To the Editor:
If Congress fails to reach a federal budget resolution by midnight, Sept. 30, Great Smoky Mountains National Park and hundreds of other National Park Service sites in America will close to the public indefinitely.
In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, an estimated 350 federal employees would be furloughed because of a shutdown, along with 60 concessions employees and 45 Great Smoky Mountains Association employees. About 47 NPS employees would remain on duty, providing security and emergency services.
In the national park and the surrounding gateway communities, October is the most important month for both visitation to the region and business activity. There’s no making it back later on. Fall colors only happen once a year; once they’re gone, it’s all over.
Nationwide a shutdown would force the furloughs of more than 20,000 National Park Service employees
About 12,000 park concessions employees – the workers who staff the hotels, restaurants, and riding stables in the parks – would also be adversely affected. A closure would impact visitor centers and field institutes like Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, as well.
America’s public lands drive billions of tourism dollars into local economies. A government shutdown would strip hundreds of private sector nonprofit employees of their paychecks as citizens are turned away from the special places they rightfully own.
I urge everyone who wishes our national parks to remain open to the public, please contact your state and federal elected officials and let them know how you feel about the potential for our national parks to close.
Note: Statistics in this letter are from a NPS news release on the impacts of the 2013 partial government shutdown.
Executive Director, Great Smoky Mountains Association