NC, Tennessee pay to open Smoky Mountains park during shutdown
RALEIGH, N.C. "” Gov. Pat McCrory said Tuesday that North Carolina and Tennessee have agreed to pick up the $380,000 tab to open Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the rest of this week - the height of leaf-watching season in the park.
North Carolina will spend $75,000 from its tourism advertising budget, while Tennessee and two counties will spend the remaining $305,000 to reopen the park that straddles the state line from Wednesday through Sunday.
Like other national parks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been closed since Oct. 1 during the federal government shutdown. About 10 million people visit the park annually, including 4 million who enter through North Carolina.
"This is about jobs and the economy," McCrory said in a statement. "Many North Carolina communities depend on tourism generated by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's critical that we get the gates reopened during the fall season."
He said he is exploring options to open other national parks in North Carolina.
Professor Steve Morse, director of Western Carolina University's Hospitality and Tourism Program, estimated that each day Great Smoky Mountains National Park is closed costs nearly $1 million in consumer spending in North Carolina. The closure is potentially costing North Carolina workers $343,354 in lost wages per day, he said.