KODAK, Tenn. — Two non-profits that have supported the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for decades are continuing to lend their support to the park during the government shutdown as it heads into its second month.
Friends of the Smokies and the Great Smoky Mountains Association said they will continue to provide funding to temporarily reopen the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg and Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, N.C. on weekends through President's Day on Feb. 18.
Both visitor centers will be open from 8 a.m. to 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.”
Both organizations have been pitching in to keep visitor centers temporarily running through the shutdown since it started in December. So far, Friends of the Smokies said it has contributed nearly $2.7 million for park projects in 2019.
Friends of the Smokies said it will provide funds to reopen and maintain the visitor centers and restroom facilities, while the GSMA will staff park stores to raise money in support of the 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.”
The GSMA said it will still be running its visitor centers outside the park in Townsend, Gatlinburg and Bryson City, N.C. during normal business hours.
Federal funds generated by recreation fees are currently being used to clean and maintain restrooms at Newfound Gap, Cable Mill in Cades Cove, Smokemont campground, and the Deep Creek picnic area. The funding also allowed the Cades Cove campground and picnic area to reopen.
The visitor center at Cable Mill in Cades Cove is also open and currently staffed by GSMA from 9 - 4:30 p.m.