(WBIR - Scott County) While people rightfully celebrate the reopening of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, several other National Park Service attractions in Tennessee remain closed during the government shutdown.
"We're glad for the Smokies and Blount County and Sevier County to have the economic influx from the national park there being back open. We would like to see the same thing for Big South Fork," said Wayne King, president of the Scott County Chamber of Commerce. "People from all across the nation stop in and we get multiple calls a day wanting information on Scott County and Big South Fork."
The shutdown at Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (NRRA) continues to take a big toll on tourism in Scott County and Fentress County. This time of year Big South Fork typically attracts tens of thousands of tourists.
"Especially for the horseback riders, campers, and hikers. This time a year a lot of riders come into Scott and Fentress because of the colors," said King. "The National Park Service released some numbers on the amount of tourists who normally visit during October. It t adds up to more than $3 million in tourism revenue for our area."
The shutdown is particularly painful for rural counties already strapped for cash. It also comes during a year when Big South Fork had built national momentum as a destination for mountain biking enthusiasts. This year the International Mountain Bike Association gave the trails in Big South Fork a rating of "epic," which is the best rating obtained by any property in the country operated by the National Park Service.
There are no signs the state will step up and foot the bill to reopen Big South Fork like it did for the Great Smoky Mountains. Wednesday the press secretary for Governor Bill Haslam reiterated, "There have been no discussions about areas other than Great Smoky Mountains National Park."
King said people in Scott County will push on and keep their fingers crossed the shutdown ends sooner than later. In the meantime, they try to focus on the other natural attractions in the area and keep an optimistic outlook.
"Even though the government is going through the shutdown and it affected us with Big South Fork, we're not letting it get us down. Our people are the reason we're continuing to push forward because of their positive attitude," said King.