Friday, April 08, 2011

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Stays Open

As a stopgap agreement has been reached, the government shut down has been avoided so the Great Smoky Mountains national park, as well as all national parks and monuments will remain open for business.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Closure Information if Government Shutdown Occurs

Because of the impeding government shutdown, the Great Smoky Mountains national park will be shutting down all facilities and roadways other than Newfound Gap Road US 441 between Gatlinburg Tennessee and Cherokee North Carolina after midnight tonight.

Newfound Gap Road will still be patrolled by park rangers as well as other areas of the park, though there will be no other support staff such as maintenance personnel and road crews so any inclement weather, downed trees or fallen rocks would close this vital through road until the support staff comes back on duty.

If US 441 were only a park or local road, it too would remain closed as the rest of the GSMNP, but since it is a US Highway, part of the reason why there is no park entrance fee, it cannot be shut down.

The national park is looking to move people along Newfound Gap Road through the park as quickly and efficiently as possible so they are not allowing any parking or sightseeing in the park along the roadway. Last time a government shutdown occurred and the park was closed, fallen trees and snow shutdown Newfound Gap Road/US 441 until the park reopened.

Be advised, though it may be easy for you to move traffic cones blocking parking areas, illegally parking off of the roadway or sneaking into hiking trails, doing so is ill advised and you can end up in serious trouble for disregarding traffic control devices or even worse, trespassing on Federal properly.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park trails and facilities are being closed for security reasons as well as serious safety reasons. Since the park service will be working with a skeleton staff, there will not be an ability to call in additional Rangers required for any type of rescue operation or medical emergency, which is unfortunately fairly common.

There is also great concern that because of the government shutdown reduced official park presence will lead to more vandalism, theft and may lead to more compromised natural and cultural resources.

National Park rangers will take all maters of illegal activity very seriously and given the circumstances, will not necessarily be in the best mood so don't test them or the judge when you are made to appear in federal court.

Of course, there is also great concern for the human factor of the furloughed national park employees that will be out of work for an undetermined amount of time.

All this at time that the national park service will see at least $100,000,000 a year less funding is extremely disheartening at how we value the protection of this nation’s most valuable natural and cultural resources.

The closure of the Great Smoky Mountains National park will be a huge blow to tourists coming specifically to the Smokies to enjoy the park during the beginning of wildflower season.

If the government closure is allowed to drag on, it will have a detrimental dramatic effect on an already bruised local economy as tourists spend $718,000,000 a year in the gateway cities Gatlinburg Tennessee, Pigeon Forge Tennessee, Townsend Tennessee, Cherokee North Carolina, Bryson City and Maggie Valley North Carolina that surround the Great Smoky Mountains national park.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
News Release

Immediate Release
Date: April 8, 2011

If the Government implements a shutdown, nearly the entire Park would be closed beginning Saturday, April 9, all Great Smoky Mountains National Park facilities would be closed, including visitor centers, campgrounds, picnic areas, trails, concession operations, restrooms, and all roads, with the exception of the Newfound Gap Road between Gatlinburg and Cherokee.

Newfound Gap Road (U.S. 441) would remain open to through traffic only. No stopping or parking along the road or at trailheads and overlooks is permitted, and all restroom facilities would be closed, including those at Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tenn., the Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, NC, and Newfound Gap. The Clingmans Dome Road which is accessed off Newfound Gap Road would be closed.