The state of Tennessee has reached a short term agreement to reopen the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at a cost of $60,100 per day. Operations will resume Wednesday and continue at least through Sunday.
Fall is prime season for tourism in the Smokies, and Governor Bill Haslam says for businesses there, every missed weekend is “irrecoverable.”
“October, for the Smokies, and people around it, is like Christmas—is like December for retailers in a mall,” Haslam said Monday, before an agreement with the federal government had been reached. “This is when all the business happens.”
The state is putting up roughly $250,000. A couple East Tennessee counties and the state of North Carolina are pitching in to pay the full $304,440 to keep operations going for five days. The park straddles the state line, though most of the development is on the Tennessee side.
Other parks to reopen using local and state funds during the federal shutdown include the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty.
Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander introduced legislation on Tuesday that would reimburse states funding the operation of national parks within 90 days. He says having the Smokies closed, “is like a BP oil spill for the Gulf.”
Blake Farmer contributed to this report.