Thefts, break-ins, and odd crimes involving animals have surfaced in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) as rangers take stock of any damages during the government shutdown.
GSMNP spokesperson Dana Soehn said rangers discovered the theft of several tools from a facility in Cosby. The rangers had not determined the total value of stolen items.
There was also a break-in at a campground office, but the office was closed for the season and nothing was stolen.
The workers in the Smokies came across what initially appeared to a poaching incident in Cades Cove when three dead deer with gunshot wounds were found near the side of the road. Rangers determined it was actually a case of illegal dumping. The deer were killed legally outside the park and donated to a man who failed to clean the animals before the meat spoiled. He hauled the deer to Cades Cove and disposed of them. Soehn did not have an explanation for why the man chose to dump the rotting deer several miles inside the national park.
Some campgrounds are likely to open later than usual this year due to the shutdown. Otherwise, there are no lasting impacts on visitors to the Smokies.
Other National Park Service properties in East Tennessee reported minimal impact from the shutdown and are yet to discover any cases of major vandalism, theft, or poaching. Below is an overview of the impacts reported to WBIR by various NPS employees.
Big South Fork NRRA and Obed Wild & Scenic River
Spokesperson Chris Derman reported no vandalism, thefts, or poaching discovered at Big South Fork or Obed.
"Fortunately, we had law enforcement able to patrol the parks. None of the park service staff have seen any problems or vandalism at either park. That is not to say there absolutely has not been any, but nothing has been discovered yet," said Derman.
Cumberland Gap National Historic Park
A small building where cave tours begin will have to be gutted after a pipe burst in the freezing weather. Some vehicles would not start because batteries died while sitting idle more than a month.
"In the big scheme of things, we were really very fortunate. We did not have any vandalism and we have great visitors who helped pick up trash," said Carole Borneman, supervisory park ranger and chief of interpretation at Cumberland Gap.
Morgan Sommerville with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy said there has not been any major damage from the shutdown in the portion of the trail in Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia. There are some debris issues and downed trees on the trail caused by a large wind storm.
"What we have seen is pretty normal stuff. There is some debris, some litter, blow-downs (trees), and other typical winter stuff you expect this time of year. These are things that would have been cleared sooner by volunteer groups, but volunteers were prohibited from working during the shutdown. We have not heard of any vandalism or major damage to the trail," said Sommerville.
Andrew Johnson National Historic Site
Aside from some accumulations of yard debris, chief ranger Stephanie Steinhorst said the Andrew Johnson properties in Greeneville was "a very lucky site" with no problems during the shutdown. The debris was the result of a strong wind storm that did not cause any damage to the buildings.
Manhattan Project National Historical Park
No reported damage or vandalism to any of the offices or sites during the shutdown. The main offices are located within the Children's Museum in Oak Ridge, which was open and monitored during the lapse of government funding.