  • 1925-1959 Girls Scout Camp Margaret Townsend in operation
  • 1926 Tremont logging town officially established (at confluence of Lynn Camp and Thunderhead prongs)
  • 1934 Great Smoky Mountains National Park established
  • 1938 Last load of logs removed from GSMNP are taken out of Walker Valley
  • 1940 Park dedicated by Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • 1964-1969 Job Corp facility constructed and in operation
  • 1968 NEED (National Environmental Education Development) program establishes Environmental Study Areas in the Smokies through partnership with NPS, Maryville College and local schools

Tremont forward

  • 1969-1979 Maryville College operates the Tremont Environmental Education Center in cooperation with the National Park Service. Lloyd Foster, first Director.
  • 1970 Retired school supervisor, Elsie Burrell begins volunteering to assist school groups at Tremont
  • 1971 Youth Conservation Corps begins at Tremont in the summers
  • 1974 Dr. Randolph Shields, Chair of Maryville College Biology department, assumes Tremont Director position.
  • 1977 Tom DeVaney hired as Director.
  • 1978-1980 Old dormitories are removed, entrance bridge repaired.
  • 1980 Tremont re-opened by the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association after vocational building is converted to a dormitory & classrooms added to upstairs of gym
  • 1982 Center and roads closed to rebuild Tremont entry road bridges
  • 1984 Re-opened after bridge repairs, and conversion of gym to dining hall, old dining hall removed. Ken Voorhis hired as Director
  • 1986 Name change to Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont (GSMIT)
  • 1993 Blizzard brought two feet of snow and subzero temps.
  • 1994 Flood closed portions of Tremont road for nearly 2 years to all but Tremont groups.
  • 2001 GSMIT separates from GSMNHA established as an independent non-profit organization.
  • 2003 Conceptual site master plan completed
  • 2005-2009 Environmental Assessment (E.A.) for improved site and facilities
  • 2009 Tremont’s 40th & GSMNP’s 75th anniversaries
  • 2014 Jennifer Jones hired as President and CEO, Tremont’s 45th Anniversary
  • 2018 Catey McClary hired as President and CEO
  • 2019 Tremont purchases land in Townsend, Tennessee, Tremont’s 50th Anniversary