MARYVILLE, Tenn. (AP/WMOT) — An East Tennessee mayor is asking the federal government to allow Blount County to take on the financial responsibility of reopening portions of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
October is one of the busiest times of the year for the park, which was closed during the partial government shutdown.
Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell says he sent the request to the Department of Interior, but hasn’t yet received a reply. He says the park's closure is having a "tremendous impact" on county residents and businesses.
“The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, first of all, is the most visited park in the country, and this is the month that we actually see the most visitors. So you can imagine what kind of an impact that’s going to have on people that rely on that tourism dollar to make a living.”
Mitchell notes that about one-fourth of his county lies inside the national park. He says estimates of tourism losses in October alone may exceed $2 million.