Possible government shutdown would affect Great Smoky Mountains National Park

It happened in 2013 and could happen again. Another federal government shutdown is looming, and the effects would be felt close to home in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

"It affected a lot of people around here," Miranda Webb with the Ole Smoky Candy Kitchen said.

Experiencing a government shutdown is not something the city of Gatlinburg wants to re-live.

The 2013 shutdown closed the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, costing area businesses thousands in visitor spending.

"Most people will spend the day up in the parks and then come out in the evenings, and that's when we have most of our business around here and if less people go to the parks, it's definitely going to affect business," Webb said.

Manager of "Maypops" Hunter Greene shares Webb's concerns. 

"It is a very large concern because obviously all the tourism is how this city operates," Greene said. "If people aren't visiting the parks then we're not getting the customers we need to thrive here."

It's a fear that could very well become a reality, if congress fails to pass a spending bil.

"In the case that there is a lapse of appropriated funds, we will be closing some of our services," Dana Soehn, spokesperson with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, said. "All three visitor centers will be closed during that time period."

A government shutdown also means halting important park services and a furlough for about 180 area park employees. 

"To have the park shut down makes me very sad," park visitor Jenny Costner said. "This is such a beautiful park and so many people want to come view it and experience it and for it to be shut down and not available for people to enjoy is very upsetting."

Longtime park visitor Gina Bentrup is equally saddened by the possibility of a government shutdown affecting the national parks. 

"It's very scary," Bentrup said. "It's very disturbing. I've been coming to the Smokies all my life and I'm 73 and the whole thought of  shutting down the national parks is disgraceful."

Because for Gatlinburg, a government shutdown would not just affect the national park, but the entire city and its visitors. 

"Let's just hope everything stays up and going," Webb said. 


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