Parks feel the pinch
POSTED: Saturday, October 12, 2013 - 5:00am
UPDATED: Saturday, October 12, 2013 - 5:09am
The tourism industry is taking a nosedive in towns near national parks thanks to the government shutdown. Jay Gray reports.
(NBC News) Overnight, the governor in Utah announced a deal to pay the u-s department of the interior more than a million dollars to re-open that states five national parks.
The state calls them the "backbone" of the economy for the towns that surround those areas.
Perhaps nowhere is that more true than outside the nation's most popular park The Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
The park sees more than 10-million visitors a year.
But the government shutdown has closed the park including its hiking trails and campgrounds.
"It's the small guys that are suffering, and people driving through here - i mean what can you hurt walking through the mountains.. I mean it's got nothing to do with politics," said Kentucky tourist Richard Edwards.
But it has everything to do with the economic livelihood of towns like Gatlinburg, Tennessee that line the park.
"The economy is losing anywhere between 7 and 14 million dollars a day, every day that the park is closed," said Holly Scott of Friends Of The Smokies.
As the leaves begin to change, typically this is the busiest and most profitable time of the year in the region.
There are still tourists, but not as many.
And for those businesses that rely on access to the park.
"Thousands and thousands of dollars gone - no recovery," said Vesna Plakanis of A Walk InThe Woods.
Vesna Plakanis says the nature walks, hiking and backpacking trips she had booked for this month would have provided around 20-percent of her annual income.
"We all count on October to make our money to last us, pretty much through the winter during the slower season," said Plakanis.
But right now there is no season.
And the financial hardship for local businesses is getting worse, every day the shutdown continues.