Big South Fork lodge plans to defy government shutdown

Big South Fork lodge plans to defy government shutdown

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The Charit Creek Lodge is in the heart of the Big South Fork National Recreation Area near Jamestown in Fentress Country and the general manager says enough is enough. The Charit Creek Lodge is in the heart of the Big South Fork National Recreation Area near Jamestown in Fentress Country and the general manager says enough is enough.
Ignoring the barricade, Larry McMillian made his way into the park on the 12-mile trail to the lodge. Ignoring the barricade, Larry McMillian made his way into the park on the 12-mile trail to the lodge.
For decades, Charit Creek Lodge has been a place of solitude, but McMillian says without his guests it's like a graveyard. For decades, Charit Creek Lodge has been a place of solitude, but McMillian says without his guests it's like a graveyard.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

JAMESTOWN (WATE) – A local lodge is defying the government shutdown that closed its doors is reopening for business.

It's been a week since the government shutdown forced the National Park Service to close off the trails and roads to the public, but throughout Big South Fork National Recreation Area it's clear not everyone is minding the barricades.

The Charit Creek Lodge is in the heart of the Big South Fork National Recreation Area near Jamestown in Fentress Country and the general manager says enough is enough.

"We're ready, we're just ready for nobody," exclaimed Larry McMillian, the general manager and concessionary of Charit Creek Lodge.

Ignoring the barricade, Larry McMillian made his way into the park on the 12-mile trail to the lodge.

Visitors can only come by horse or by foot, but as we arrived there were no customers in sight.

"We have everything in place, there is no reason for me, in my mind, to be closed, so in our mind, we're not closed. Even though we don't have customers," McMIllian said.

The government owns the cabins built in the early 1800s, but for 20 years McMillian has been commissioner of the lodge.

"This place is not just a business, this place is a way of life," he said.  

Originally complying with the government shutdown, McMillian said Tuesday the beds are made, the dining room set and he's ready to reopen.

"I will not be the one to say you cannot come. I am here. I am committed to my customers," he said.

The Longenecker family had reservations at Charit Creek Lodge, but were told yesterday by McMIllian it was closed because of the shutdown.

"We've planned it for over a year, it's been a huge disappointment," said Kurtis Longenecker who traveled to East Tennessee with his family from Illinois.

But he says if McMillian is truly reopening, his family is willing to take the risk. 

"We don't really want to break the law or the rules or anything but we've planned so long for this. We've seen some closure signs at some of the trail heads but we've politely ignored them and went into the park," said Longenecker.  

For decades, Charit Creek Lodge has been a place of solitude, but McMillian says without his guests it's like a graveyard.

"It's like a playground with no children, that's a terrible sound.  They're missing out and I feel like I let them down personally," explained McMillian.

According to Bill Reynolds with the National Park Service, the lodge is a federally owned facility and because of the government shutdown, it is closed.

"It goes against our nature to turn people away from the parks," Reynolds said in a phone interview. "But the park is closed and if people are in the park they are in violation of the law."

He said it would be unacceptable for McMillian to bring guests up to the lodge as long as the shutdown continues and said he might be in violation of his contract with the National Park Service.

 

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