Smokies campgrounds stay closed as sequester remains in effect

Smokies campgrounds stay closed as sequester remains in effect

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Three campgrounds remain closed more than two months after the sequester took effect. Three campgrounds remain closed more than two months after the sequester took effect.
"This year we are limited in which places we can camp out for our spring and summer and fall campouts," said campers Michele Montgomery and Kent Buske. "This year we are limited in which places we can camp out for our spring and summer and fall campouts," said campers Michele Montgomery and Kent Buske.

By JESSA LEWIS
6 News Reporter

GATLINBURG (WATE) - With no end in sight for the federal sequestration, many attractions in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park remain closed.

At the beginning of March, park officials closed down three campgrounds and made several other cuts to make do with a smaller budget.

The campgrounds affected - Look Rock, Abrams Creek and Balsam Mountain - remain closed more than two months later.

Park spokesperson Dana Soehn said the campgrounds were selected because they are the least frequently used.

Those three campgrounds bring in a total of 54,000 visitors a year, but also require a lot of maintenance.

"To operate these campgrounds, it's like operating a small city. We have sewage systems and water systems that have to be maintained to meet state health standards and then of course there's the litter pickup and the garbage removal as well as the mowing and just maintaining those sites so that we're not damaging the resources that are there," Soehn explained.

Park visitors who prefer the smaller campgrounds say their closure won't prevent them from returning to the park.

"This year we are limited in which places we can camp out for our spring and summer and fall campouts, so we're limited to the Elkmont Campground and some of the other ones that are larger, since we can't stay in Look Rock or any of the smaller ones," said campers Michele Montgomery and Kent Buske.

The park has more than 3,000 volunteers, and they say their duties haven't changed even though seasonal hiring has been limited.

"I haven't seen any change. What I do, I do the back country office here at Sugarlands. In fact, we have four rangers and more volunteers than we had last year," said Herb Payne, who has volunteered at the park for eighteen years.

With Washington no closer to a resolution on the sequestration issue, park officials do not have a timeframe for when the recreation areas might reopen.

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