In the hole: Federal budget cuts could affect Smokies
By Joel Davis | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Unless the U.S. Congress reaches an agreement to avoid automatic budget cuts scheduled for March 1, Great Smoky Mountain National Park activities will be affected.
The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees warned the public Wednesday about the potential effects on the park.
According to a release from the CNPSR, details are now emerging for how sequestration-related cuts will be implemented in America’s national parks. Late last month, CNPSR drew attention to the NPS sequester cuts when it published internal NPS memos outlining the total dollar cuts that would be imposed on individual national parks. According to the release: “Great Smoky Mountains National Park ... will close five campgrounds and picnic areas affecting over 54,000 visitors. Additionally, the reduction in staff will result in reduced road maintenance and increased time for emergency responses to activities such as accidents, rock slides, ice, and hazardous tree removal for more than 35,000 vehicles per day on several heavily-traveled routes in the Cades Cove District as well as the thoroughfares between Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge and between Gatlinburg and Cherokee.”
Park officials, however, stressed that the information released by the CNPSR is not official.
“Basically, all we’re able to report on is that we anticipate that we will have some reduced hours in some areas of the park that we may have to close if this happens,” said park spokeswoman Dana Soehn. “It’s all just potential at this point.
“Really, all we know is this planning process is ongoing, the information that we’ve all seen in this release should not be considered final because for us it has just been a planning process to look at potential areas where it might be cut.”
Called sequestration, the cuts were part of a budget agreement previously passed as a way to defuse a stand-off in Congress concerning the routine lifting of the federal debt ceiling back in 2011.
The more than 860 members of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees are all former employees of the National Park Service with a combined 25,000 years of park service work.