Barring resolution of the government's fiscal woes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park will open briefly with funding help from the state of Tennessee.
“The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America’s most visited national park, and for the Smokies and the people around it, the month of October is the most important time of the year,” Governor Bill Haslam said Tuesday in a release. “I remain hopeful that an end to the federal government shutdown will come this week.”
The national park costs $60,100 to operate per day, according to the National Park Service. Sevier County has sent $300,500 to the Park Service to open the park for five days.
Tennessee is paying 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 $60,100 to fully fund operation of the park for five days.
Governor Haslam also has been working with North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who has expressed a willingness to assist financially with the reopening.
“I appreciate the cooperation and support of Governor McCrory and the state of North Carolina,” Governor Haslam said. “Together, we’ve been able to reopen the nation’s most-visited park during a key month for tourism in Tennessee.”
Great Smoky Mountains National Park will open at 12 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, October 16, and stay open until 11:59 p.m. EDT on Sunday, October 20, if the shutdown is not ended in that time.
* * * * *
A group of international students received a brusk course in National Park Service law enforcement when their host reportedly received a $125 ticket for pulling into an Olympic National Park parking lot for pictures and a hike.
Last weekend Kelly Sanders reportedly drove past some orange cones and pulled next to two cars in a parking lot near the Storm King Ranger Station along Lake Crescent to pose the six students for a photo when a park ranger pulled in and issued her a $125 citation for violating the park's closure under the government shutdown.
Ms. Sanders told the Peninsula Daily News she thought the closure order pertained to facilities -- buildings and bathrooms -- not parking lots and hiking trails. That was the same impression Leanne Potts had. She too received a $125 citation from the ranger.
“When I think of facilities, I think of buildings or bathrooms or features or something,” Ms. Potts told the newspaper. “I don't think of a forest.”
Due to staff furloughs, park officials were not immediately available Tuesday to comment on the account.
* * * * *
In Utah, meanwhile, the state's attorney general believes state and local governments should have ongoing roles in the management of national parks.
John Swallow, in an op-ed piece for the Salt Lake Tribune, wrote that "the closure and re-opening of Utah’s national parks offer a dramatic demonstration of the need to have greater state and local control over programs and services."
We firmly believe the events of the last couple of weeks vividly demonstrate three important realities.
First, in these days of federal austerity, we assume substantial risk by relying too heavily upon the federal government to fund and administer programs that directly affect us in our businesses and daily lives. Because of the extensive federal presence in the state, Utah is particularly vulnerable to political and financial fluctuations in Washington.
Second, responsibility for and implementation of government programs and operations, including those pertaining to the public lands, should be vested in the hands of those who feel the greatest impact and who have the greatest understanding of the situation on the ground. Those in Washington simply do not understand, nor do they appreciate, the effects their far-removed decisions have on rural Utah.
Third, if allowed greater jurisdiction, powers and governing responsibilities, state, county and local governments will respond prudently, even-handedly and in the best interest of the citizens of Utah and all Americans, including in the proper stewardship of our treasured lands.