Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | October 16, 2013

During Shutdown, Tennessee Pays for Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Reopen

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Late yesterday, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced that Tennessee will spend some $300,000 to reopen the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for five days. As the Tennesseean and the Chattanooga Time-Free Press and a number of other outlets are reporting, Haslam reached a deal with the National Park Service under which the state, along with two Tennessee counties, Sevier County and Blount County, will fund the Park’s operations. Apparently, it costs around $60,000 a day to keep the park open. (I don’t know why that is the case, or how the NPS arrives at that number, but GSM is, I believe, the most visited National Park in the country, with some 9.6 million visitors in 2012, and all the foot traffic, wera-and-tear on the roads, cleaning and stocking the restrooms, and just paying the park rangers — all these expenses add up, over time, and sound accounting says that those costs should be spread out over all the days that the park is in operation.)

Tennessee will contribute 80% of the $300,000, with Sevier County and Blount County contributing the remaining 20%. Both counties border the park, and the park’s closure is putting a hurt on their tourism revenue.

Also, the Raleigh News Observer is reporting that North Carolina is contributing $75,000 to reopen the park (half of which is located in North Carolina, after all).

These moves to reopen the Great Smoky Mountains National Park come a few days later than similar moves by Utah and a few other states to reopen some national parks and national monuments, including Mount Rushmore (South Dakota), Grand Canyon (Arizona), and Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado).

I believe Utah started this trend last Friday. Eight parks in Utah have been reopened, according to NPR.

Returning the Tennessee, the Times-Free Press adds: “at this point, Haslam isn’t coughing up Tennessee tax dollars to reopen other national parks, including the Tennessee portion of the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.”

Image Credit: Photo taken in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park by Joel Mutate, October 2007, and used under a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license. Source: Flickr.

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