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Great Smoky Mountains Association invites its members and those considering an enriched national park experience to “Branch Out” and go hiking with a naturalist in March.

“Big Creek Hike” with Liz Domingue of Just Get Outdoors is set for Saturday, March 21, on the North Carolina side of the park, just north of Cataloochee Valley. Participants will enjoy learning about nature on this four-mile, round-trip hike to Mouse Creek Falls and Midnight Hole. Since the weather may still be cold in the Smokies, participants are asked to prepare with layers and appropriate outerwear. The hike is limited to 20 participants.

Domingue is a professional naturalist, educator, nature photographer, writer and guide with extensive experience hiking, backpacking, photographing and studying the natural world. Her interest in and study of natural history has been her lifelong pursuit and passion. As the originator and operator of Just Get Outdoors, she leads guided interpretive hikes and Naturalist Adventure Tours regionally and throughout the U.S.

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Support Remote Sales Tax Collection (Marketplace Fairness Act) - North Carolina and its counties are losing hundreds of millions of dollars annually in sales tax revenues through untaxed remote sales. State estimates project an N.C. loss of nearly $122 million annually, with losses growing faster than the overall retail tax base. Collecting remote sales taxes is not a new tax or a tax increase; these revenues are actually already due and payable by law.

Oppose Unfunded Mandates to Counties - Reductions in federal spending and deficits should not be accomplished by shifting costs to counties, imposing unfunded mandates, or pre-empting county programs and taxing authority. We oppose any legislative or regulatory initiatives that undermine local government decision making authority and contribute to reductions to the economic prosperity and workforce of North Carolina’s counties.

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As Governor Pat McCrory said in his State of the State Address last month, continued transportation infrastructure investment is critical to North Carolina’s future, and it plays an integral role in job creation, economic development and overall quality of life.

To that end, 2014 was a landmark year in transportation that included many milestones that will help better meet North Carolina’s growing transportation needs. From implementation of a new transportation funding formula that will result in more transportation improvements supporting more jobs and economic opportunities, to the debut of Gov. McCrory’s 25-Year Vision for strategic investment in transportation throughout the state, the N.C. Department of Transportation continues to make great strides in its efforts to leverage North Carolina’s transportation infrastructure and provide better connections to work, life and play.

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The N.C. Department of Transportation has launched a new website for Walk Bike NC, a statewide plan for improving pedestrian and bicycle mobility. WalkBikeNC.com provides many features, including digital information from the plan and a new online mapping tool showcasing thousands of miles of signed bicycle routes in North Carolina.

The website’s online map shows NCDOT-designated, onroad bicycle routes, first developed and signed in the 1970s and 1980s. In the past, route information had only been available via paper map order through the NCDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Division.

WalkBikeNC.com allows cyclists to create turn-by-turn directions and check elevation profiles for the state’s bicycle routes. These online features will make bicycle tour planning easier for visitors and residents and compliment other online mapping services.

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