On Friday, the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA), announced its commitment to funding national park visitor centers during a possible federal government shutdown.
This vow is in response to the possibility of a government shutdown going into effect at midnight on December 21.
The GSMA says it is committed to creating a different reality during the upcoming holiday week.
The organization also says it wants to avoid what happened during the government shutdown in October 2013, when the public’s accessibility to Great Smoky Mountains National Park was “non-existent.”
“We know many people plan a trip to the Smokies during the holidays. Businesses in the surrounding communities also depend on visitors to stay in their hotels and eat at their restaurants,” GSMA CEO Laurel Rematore said Friday afternoon. “We want to do what we can to ensure visitors have access to park information, and in the event of a shutdown we know we can do that by keeping the park’s visitor centers open during this busy period.”
After learning of the potential for a government shutdown emerging last week, Rematore worked with NPS officials to temporarily and quickly staff in-park visitor centers without federal funds, which would ensure that the Smokies will remain open to visitors who wish to enjoy the holidays there.
The GSMA says it will be covering costs with visitor center staffing, restroom cleaning, and trash hauling in the event of a shutdown.
Visitor comforts and information would remain available at three park visitor centers: Sugarlands near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, Cades Cove near Townsend, Tennessee, and Oconaluftee near Cherokee, North Carolina.
Along with all of this information, GSMA wants visitors and community leaders to be aware that their funding, should there be a government shutdown, will expire Tuesday night of Jan. 1, 2019.
For more information about GSMA, please visit SmokiesInformation.org.