U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander on Tuesday introduced legislation in the Senate to reimburse states within 90 days for all state funds used to reopen national parks while the federal government is shut down.
“I voted against shutting down the government, and I’m doing all I can to reopen it—and assuring states that the federal government will reimburse them for funds used to reopen our national treasures is a good step in the right direction,” said the senator, a Tennessee Republican. “For the surrounding communities, the Smokies closing is like a BP oil spill for the Gulf. This is the prime tourist season for the Smokies, when many of the small businesses around the park make most of their money, and I urge Congress to pass this legislation quickly.”
Alexander said the shutdown of the federal government has affected Tennessee’s other national park facilities in addition to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park.
Representatives Phil Roe and John J. Duncan Jr., both Tennessee Republicans, have introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other national parks shut down after Congress failed to pass a spending bill in the fiscal year that started Oct. 1. It’s not clear when the partial government shutdown will end.
But in the meantime, some shuttered national parks could reopen—as long as states use their own money to pay for park operations, the Tennessean reported Friday.