If government shuts down, so does the Smokies National Park
Joel Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org)
“If there is not a budget passed tonight, we’ll begin a shutdown procedure tomorrow, which calls for us to begin closing the gates on all Park roads first thing in the morning with the exception of Newfound Gap Road between Gatlinburg and Cherokee, which is considered a through road,” Park spokesman Bob Miller said.
Everything in the Park will be shut down — all visitors centers, trails, rest rooms, stables, campgrounds. The gates to Cades Cove and other attractions would be locked. “We would expect to go in, in the morning, and contact campers in the Park and let them know we’d want to have them out of the Park (by nightfall),” Miller said.
“We will arrange to get people out of remote areas,” he said. “We’re closing the back country, we’re very concerned about people that decide to go in anyway. Our capacity to respond to emergencies that might occur will be severely curtailed.”
Even on the section of Newfound Gap Road that would still be open to traffic, Park personnel would block off all the overlooks and parking areas.
“We hope it won’t happen,” Miller said.
As might be expected, the Blount County tourism industry is not greeting the idea of a Park closure very enthusiastically. “We’re very concerned about the closing of the Park,” said Herb Handly, executive director of the Great Smoky Mountains Convention and Visitors Bureau. “That is not something we want to see happen by any stretch of the imagination. We’re here struggling for every dime we can get. These kind of things have a tremendous impact on us. Cades Cove is our Dollywood. If there is no access to Cades Cove, that is a real issue for us.”
Park staff would have no choice in the matter, Handly said. “They have no other choice than to do what they have to do. I know they hate it for themselves as well as for us. We’re all in this together, and our hope is that Washington will understand what this can create and that they’ll come to some sort of agreement for the rest of us.”
In any case, the Visitors Bureau will provide information about other camping opportunities available in Townsend if the Park is closed.
“If we have people that are currently in the Park, particularly at the campgrounds, and if they are forced to leave, they will have information from the Visitors Bureau of options that they can take in Townsend,” Handly said. “We will provide phone numbers, names of campgrounds and other overnight facilities. If they are forced to leave, they will have a home here in Townsend, and we’ll leave the light on for them.”