Blount County mayor offers to pary for reopening part of Smokies National Park

MARYVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An East Tennessee mayor is asking the federal government to allow Blount County to take on the financial responsibility of reopening portions of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

October is one of the busiest times of the year for the park, which was closed during the partial government shutdown.

Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell told The Daily Times ( on Friday that he sent the request to Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. He said the letter asks whether the county can take on reopening parts of the park for tourism at no cost to the federal government.

“The federal government’s decision to shut down the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and, in particular, Cades Cove and the Foothills Parkway, will have a tremendous impact on the citizens of Blount County,” Mitchell said. “This is the peak time for Park visits by tourists from all over our country.

“Many Blount County businesses and citizens rely on Park visitors for their livelihood,” he said. “By Washington denying its citizens’ access to this park, they are depriving their citizens and crippling Blount County businesses.”

Mitchell says he hopes to get a quick response.

“If they are unable to agree and cooperate on both sides of the aisle in Washington, let us at the local level cooperate and partner to do what needs to be done to keep this country running,” he said. “We, in Blount County, are offering solutions.”