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Smoky's Reopens, For Now

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park reopened today for the first time in more than two weeks, despite the government shutdown.

North Carolina and Tennessee figured out a way to get it funded, at least for a little while.

Visitors say they're very happy the park is open especially with the leaves changing color.  And nearby communities say, with visitors returning, a big revenue stream has been turned back on.

After 15 days, rangers can finally tell visitors the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is open.

Lynda Doucette, park ranger, "all of the trails are open and the campgrounds are open everything that was open before the shutdown is open now."

The Oconoluftee visitors center is full of visitors again wanting to see the changing leaves.

Faye Gill, visiting from Florida, "We wanted to see the mountains we love the mountains we come every couple years or so."

Roger and Faye Gill are here from Florida ready to have fun in the park, maybe have a picnic, and go up the trails.

They say they appreciate Tennessee coming up with $300,000 and North Carolina $75,000 to open the park until midnight Sunday.

Some visitors say Washington never should have closed the government.

Paula Lancaster, visiting from Tennessee, "it's just cause an inconvenience to the little person like it always does."

Susan Lawson, visiting from Florida, "well we're going to make the best of it for five days going to enjoy and I'm so happy and im ready for this to end for everyone."

Ranger Lynda Doucette says closing five visitor centers has been costly, "they lost close to a half million dollars in that time period."

Donna Ball runs the Little Princess restaurant in Cherokee, she banks on October business.

Donna Ball, Little Princess Restaurant, "this is peak season this has hurt me very much."

The entire Cherokee reservation counts on visitors from the Great Smokies.

Jason Lambert, Cherokee Director of Commerce, "In the fall of the year we see a guest that's a little bit of a higher income bracket than our summer guest with family tourists."

Economic leaders say the 15 day closure has taken a big bite out of revenue.

Skooter McCoy, Cherokee Destination Marketing, "I wouldn't say millions as of yet. Yeah it's thousands."

McCoy says they're still analyzing the economic loss.  He hopes this reopening if only for five days will help repair the damage already done.

 



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