Fiscal Cliff would mean cuts at national park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Source: Kyle Grainger, WVLT)

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WVLT) – Economist say if the Fiscal Cliff happens, that will mean cuts at every federal agency, including national parks.

Tourism leaders in Sevier County say the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the number 1 reason people visit the Smokies. They fear that a cut in services could mean a less desirable place for people to visit.

"The mountains are the main reason that people visit here," said Leon Downey, Pigeon Forge Director of Tourism. "Last year had 9.2 million visitors, so it's the anchor for the whole east Tennessee region."

Federal agencies are set to cut 8.2% of their budget, and what is a mystery is how they will do it. Supporters of national parks fear that could mean fewer jobs and a loss of services, even closing some parks. In Pigeon Forge, this is something the hospitality association is watching closely.

"It would hurt the visitors expectation, it would hurt their opinion when they leave, so it absolutely would hurt if the National park service can't give the services they're giving now at the current level," said Phil Campbell, President at Pigeon Forge Hospitality Association.

Leaders say it's a problem that could trickle down a number of ways. If fewer visitors come, businesses won't be able to hire as many people and will hurt the economy.

"It would be an impact a negative impact for us if the park wasn't fully functioning in some way," said Downey.

So far the National Parks Service has not said what maybe cut in January if the cliff happens, but Sevier County leaders say they'll step in to help keep services where they are as much as possible.

"You know what ever comes, we want to be a help and an asset to what ever happens, so if there's a way we can step in and help the national park we always want to do that. Again they are our number 1 draw in this area and we have to protect that," said Campbell.

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