The government shutdown has affected federal agencies in East Tennessee to varying degrees.
Oak Ridge National Lab and Y-12 were relatively unaffected. A Facebook post from Y-12 instructed all Y-12 and Pantex plant employees to report for work unless notified by a manager.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has remained opened, though the visitor centers and bathrooms across the park are closed and locked.
“The lapse of appropriation in 2018 is a little different than 2013,” said Steve Kloster, chief ranger. “They wanted to keep the flow of the parks moving.”
Kloster said the closures vary based on guidance from the Department of Interior, which oversees the National Park Service.
Most of the Smokies staff has been furloughed, except for law enforcement and emergency personnel. Those folks have been busy through the weekend – Kloster said rangers rallied two search and rescue teams for missing hikers, performed traffic enforcement and arrested a driver on suspicion of DUI.
“Our mission … is to protect the people from the park and the park from the people,” Kloster said. “And we’re going to be here no matter what to do that, and we’ve been doing it this past weekend.”
“The difficult part is we don’t have any of our support staff,” he said. “For the park to function, all the divisions need to work together. So when the other divisions aren’t here, it’s difficult sometimes for us to carry on day to day operations.”
Kloster said one example: ice formed high on Newfound Gap road overnight, and the maintenance plow crews were suspended.
Some wastewater treatment crews remained through the shutdown, and the seasonally available campgrounds remain open.
With no interpretive rangers available at the visitor centers, some volunteers stepped in to guide visitors.
Doris Gove is an avid hiker, and drove from Knoxville to the Sugarlands Visitor Center to give out information.
“I’m volunteering just on my own,” she said. “I’ve never done this during a shutdown before.”
“It’s important to me people that people come here and have a good experience,” she said.