Great Smoky Mountains Association Commits to Funding Park Visitor Centers During Government Shutdown

During the extended government shutdown in October 2013, the public’s access to Great Smoky Mountains National Park was nearly non-existent. This time, however, if a government shutdown goes into effect at midnight on December 21, Great Smoky Mountains Association is committed to creating a different reality for park visitors during the upcoming holiday week.

“We know many people plan a trip to the Smokies during the holidays. Businesses in the surrounding communities also depend on visitors to stay in their hotels and eat at their restaurants,” GSMA CEO Laurel Rematore said Friday afternoon, December 21. “We want to do what we can to ensure visitors have access to park information, and in the event of a shutdown we know we can do that by keeping the park’s visitor centers open during this busy period.”

As the potential for a government shutdown began to appear on the horizon late last week, Rematore went to work with NPS officials to find a way to temporarily staff in-park visitor centers independent of federal funds, thus ensuring the Smokies would remain available to visitors who wish to connect with their public lands during this holiday season.

It has been determined that GSMA would cover costs associated with visitor center staffing, restroom cleaning and trash hauling should they be needed due to a shutdown. With these services in place, a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park may not look and feel exactly as anticipated, but at least a minimum of visitor comforts and information would remain available at three park visitor centers: Sugarlands near Gatlinburg, Tenn., Cades Cove near Townsend, Tenn., and Oconaluftee near Cherokee, N.C.

Even so, visitors and community leaders should be aware that there’s a clock on GSMA’s funding; it would expire at sundown on Tuesday, January 1, 2019.

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