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Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by Steve Harwood, CC BY-NC 2.0.

George Masa demonstrates the difference one person can make



Greetings and welcome to the Southern Appalachian Creature Feature.

Having studied a little photojournalism in college, photography has become a resurgent interest of mine and I was caught by a recent cover of the Mountain Xpress, Asheville’s alternative weekly newspaper. It has a striking image of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, taken by George Masa.

Masa was a driving force behind the creation of the park, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. George, whose original name was Masahara Izuka, was a Japanese immigrant, coming to the U.S. in 1901, settling in Asheville in 1915. He took a job as a bellhop at the Grove Park Inn, where his interest in photography blossomed. Masa fell in love with the Smoky Mountains and they became a focus of his photographs, leading him to work closely with writer Horace Kephart as an advocate for the creation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which was established in 1934, a year after Masa’s death.

It’s easy to get cynical about the notion that one person can make a difference. But then there’s George Masa. He was from Japan – an outsider’s outsider. He held no position of power or authority – he started out here as a hotel bellhop. But he had a passion for the Smokies. Today that passion is the most visited national park in the nation, a cornerstone of our region’s tourism industry, and a sanctuary for our region’s natural heritage.

For WNCW and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this is Gary Peeples.

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The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information on our work and the people who can make it happen, visit Connect with the Service on Facebook, follow our tweets, watch the YouTube Channel and download photos from Flickr.

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