Saturday, October 05, 2013

Continuing Update to the Government Closure of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Day 5 of the government forced closure of the Great Smoky Mountains national park is starting out as an amazing day and the beginnings of fall color starting to show at 3,500 feet and up.

As you can see by by the picture below taken late in the afternoon yesterday that within 2 weeks we will be at full peak fall color here in both the Great Smoky Mountains national park and along all 469 miles you can drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway as well.

fall color in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Unfortunately the nation's most visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains national park (GSMNP) is still closed due to the government shutdown mandated by Washington DC to the dismay of tourists and locals alike as we are are in peak season for visitors to the Smokies.

While the park is locked down as mandated by law, some parts of the GSMNP are open, based upon what your interpretation of what open is.

Right now the only roads open to vehicles and normal use within national park boundaries are Newfound Gap Road US441 for its entire length from Gatlinburg Tennessee to Cherokee North Carolina and the Gatlinburg Bypass which starts at the 2 mile area of the Sugarlands from Newfound Gap Road to the Spur connecting Gatlinburg with Pigeon Forge.

Presently all overlooks are open on both park roads and the Newfound Gap Parking area is now open again. The Newfound Gap Parking area bathrooms are now open and are the parks only operating bathrooms.

All cones and blockades have been removed from all quiet walkway trail heads as well as all hiking trail trail heads other than the Chimneys hiking trail and the Alum Cave Trailhead which are obviously off limits.

All other park roads remain gated and locked, some with signs showing that anything past this point is obviously closed to all access.

Government Closure of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Presently all facilities beyond these points such as picnic areas, visitor centers, campgrounds which are all empty, historic buildings, office buildings and hiking trails are closed by law to all use.

The Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP)has also closed all of its facilities such as campgrounds, picnic areas, visitor centers and concessionaires, but has left all 469 miles of roadway open to use.

Combine these 469 miles of the BRP with the 30 miles of driving along Newfound Gap Road US441, and anyone look to see fall color with long sweeping vistas or up close will not be disappointed from now until the end of peak leaf season in about 3 weeks.

Not everyone is standing back and letting the government shutdown and national parks closures potentially devastate the local economy.

Just under 30% of the Great Smoky Mountains national park is in Blount County Tennessee included our beloved Cades Cove.

Sequestration has already closed the campgrounds and facilities in Look Rock and Abrams Creek in Blount County, and now the government shutdown closed the Foothills Parkway West in Blount County.

The mayor of Blount Country Ed Mitchell wishes to have some Great Smoky Mountains national park roads patrolled by the Blount County Sheriff's Office during the government shutdown.

Presently agreements between the GSMNP and local agencies have granted them jurisdiction for Law Enforcement and first response within park borders when needed.

According to mayor Mitchell in a public statement, he contacted the department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell whose agency oversees the National Park Service, to see if he could help reopen parts of the park and Foothills Parkway West.

Mayor Ed Mitchell proposes this by either paying NPS furloughed park personnel from Blount County Funds or to let the county provide both law enforcement and emergency services instead of the national park service so that some parts of the park can reopen.

Business owner Bruce O'Connell who has the concession contract of the Pisgah Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway for 35 years which was ordered to close as specified by the government shutdown, defied the government closure and attempted to stay open and serve food.

The Pisgah Inn defiance to stay open has been noticed by National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis who sent a letter directly to Bruce O'Connell advising him that he is in violation of his contract and ordering him to shut down.

According to Blue Ridge Chief Ranger Steve Stinnett people cannot "utilize a business that, according to the federal government, is closed" and that park service managers in Washington directed him to block access to the Pisgah Inn.

Park rangers had in fact blocked access to this business which employees 100 people and turned people away from the government mandated closed federally owned building.

Currently it does not look as if Washington will be lifting the government closures in the next few days, but as some consolation to the 800,000 furloughed federal employees, they will probably be reimbursed for lost pay once the government reopens because of a house bill passed today which is White House backed and the Senate is expected to OK.

Related Government Closure in GSMNP Articles:

Government Shutdown Affecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park Day 14 - Posted 10-14-13

How Government Shutdown is Affecting Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Posted 10-08-13

Update to Government Closure of Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Posted 10-05-13

Shutdown Info Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Parkway - Posted 10-03-13

Government Shutdown: Road + Facility Closures Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Posted 10-01-13

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