Editorial: National park's closure hurts Sevier County, region

Oct. 01, 2013 @ 11:56 PM

No matter which side of the aisle your personal political beliefs fall on, if you’re a Sevier County resident, you should be saddened by the closing of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a part of the federal government shutdown.

The park is one of the most-visited units — and most-visited park — in the U.S. National Park Service.

In fact, we’ve already had letters from people who were planning trips to the area in the coming days and were disappointed by the shutdown. They vented about government officials they saw as stymieing the budget process.

Not surprisingly, we’ve also had letters from  the other side of the debate alleging other government officials were unwilling to compromise and the stalemate was their fault.

Regardless of who’s to blame, the fact remains that the National Park, a life-line to Sevier County, is closed. And no matter what you think of the federal government or the government shutdown, there’s no denying the closure of the park hurts all of us.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park brings millions of visitors to our area every year and millions of their dollars to our local businesses and communities.

Locally, 279 employees of the park are currently on furlough, along with 60 concessions employees and 45 Great Smoky Mountains Association employees. 

Those are our friends and neighbors. People we see in line at the grocery store, singing in the choir at church or dropping their children off at school.

Over 35,000 people visit the park per day in October, one of the busiest times of the season — thanks to nature’s colorful seasonal show. Those 35,000 may find their recreation elsewhere.

With the National Park shuttered, it’s a sad week in Sevier County. We can only hope a compromise of some kind can be reached swiftly.