Tuesday, October 08, 2013

How is the Government Shutdown Affecting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on day 8?

As day 8 unfolds of the government shutdown that closed the Great Smoky Mountains national park, we seem to be stuck in this bad situation with no immediate end in sight.

To make matters worse, if such a thing is possible, almost daily vandalism, petty theft and defiance has become an ongoing issue in the Great Smoky Mountains national park as well as in other national parks, historical sites and monuments around the nation.

Worst hurt here in the Smokies are the 2 great organizations that help support the park through the kindness and good will of donations and purchases made to support the park.

Both the Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountains Association have had donation and cash boxes destroyed. The cost to repair or replaces 2 of the boxes damaged will easily exceed $5,000.

Why are these donation boxes so expensive? Sadly people often try to pilfer from these boxes and often when the boxes are emptied, a variety burglary tools are inside.

It takes a lot of sophisticated custom engineering and very solid box building construction to keep the thieves out and yet still let the money come in smoothly.

There also remains some confusion and what has been called by some "mixed signals" as to what is open in the Great Smoky Mountains national park and what is not during this government shutdown.

The only roads open in the Great Smoky Mountains park are the entire length of Newfound Gap Road from Cherokee to Gatlinburg and the Gatlinburg Bypass from Newfound Gap Road in Gatlinburg to the Spur.

The only road outside of the Great Smoky Mountain national park that is maintained by the national park service that remains open is the very well traveled Spur section of the Foothills Parkway which connects the city of Gatlinburg with the city of Pigeon Forge Tennessee.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Road Closures/Conditions

Weather related and seasonal park road closures normally mean that bicycle and pedestrian traffic is allowed. The government shutdown prohibits any use of the parks roads, facilities and trail systems.

The press release Sunday by Chief Ranger Clay Jordan stated:

While most overlooks and pull-offs along the roadway are open to accommodate safe traffic flow over the mountains, facilities and trails remain closed.

He also stated "We ask that the public voluntarily respect the closure of the backcountry for everyone's safety," and "With less staff on duty, we do not have the personnel on hand to sufficiently respond to emergency situations in the backcountry. We understand the desire of visitors to hike during this beautiful time of year and we are hopeful that the park will soon reopen."

There are clear signage and barricades to keep people away from the Chimneys Hiking Trails where reconstruction has stopped as well as the Alum Cave Trailhead. Parking is only allowed in designated pull outs and parking areas so the intent of this extra "enforcement" is quite clear and should be headed. Tickets have been and will continue to be given out for non-compliance of closures.

Remember the Park Rangers you come into contact with are not being paid and most of their acquaintances are furloughed as well. Many working in the park are park families too meaning the loss of 2 or more incomes in the same family.

As much as I understand the heartache of those that work as a career or volunteer in the park, interviewing an employee of one of the stables last Sunday, I now really understand better the extent of the extreme hardships the employees are going through right now. Let's, hope their landlords and finance companies do as well.

Luckily for tourists, there are plenty of stables where you can go horseback riding outside the park and they all are seeing a booming business already and expect it to pick up even more in the next 3 weeks as we hit peak tourism for the Smokies during peak leaf season.

Though the National Park Service attempted to keep all 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway open from North Carolina to Virginia, further road damage to a section of roadway is closing the parkway from the from NC191/Brevard Road (about Milepost 393) to Hendersonville Road/25s in South Asheville (Milepost 389) until the Federal Highway Administration can finish repairs hopefully before the end of the month.

Even with this closure on the Blue Ridge Parkway, drivers can still enjoy about a 100 miles of uninterrupted scenic beauty all the way from Gatlinburg Tennessee to this point where you would have to detour to continue on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Best case estimates call for this section of the Blue Ridge Parkway to be repaired by the end of the week of the 21st. We would all be happier if it was sooner.

As stated before all picnic areas in the Great Smoky Mountains national park are closed, but you can eat in any of the pull-outs. Cooking, grilling and open flames are forbidden in the Great Smoky Mountains national park other than in designated picnic areas, campsites and campgrounds.

Fall color is more apparent by the day in all of the higher ridge-lines and the past 2 nights have seen temperatures just under 50 degrees in the lower elevations of the park. Add to this the light rainfall we received the night before last and we have the prime making for an extraordinary bright and along lasting peak fall right around the corner.

The next week looks like more of the same, bright sunny days climbing up into the 70s during the day and dropping down to the high 40's.

If you can believe very long range forecasts, it looks as though weather in the Smokies will be nice for the month with maybe 4 days where there is a possibility of rain.

There is even a chance of a light dusting of snow on the peaks early the week of the 20th which would make for a stunning fall photograph.

Related Government GSMNP and BRP Closure Articles:

Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Reopen Tomorrow at 12 Noon. - Posted 10-15-13

Great Smoky Mountains National Park May Reopen Tomorrow – Maybe - Posted 10-15-13

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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