Smokies preparing for reduced services and hours

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

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) -- The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is bracing for automatic federal spending cuts, set to begin March 1.

The Mountain Press reported park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson's office directed a reporter to National Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson in Washington, D.C. Olsen provided a prepared statement that said visitors to all national parks should be prepared for reduced hours and fewer services.

NPS said cuts could include closing of campgrounds and hiking trails. Interpretive programs could also be curtailed.

Olsen said he could not comment on a leaked memo that indicated parks should prepare to cut back spending by 5 percent.

The cuts -- called sequestration -- would kick in if the president and Congress can't agree on a spending plan.

The Smokies is the most-visited of the nation's parks.

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