January 24, 2019
Friends of the Smokies announced Thursday that the organization will continue funding to temporarily reopen Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tenn. and Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, N.C. on weekends through President’s Day, Monday, February 18, if needed due to a continuation of the partial government shutdown..
Both visitor centers will be open from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. on the following days:
Friday – Sunday, January 25-27
Friday – Sunday, February 1-3
Friday – Sunday, February 8-10
Thursday – Monday, February 14-18
“We recognize the need to provide information and basic visitor services in order to help protect park resources and we are committed to bridging those gaps with additional funding where necessary while the shutdown continues,” Friends of the Smokies Executive Director Tim Chandler said. “The partnership between Friends of the Smokies, Great Smoky Mountains Association, and the National Park Service means that visitors can receive information that better prepares them for visiting and caring for this special place.”
Friends of the Smokies will provide funds to reopen and maintain the visitor centers and restroom facilities. Funding for these temporary openings will be provided in addition to the $2.7 million the organization has committed for park projects in 2019. Park rangers will be present to provide information services to park visitors. Great Smoky Mountains Association will staff park stores at both locations. All GSMA sales support Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
“Friends of the Smokies are true friends indeed,” said Laurel Rematore, Chief Executive Officer of Great Smoky Mountains Association. “We are so grateful for Friends’ continued funding. GSMA staff members and the National Park Service rangers look forward to greeting visitors in the coming weekends and equipping them with the information and materials they need to enjoy the park. Ours is truly a remarkable partnership.”
In addition to operating visitor center bookstores inside the park boundary, GSMA operates similar facilities in Townsend and Gatlinburg, both in TN, and in downtown Bryson City, N.C. Each of these facilities continues to maintain regular business hours and have not been impacted by the shutdown.
At the direction of the National Park Service, federal funds generated by recreation fees continue to be used to clean and maintain restrooms at Newfound Gap, Cable Mill in Cades Cove, Smokemont Campground and Deep Creek Picnic Area. This federal funding also allowed the reopening of Cades Cove Campground and Picnic Area, including restrooms, and maintenance of Little River Road between Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area and the Townsend Wye and Foothills Parkway East. The visitor center at Cable Mill in Cades Cove is currently open 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. using this federal funding with staffing provided by GSMA.