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Savvy drivers in North Carolina and Tennessee can kick off the New Year and join the 32,000 other vehicles with Friends of the Smokies license plates. Sales of specialty license plates in North Carolina and Tennessee support priority projects in Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). Projects supported by the specialty plate fees include Student Conservation Association (SCA) internship positions as well as Parks as Classrooms and Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner programs in both states.

License plate sales in North Carolina and Tennessee during 2014 brought in over $750,000. Since the program launched in 1999, plates in both states have generated more than $11.7 million in support of America’s most-visited national park.

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The road between Franklin and Highlands can serve as a beautiful scenic drive for visitors and residents alike with its winding road, mountain views, and waterfalls. But anybody who has ever been behind the wheel of a vehicle navigating each turn understands the difficulty that can come if a large truck is encountered on the narrow road.

Technically, large trucks are not allowed on that section of U.S. 64/N.C. 28 with signs arranged accordingly to let drivers know of the restriction. Regardless, those who drive the road enough probably understand that sometimes these warnings go unnoticed. On occasion along the two-lane roadway, motorists can see remnants of trailer sides that the rock faces have claimed.

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The North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Commission has officially launched a new statewide campaign targeting underage drinking in North Carolina. The new campaign, called Talk It Out, is a multi-media campaign designed to raise awareness of the issue, and to give parents the right tools for talking to kids about the dangers of underage drinking.

During a news conference at Daniels Middle School in Raleigh on Dec. 8, N.C. ABC Commission Chairman Jim Gardner announced plans for broadcast, web, social media and a series of events and activities across the state associated with the campaign. Chairman Gardner also unveiled the Commission’s original body of research, The State of Underage Drinking in North Carolina.

“When Governor McCrory appointed me to the North Carolina ABC Commission in 2013, he directed me to do something about the issue of underage drinking. Our team got right down to business and undertook a unique research effort to better understand the magnitude of the problem in our state. We went straight to the source – parents and children,” said Gardner.

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When it comes to fishing, Western Carolina University art professor Jon Jicha is happy angling in all kinds of waters.

But recently, Jicha painted a couple of his favorite fish for the North Carolina Department of Transportation to use in two new vehicle plate designs. The designs show native brook trout (the state’s official freshwater fish) and red drum (the official state saltwater fish) in their natural habitats.

More than just attractive car tags, the plates serve to reinforce the necessity of maintaining the state’s natural resources – especially those that tend to get caught and eaten in large numbers.

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