Sequestration could mean closures in the Smokies

Sequestration could mean closures in the Smokies

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"They're disappointed these are areas are closing that they have family traditions," park spokesperson Dana Soehn said. "They've been coming to them year after year after year and it's just a part of their heritage." "They're disappointed these are areas are closing that they have family traditions," park spokesperson Dana Soehn said. "They've been coming to them year after year after year and it's just a part of their heritage."
The park would have to close three campgrounds, two picnic areas, cut back on travel for staff training and implement a hiring freeze. The park would have to close three campgrounds, two picnic areas, cut back on travel for staff training and implement a hiring freeze.

By SAMANTHA MANNING
6 News Reporter

GATLINBURG (WATE) - Great Smoky Mountains National Park has come up with a contingency plan in the event sequestration takes effect by Friday's midnight deadline.

The park would have to close three campgrounds, two picnic areas, cut back on travel for staff training and implement a hiring freeze.

The campgrounds and areas that will remain open will have a delayed opening date and it's unknown when that new opening date will be for now.

"If you don't have your campers coming in, you're not going to have some of your tourist activity going on as much," park visitor Jackie Taylor said.

Park spokesperson Dana Soehn said the park would close Look Rock, Abrams Creek and Balsam Mountain.

Those sites account for around 54,000 visitors a year, but Soehn said they are still the least-used areas in the park.

Still, Soehn said the park is hoping the cuts won't happen because she has been receiving complaints from potential campers about those possible closures.

"They're disappointed these are areas are closing that they have family traditions," Soehn said. "They've been coming to them year after year after year and it's just a part of their heritage."

The cuts could also mean the park would have a slower response time for emergencies because the park will have to cut back on staff and not hire the usual seasonal employees for the summer and spring.

"Knowing that in advance, people should just take that into consideration and take extra precautions," Smokies visitor Boyd Hopkins said.

Hopkins told 6 News he comes to the park almost every day and doesn't anticipate the annual heavy influx of visitors to slow down because of the closures.

"I tend to think that the people are still going to come," Hopkins said. "I have that optimism that the draw of the Smokies is too strong."

According to the National Park Service, Great Smoky Mountains National Park brought in more than nine million people in 2011.

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