The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in East Tennessee is one of 401 national parks closed because of the federal government shutdown that started Tuesday.
The National Park Service announced that it has closed all visitor facilities at the park, including visitor centers, picnic areas, campgrounds, and trails. Roads are closed except for Newfound Gap Road (Highway 441), including the Spur and the Gatlinburg Bypass. The park will remain closed until the government reopens, the NPS said.
The closure comes during the busy fall season, when many people visit the park for the changing of the leaves.
The NPS said visitors in all overnight campgrounds and lodges will be given until 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, to make travel arrangements and leave the park. In addition, all park programs, Parks as Classrooms education programs, and special events have been canceled, including permitted weddings and special services in park facilities.
Here is more information from the press release:
Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosts more than 35,000 visitors on average each day in October; nationally, more than 715,000 visitors a day frequent the National Park System.
Nationwide the NPS stands to lose approximately $450,000 per day in lost revenue from fees collected at entry stations and fees paid for in-park activities such as cave tours, boat rides, and camping. Gateway communities across the country see about $76 million per day in total sales from visitor spending that is lost during a government shutdown.
In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 279 employees are on furlough because of the shutdown, along with 60 concessions employees and 45 Great Smoky Mountains Association employees who are similarly affected. Forty-seven employees remain on duty, providing security and emergency services.
Nationwide, the shutdown has also furloughed more than 20,000 National Park Service employees; approximately 3,000 employees remain on duty to ensure essential health, safety, and security functions at parks and facilities. About 12,000 park concessions employees are also affected. Because it will not be maintained, the National Park Service website will be down for the duration of the shutdown. NPS.gov has more than 750,000 pages and 91 million unique visitors each year.
For updates on the shutdown, please visit www.doi.gov/shutdown.