The closing of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is having a huge economic impact on East Tennessee. An economist estimates that in the first ten days of the shutdown, the area lost $33 million dollars with the loss of visitors.
On Friday, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander spoke with Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell and Sevier County Mayor Larry Waters about the closure of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other national parks during the government shutdown. Local officials have proposed the idea of the local counties or state paying to reopen the park.
"I voted against shutting down the government, and I'm doing all I can to reopen it," Alexander said. "I'm working with Gov. Haslam, and I appreciate what local mayors are doing in the meantime to relieve the pain on communities around the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and other national parks. For these surrounding communities, the Smokies closing is like a BP oil spill for the Gulf. This is the prime tourist season for the Smokies, when many of the small businesses around the park make most of their money."
Alexander said the shutdown of the federal government has impacted Tennessee's other national park facilities in addition to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park