Smokies LIVE Blog

Voice your Support for the Smokies

Please let us be clear: Great Smoky Mountains Association is NOT taking a position on the debate that has led to the longest government shutdown in history. We do, however, continue to stand with our national park partner and support their return to work so that the management of this special place can resume as soon as possible.

If you feel compelled to help, please download a copy of our ‘SAMPLE LETTER’ to help you get started. We’ve provided some basic language in support of the Smokies and encourage you to make it your own. When you’re ready to send your letter, we’ve provided email addresses to staffers in the majority and minor leaders’ offices. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

Leader Kevin McCarthy:

Leader Mitch McConnell:

Leader Chuck Schumer:

Also, you may wish to send a copy of your letter to members of your own congressional delegation. If you’re unsure who they are, click HERE to search for their names and addresses.

No matter which side of the current debate you’re on, most would agree that the government shutdown is bad for our country’s public lands. And it’s not just the monuments, sweeping views and delicate landscapes that are in jeopardy. Employees who have dedicated their lives to protecting ‘America’s Best Idea’ are being hurt, as are the owners of businesses in communities surrounding our parks.

Smoky Mountain Shutdown Timeline

Shutdown Days 1 – 11: While pooping in the park may not warrant the opening of a CSI case file, the potential for problems needed to be proactively addressed to avoid it becoming a major cause of concern here in the Smoky Mountains during the busy Christmas/New Year’s Day week. Thanks to our partnership with the National Park Service, Great Smoky Mountains Association funded staff needed to keep the restrooms and visitor centers at Sugarlands, Oconaluftee and Cades Cove open. Barring congressional approval, GSMA’s $51,000 donation will not be reimbursed.

Shutdown Days 12 – 20: GSMA operations were limited to our bookstores located outside the park boundary, as well as our web store. Shutdown Day 18 – GSMA published Things to consider when planning a visit to the Smokies, which highlighted the need for personal responsibilities when visiting the national park during the prolonged government shutdown.

Shutdown Days 21 – Present: GSMA was granted permission to reopen daily operations at our Cades Cove Visitor Center location, where vital park information and educational products and services remain available to visitors.

Shutdown Days 28 – 31: As MLK Jr. weekend approached, Friends of the Smokies stepped up with funding to open visitor centers and restrooms at Sugarlands and Oconaluftee. Both are closed once again as of January 22.

Shutdown Days 32 – ?: The Smokies remain at risk from those who would take advantage of our parks’ mostly unsupervised status. Essential staff are working (without pay), but they are fewer in numbers than is required to manage a place as expansive and ecologically complex as Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Additionally, park rangers who normally would be planning for the busy season are still away from their job posts, putting their programs and research more than a month behind schedule when the shutdown finally comes to an end.

Shutdown’s Impact on GSMA: Every day Sugarlands and Oconaluftee visitor centers remain closed to the public, GSMA must subtract about $3,000 from our plans to contribute more than $2 million to GSMNP programs and services annually. Daily revenue loss due to shuttered visitor centers will not be reimbursed by the federal government at the shutdown’s conclusion.

Shutdown’s Impact on GSMNP: The backlog of work continues to increase with each day of the shutdown. Once NPS employees can get back to work, they still have to hire seasonals and interns who help staff all the visitor services and campgrounds across the park and who conduct trail work and hundreds of other duties; if they can’t hire everyone they need, to it is likely that visitor services and operations could be restricted, even in the busiest summer period. Planning and hiring contractors to do road work and forest fuels reduction projects are being delayed. The NPS still has to observe its processes and procedures once they are allowed to get back to work, so there won’t be any cutting of corners to get things done more quickly. 

Members of Great Smoky Mountains Association’s Board of Directors unanimously agreed on January 17, 2019, to send the letter above to our congressional representatives. 


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Great Smokies

Welcome Center

Hours of Operation

(subject to change)

Open year round (closed December 25)

January - February

Open Daily 9:00 am - 4:30 pm

March - November

Open Daily 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Open Daily 9:00 am - 4:30 pm

The Great Smokies Welcome Center is located on U.S. 321 in Townsend, TN, 2 miles from the west entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Visitors can get information about things to see and do in and around the national park and shop from a wide selection of books, gifts, and other Smokies merchandise. Daily, weekly, and annual parking tags for the national park are also available.

Physical Address

7929 E. Lamar Alexander Parkway Townsend TN 37882


865.436.7318 Ext 320