Haslam announces agreement to open GSMNP

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT/AP) -- Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced an agreement to reopen the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) with all normal operations from Wednesday, October 16 through Sunday, October 20.

“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. “I remain hopeful that an end to the federal government shutdown will come this week.”

The national park costs $60,100 to operate per day, according to the National Park Service (NPS).

Sevier County has sent $300,500 to NPS to open the park for five days.

The state is 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 fully fund operation of the park for five days.

An NPS report found that the 9.6 million visitors to GSMNP during 2012 had an economic impact of $818 million in communities surrounding the park in Tennessee and North Carolina.

Haslam has worked with North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, who has expressed a willingness to assist financially with the reopening.

“I appreciate the cooperation and support of Governor McCrory and the state of North Carolina,” Haslam said. “Together, we’ve been able to reopen the nation’s most-visited park during a key month for tourism in Tennessee.”

The park will open at 12 a.m. EST on Wednesday, October 16 and stay open until 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, October, 20 if the shutdown is not ended in that time.

Original Story

Officials are hard at work trying to cut a deal that would reopen the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as soon as Wednesday.

On Monday, Gov. Bill Haslam says a deal to open the parks in Tennessee for last weekend came too late for the state to send money to the federal government.

The price tag? $60,000 per day.

Haslam told reporters in Clarksville that banks were already closed by the time the state was informed about how much money to wire to the federal government on Friday afternoon.

The governor said the closure of the Smokies is especially hard on the local economy, because October and early November are usually the busiest months at the country's most visited park. According to park officials, it averages about 1.1 million visitors in October alone.

Haslam said talks about reopening the park will resume this week.

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