While parts of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are still closed and park employees are unable to go back to work due to the partial government shutdown, others who rely on the park being open are feeling the impact too.
Those impacts from the weather, the government shutdown, and fewer working full-time park employees lead to roads that would normally be reopened within hours, taking longer.
Now, one tour guide is making his own “back-up plan” to stay prepared for customers.
“It’s become a dynamic situation from moment to moment throughout the day, especially when we get inclement weather throughout the day,” said Steve Ellis, owner of “Hike the Smokys“.
Ellis has 400 hikes under his belt and offers a guide service throughout GSMNP from short day trips, to overnight camping and kayaking.
He says customers come from all over the country and understand the services at the national park level are limited.
“They understand with the shutdown how its creating a lot of unknowns for everybody,” said Ellis.
But still, Ellis says his guide service business is down from where it was this time last year. He credits both the weather and the partial shutdown, one he hopes will end soon.
“It’s still really frustrating, because we don’t see any end in sight for this politically,” said Ellis.
Ellis’ biggest concern isn’t his business, but rather, the state of the park itself.
Volunteers are working to keep the park clean during the shutdown, holding community events to pick up trash. This, Ellis says, is helping.
“Seeing a national treasure diminished…that’s the real tragedy. My kids and my grandkids, I want them to have this park,” said Ellis.
He’s joined the volunteer efforts to keep the park clean, most recently, cleaning trash along The Spur. He hopes others help keep the park the way it was meant to be enjoyed by not littering or volunteering during the shutdown.