Government shutdown could force eviction of natl. park campers

Government shutdown could force eviction of national park campers

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By ERICA ESTEP
6 News Reporter

GATLINBURG (WATE) - Officials with the Great Smokies National Park are planning to close down to visitors and close campgrounds in the event of a federal government shutdown over the weekend.

Elkmont Campground was full of families enjoying the great outdoors Thursday afternoon, some unaware they may have to pull up stakes this weekend.

"It would be awful because my daughter, this is her spring break and we have looked forward to this for a long time and it would break her heart," said Sweetwater camper Sabra McDonald.

McDonald said enjoying nature and downtime is important to campers. "It's something you can do that's not terrible expensive, plus there's no TV involved, there's no electronics, and the kids can just, she's been in the river three or four times even though it's cold."

So what happens if there's a government shutdown? Supervisory Park Ranger Kent cave explained, "We will give them time to leave."

When asked how much time, Cave said, "Well we don't know that yet. Again, that's still to be worked out in the details."

Bill Spencer was visiting from Kentucky with his daughter and friends, making the most of their time at Elkmont.

"It's unbelievably beautiful," Spencer said. "We've been to the Smokies before, and nothing is more beautiful than this campsite."

Spencer wasn't thinking about the possibility of having to leave, but what about would-be campers unaware that a budget battle in Washington could keep them out of the national park?

"Wow, they're in for a little bit of an awakening," said Spencer. "Yeah, that would be a big disappointment and hotels are really expensive and they're also going to get increasingly crowded."

Everything, including roads, would shut down in the park. Rangers were already looking for another location for the "Music of the Mountains" program they had scheduled for Saturday at the Sugarlands Visitors Center, just in case.

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