Sevier County business owners worry shutdown will hurt tourism

Sevier County business owners worry Smokies shutdown will hurt tourism

Posted:
Pigeon Forge city officials are encouraging families to take their vacations there despite the shutdown. Pigeon Forge city officials are encouraging families to take their vacations there despite the shutdown.
Cabin rental companies 6 News spoke with said they are getting a lot of calls, but so far no real problems. Cabin rental companies 6 News spoke with said they are getting a lot of calls, but so far no real problems.

By JOSH AULT
6 News Reporter

PIGEON FORGE (WATE) - The government shutdown continues to make ripple effects across the country. In East Tennessee, the closure of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is making some of the biggest impacts.

Some are worrying that the park's closure may have an economic impact on surrounding communities.

Pigeon Forge city officials are encouraging families to take their vacations there despite the shutdown.

"We certainly hope they don't cancel their vacations, because we do enjoy the beauty of the mountains, beauty of the park, that really is what help us come what we are, but there is a lot of things to do here.," said Pigeon Forge Mayor David Wear.

The mayor is not alone. Business owners in Sevier County are teaming together to get more people to visit.

"Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville are open for business. Our proximity to the national park, being as close as it is, a lot of people get the perception that we are closed too. There is nothing further from the truth," said Ken Maples.

Maples, the owner of three motels in the county, says so far they are seeing few effects from the shutdown.

"We had a few early outs, folks wanting to visit Cades Cove or had plans to go to the national park. They changed their plan," said Maples.

Attractions like the Dixie Stampede are still selling out shows. Attraction officials want the crowds to keep coming.

"People here just perceive things told to by the media, no offense, that it's bad, everything is shutdown. Pigeon Forge is open for business," said Steve Ellis with Dixie Stampede.

Several families ended up at Clabough's Campground in Pigeon Forge after campgrounds in the national park were closed.

Jane Bradshaw and her family were searching for a new campground Wednesday. They had made a reservation to camp near Cades Cove a year ago.

"We've been camping to Cades Cove for 30 some years. This is the first time we've had to miss," she said.

Bradshaw says her family found out Tuesday morning they would have to change their plans.

Ron Goodman of Indiana also had to change his plans. This was his first time to visit the great Smoky Mountains National Park.

"I really wanted to check out the mountains. I can't even go. I came down here hoping to do it. It's totally ruined it. I have to figure something else to do," he said.

The manager at Clabough's Campground says they have only had a few families displaced by the parks closure, and are keeping a close eye on how long with shutdown will last.

"For some of them who want to come up and see the leaves in the park, and if they can't go to Cades Cove or places like that, Clingman's Come, where they can hike, it might affect a little bit," said manager Stephen Russell.

Cabin rental companies 6 News spoke with said they are getting a lot of calls, but so far no real problems.

"Our cabins are out at Bluff Mountain, which is not part of the national park, still beautiful mountains around here," said Pam Smith.

"We are hoping the federal government gets their act together, and at least get the national parks back open around the country," said Maples.

Blount County tourism officials are also beefing up their efforts to get people to visit the area.

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