Agreement reached to reopen Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Agreement reached to reopen Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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The park will open at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16 and will remain open until 11:59 p.m. Sunday Oct. 20, unless the government shutdown ends during that time. The park will open at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16 and will remain open until 11:59 p.m. Sunday Oct. 20, unless the government shutdown ends during that time.
"The parks are ours, really, if you look at," said State Rep. Dale Carr. "They are supposed to be ours and we need to keep them open." "The parks are ours, really, if you look at," said State Rep. Dale Carr. "They are supposed to be ours and we need to keep them open."
"We are thrilled to be coming back to work, we've been on the phones as soon as we got the word, notifying those 279 employees that have been on furlough to report to work tomorrow morning," explained Soehn. "We are thrilled to be coming back to work, we've been on the phones as soon as we got the word, notifying those 279 employees that have been on furlough to report to work tomorrow morning," explained Soehn.

GATLINBURG (WATE) - Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory announced Tuesday an agreement was reached to reopen the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The park will open at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 16 and will remain open until 11:59 p.m. Sunday Oct. 20, unless the government shutdown ends during that time.

The national park costs $60,100 to operate per day, according to the National Park Service. It will take $300,500 to keep the park open for five days.

The state will cover 80 percent of the cost in the form of a $240,400 tourism grant to Sevier County, with Sevier and Blount counties funding the remaining amount.

North Carolina's governor says his state will spend $75,000 to open its side of the park.

Tennessee Rep. Dale Carr, who represents Sevier County, says a lot of people have been losing money while the park has been closed.

"We are losing over $3.1 million a day because of the park's closing," said Carr, "That is astronomical. People are losing money left and right."

Carr says the park should have never been closed in the first place.

"The parks are ours, really, if you look at," he said. "They are supposed to be ours and we need to keep them open."

The news spread fast about the park reopening.

Donald and Carol Michael, of Chattanooga, were visiting Townsend Tuesday. They had been waiting all week to hike in the national park.

"It is good," said Donald Michael. "We have been up here all week anticipating when they may open up before we had to leave."

"We'll definitely go in the park tomorrow," said Carol Michael, "Rain or shine."

Business owners in Townsend were also excited about the park reopening.

"We are very excited," said Apple Valley Country Stores employee Lisa Dennis. "Although we've been pleasantly surprised with the traffic we have had it's been down."

Park Employees Ready the Park

GSMNP spokesperson Dana Soehn didn't waste any time before diving back into work after being furloughed for two weeks.

"We are thrilled to be coming back to work, we've been on the phones as soon as we got the word, notifying those 279 employees that have been on furlough to report to work tomorrow morning," explained Soehn.

The gates will open at 8 a.m. and the signs will come down.

"We're going to be very expedient about opening this park, we want to have the gates open as early as possible, the visitor's centers will open at 8 a.m. just like they do routinely and we hope to have all the areas of the park open by noon, even those remote areas," she said.

The park, along with the rest of the country's national parks, was closed October 1 when Congress failed to pass a funding bill, leading to a partial government shutdown.

The federal government agreed last week to allow states to reopen national parks, paying for the operating costs themselves.

Bills proposed in the U.S. House and Senate would reimburse states within 90 days for costs associated with reopening the parks.

6 News reporters JOSH AULT and ALEXIS ZOTOS contributed to this report.

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