Press Release Oct 20, 2022

Great Smokies Superintendent Receives Award for Hikes for Healing Program

In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many other Black Americans in 2020, Superintendent Cassius Cash created the Smokies Hikes for Healing program.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Today, the National Parks Conservation Association is proud to announce that Cassius Cash, Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, will receive NPCA’s 2021 Stephen Tyng Mather Award during a special ceremony on Friday, October 21st.

This award recognizes annually a federal employee who has risked his/her career for the principles and practices of good stewardship of the national parks during the previous calendar year. The 2021 award ceremony and announcement were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and so many Black Americans in 2020, Superintendent Cash, the first Black superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains, created the Smokies Hikes for Healing program.

The program is designed to bring people of different experiences together. Trained facilitators join group hikes on park trails, leading thought-provoking, open and honest conversations about the ills and impacts of racism and other forms of discrimination in our country. Hikers who start out as strangers bond together, and leave the experience equipped with tools and ideas to practice antiracism and anti-discrimination work in their communities. The national park provides common ground for Hikes for Healing participants to share, understand, and heal.

Cassius Cash1

Cassius Cash, Superintendent of Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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“It is an absolute honor to be recognized by the National Parks Conservation Association,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The recognition of ‘Smokies Hikes for Healing’ is particularly special to me as it highlights appreciation of our National Parks for the distinctive benefits they provide as a brave space for discussing uncomfortable topics during a difficult time in our country’s history. I am humbled that others found these hiking experiences powerful, healing, and worth repeating across our public lands.”

Superintendent Cash’s Hikes for Healing program was developed despite a government mandate at the time that attempted to quell any trainings or activities by federal government staff that encouraged conversations about race, diversity, sexual orientation and other topics.

“National Parks Conservation Association is proud to honor Superintendent Cassius Cash with the Stephen Tyng Mather Award,” said National Parks Conservation Association President and CEO Theresa Pierno.

“Superintendent Cash embodies the values of conservation and public service, values for which the National Park Service has stood for more than a century. But Superintendent Cash’s leadership on racial justice demonstrates that he represents not only the best parts of the Park Service’s past, but part of its bright future.” Pierno continued.

“Amid a global pandemic and nationwide reckoning with systemic injustice, Superintendent Cash harnessed the power of our public lands to help communities come together and heal. His Hikes for Healing program serves as an example for other conservationists and national park advocates to follow, and I count myself among them. Congratulations, Superintendent Cash, and thank you.”


About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its more than 1.5 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit

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