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N.C. antes up to reopen Great Smokies

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which has been closed due to the partial federal shutdown, will reopen Wednesday thanks to a funding by North Carolina and Tennessee.

Gov. Pat McCrory announced thatNorth Carolina will spend $75,000 and Tennessee and two counties will allocate $305,000 to reopen the national park for five days during the peak fall tourism season. North Carolina's funding comes directly from appropriated tourism advertising dollars.Governor McCrory is also exploring options to open other national parks in North Carolina, his office said.

"This is about jobs and the economy," McCrory said. "Many North Carolina communities depend on tourism generated by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It's critical that we get the gates reopened during the fall season."

McCrory and Tennessee Gov. Haslam have been working this week to open the shuttered national park. Approximately 10 million people per year visit the park, 4 million of which enter through North Carolina.

"I appreciate the leadership of Governor Haslam and cooperation from the state of Tennessee," McCrory said. "Together, we've been able to reopen one of the nation's most-visited parks during a key month for tourism in North Carolina."

Professor Steve Morse, director of Western Carolina University's Hospitality and Tourism Program estimates nearly $1 million of consumer spending is lost in North Carolina each day the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is closed. His analysis also found the closure is potentially costing North Carolina workers $343,354 in lost wages per day. Morse calculates that North Carolina state government could be losing up to $50,776 a day in taxes and local government $28,679 per day in tax revenue.

Through the first 10 days of the partial federal shutdown, Morse estimates $33 million in lost visitor spending, $12 million in lost wages $2.8 million in lost state and local taxes. Of these impacts, approximately 30 percent occur in North Carolina.

The park is scheduled to be open through Sunday, Oct. 20.

McCrory's announcement came within minutes of an emailed news release fromU.S. Rep. Mark Meadows urging McCrory to spend state money to open national parks.

"Our national parks, including the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway, are of the utmost importance to the people of the 11th District," Meadows said in a statement. "As we have now entered the height of tourist season, we must reopen our parks to curtail the potentially devastating economic consequences of these closures. We are working daily in the House of Representatives to get the federal government reopened as quickly as possible, but we cannot allow the economic health of the many North Carolina communities dependent on these parks to be a casualty of continued negotiations. I urge Governor McCrory to consider using state funds to reopen all NPS sites in North Carolina."

Meadows, co-creator of the plan to force the defunding of Obamacare as part of budget negotiations, is supporting legislation in the House to reimburse states that have sacrificed their own dollars to reopen these sites once the government shutdown ends, his office said.