Tennessee Couldn’t Reopen Smokies Because Bank Closed, Governor Says

October is prime season for businesses in the Smokies, Haslam says, akin to Christmas for retailers.  Credit WPLN / Daniel Potter

October is prime season for businesses in the Smokies, Haslam says, akin to what Christmas is for retailers. Credit WPLN / Daniel Potter

Governor Bill Haslam says he would’ve reopened the Great Smoky Mountains National Park days ago, except for one problem: the bank’s been closed.

With the federal government partially shut down, officials say opening the Smokies back up would cost the state $60,000 a day.

Fall is prime season for tourism in the Smokies, so Haslam says a missed weekend is irrecoverable.  Tennessee’s been in talks to fund operation of the country’s most-visited National Park.

“We had those discussions with them all day Friday – never heard back anything definitive from them until late in the day Friday, like 4:45, when they said okay, well if you want to open for the weekend you have to wire us the money.  Well unfortunately for us by that point in time the banks were closed and we couldn’t.”

Haslam says the Columbus Day holiday posed another setback, although talks will resume soon, with an eye toward opening the park this coming weekend.  But Haslam also says he hopes by then, Congress can reach a deal to end the shutdown.

Other states have already ponied up to reopen tourist attractions like the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore and the Grand Canyon.

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