published Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Gov. Bill Haslam says Smoky Mountains National Park to reopen for 5 days

NASHVILLE -- Gov. Bill Haslam announced Tuesday the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will reopen Wednesday for five days under an agreement with the National Park Service.

"The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is America's most visited national park, and for the Smokies and the people around it, the month of October is the most important time of the year," Haslam said in a news release. "I remain hopeful that an end to the federal government shutdown will come this week."

The park, which straddles northwest Tennessee and western North Carolina, was shut down two weeks ago as congressional Republicans battle with President Barack Obama and his fellow congressional Democrats over the budget. The shutdown of the park is costing tourism businesses more than $3.3 million a day.

The national park costs $60,100 to operate per day, according to the National Park Service. Sevier County has sent $300,500 to the National Park Service to reopen the park until Sunday by which time Haslam hopes the budget impasse will be resolved.

The state is actually paying 80 percent of the cost in the form of a $240,400 tourism grant to Sevier County with Sevier and Blount counties funding the remaining $60,100 to pay for operation of the park for five days.

But 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.

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