Campgrounds closed: Two Blount campgrounds affected by federal budget cuts
By Dick Byrd | Daily Times Correspondent
If Congress and the president fail to stop federal spending cuts by Friday, three Great Smoky Mountains National Park campgrounds, two of them in Blount County, and some picnic areas will remain closed indefinitely.
A Park spokeswoman told The Daily Times Wednesday that plans not yet finalized would keep Look Rock and Abrams Falls campgrounds and Look Rock picnic grounds, all in Blount County, closed. They are currently closed for the winter.
In addition, Balsam Mountain Campground on the park’s North Carolina side would remain closed indefinitely.
Park spokeswoman Molly Schroer says Cades Cove and other campgrounds inside the park would remain open or would open seasonally, according to current plans.
At the Blount County Partnership, home to the Blount Chamber of Commerce as well as the Smoky Mountains Visitors Bureau, response to word of the campground closings came quickly.
“It’s certainly disappointing to hear that those areas could be closed since we are at the beginning of the tourist season,” said Jeff Muir, Blount Partnership communications director. “We hope that the cutbacks will be short-lived and that those areas can be opened quickly.”
Schroer also said work pending on gravel roads washed out by Feb. 7 rains would continue under current plans, including the Parsons Branch Road in Blount County between Cades Cove and U.S. Highway 129/The Dragon.
Other gravel roads in the park washed out by the heavy rain are Greenbrier Road past the Greenbrier Ranger Station and Cataloochee Road past Palmer Chapel.
Parsons Branch Road is expected to be closed until late March. The weather has continued to bring down trees and wash away gravel is several areas throughout the park.
“Unfortunately, Parsons Branch is not as high of a priority as some of the other areas. Our crews are working on everything as they can,” Schroer said.