Gov. Haslam looks to use state funds to reopen National Parks

Gov. Haslam looks to use state funds to reopen National Parks

Posted:
"Our backs are against the wall right here, we have a window that we have to make this happen," explained Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell. "Our backs are against the wall right here, we have a window that we have to make this happen," explained Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell.

By ALEXIS ZOTOS
6 News Reporter

GATLINBURG (WATE) - The Great Smoky Mountains National Park remains closed to visitors, but that soon may change.

The park's closing is probably the biggest impact of the partial government shutdown felt in East Tennessee, causing business to forfeit tourism dollars during their busiest season.

"To see us out of business or almost out of business is really disheartening," explained the director of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park Association.

Several state governors across the country have requested to use state funds to reopen their national parks. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam says he's looking into it as well.

No definite plans are in the works, but local representatives believe the cost to the state would be small compared the millions they're losing each day with the park closed.

A study released Friday by a West Carolina University economist estimates in the first 10 days of the partial shutdown has cost more than $33 million in lost tourist spending in Tennessee and North Carolina.

"Our backs are against the wall right here, we have a window that we have to make this happen," explained Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell.

The Department of Interior said Thursday that states could use their own funds to reopen the parks, and now Mayor Mitchell is looking into what that could cost.

"Looking at the budget for the Smokies which is about $18 million, if you calculate at 365 days, that calculates about $49,000 a day," said Mayor Mitchell.

That cost would be split with North Carolina.

"One of the unique situations were in is that we share that park with North Carolina so any understanding we come to must be met by both governors," explained Mitchell.

Last week, Mayor Mitchell offered to use county employees to reopen the park but the DOI said the state's funding could only be used to reinstate park employees.

Gov. Haslam says he is working with the Congressional delegation to come up with a plan. Rep. Phil Roe says he is in full support of the state footing the bill.

"I think it's a fantastic idea, were also going to sponsor legislation when the government does open back up so that states can be reimbursed," explained Rep. Roe. "The money is in the budget to run the parks, it's just not being used at the moment."

Rep. John Duncan also supports the idea according to his spokesperson.

A spokesperson for North Carolina Gov. Pat McCroy said they are also looking the possibility of reopening the parks.

Powered by WorldNow

1306 N. Broadway NE Knoxville,
Tennessee 37917

Telephone: 865.637.NEWS(6397)
Fax: 865.525.4091
Email: newsroom@wate.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Young Broadcasting of Knoxville, Inc. A Media General Company.