U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) released the following statement on Gov. Haslam’s announcement of an agreement to reopen the Great Smoky Mountains National Park with all normal operations beginning Wednesday, October 16, through Sunday, October 20:
“Governor Haslam’s decision to reopen the Smokies is welcome news for the communities and small businesses that surround our nation’s most-visited national park. I thank the governor for his leadership, and will continue working in Congress to make sure the state is reimbursed by the federal government.”
Earlier today, Alexander introduced legislation in the Senate to reimburse states within 90 days for all state funds used to reopen national parks while the federal government is shut down. On Friday, Alexander said that for surrounding communities, “the Smokies closing is like a BP oil spill for the Gulf.”
This weekend Senator Alexander worked with Gov. Haslam, local county mayors, and other members of the Tennessee congressional delegation to facilitate reopening the park. Alexander continued: “I voted against shutting down the government, and I’m doing all I can to reopen it – and assuring states that the federal government will reimburse them for funds used to reopen our national treasures is a good step in the right direction. For the surrounding communities, the Smokies closing is like a BP oil spill for the Gulf. This is the prime tourist season for the Smokies, when many of the small businesses around the park make most of their money, and I urge Congress to pass this legislation quickly.”
Alexander said the shutdown of the federal government has impacted Tennessee’s other national park facilities in addition to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park.
Representatives Phil Roe and John J. Duncan, Jr., both Tennessee Republicans, have introduced similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.