States may use own money to reopen national parks

Locals excited about possibility that states would take over national parks

Posted:
Local businesses and lawmakers are excited about the potential because it's an option that could reopen the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Local businesses and lawmakers are excited about the potential because it's an option that could reopen the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

TOWNSEND (WATE) – After pressure from several governors, the Obama administration has said it will allow some closed national parks to reopen, but the state would have to use their own money for park operations.

Local businesses and lawmakers are excited because it's an option that could reopen the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Governors in at least four other states have asked to reopen their national parks, saying their state will foot that bill.

Tennessee's governor's office says they are working with Congress, gathering more information about this.

As the entryway to the popular Cades Cove, Townsend has been a ghost town lately. Little River Ice Cream hadn't seen a customer for hours Thursday evening.

"Usually there would be standing room only," said Betty Shuler, who works at the business. She says they've seen a dramatic drop in customers.

The idea of the national park reopening under the state offers a ray of hope in that economic struggle.

"I don't think it's the job of the state to bail out federal government. But on the other hand, state government has a role in economic development and promoting tourism," said  State Senator Doug Overbey, who oversees Townsend, and Blount County. He's for the idea.

Just last week, we reported how the Blount County mayor offered to have the county take over national park roads, during the shutdown.

"I don't see why it can't be a partnership between the city government, state government, and the business community, all coming together," he added.

Some locals have even started planning a protest against the Smokies closure.

"If this is at all possible. If we can get the parks reopened, we need to get it open. October is one of the busiest months in Sevier County," said Rep. Dale Carr, who oversees Sevier County.

"I have to see what the governor wants to do, and what the cost will be," he added, about what's next.

Until something happens, Little River Ice Cream, won't be scooping in much business.

"It's only fair because, see, there are people here in Townsend who have little kids to feed. They make not make it through the winter," Shuler said.

Right now, specifics about how the states would reopen the parks is unclear.

In Utah's Zion National Park though, the state will use their own money to pay park workers.

It will cost Utah $50,000 a day to operate their national park.

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