GATLINBURG, Tenn. -- Federal budget cuts have claimed another visible victim -- six areas in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Officials at the federal park said Tuesday that budget cuts will close three campgrounds, two picnic areas, a horse camp and several access roads during the 2013 season. In addition, several park facilities will open later than usual.
It’s another effect of the so-called sequestration cuts which went into effect earlier this month after Democrats and Republicans failed to agree on ways to trim federal spending.
Molly Schroer, a spokeswoman for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, said the park’s budget was cut 5 percent. That forced officials to limit staffing and hiring for the season.
Facilities that will not open in 2013 are the Look Rock Campground and Picnic Area and the Abrams Creek Campground, both in Tennessee; and the Balsam Mountain Campground and Picnic Area and the Tow String Horse Camp on the North Carolina side of the park. The Balsam Mountain closure also means nearby Heintooga Ridge and Balsam Mountain roads will not be opened this year.
“We regret this will cause inconvenience to park visitors, especially those who have enjoyed these more remote areas of the Smokies year after year,” said park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson. “We have focused our workforce to maximize the use of facilities through the remainder of the park.”
Here is the schedule of openings at Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the 2013 season:
Round Bottom/Straight Ford Road opens April 1.
Parsons Branch and Rich Mountain Road opens April 5.
Roaring Fork Nature Trail and Little Greenbrier open April 1.
Clingmans Dome Road has been open (weather-dependent) since Feb. 15 but opens permanently March 29.
Sugarlands Visitors Center (Gatlinburg, Tenn.) open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Cades Cover Visitors Center (Townsend, Tenn.) open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Oconaluftee Visitors Center (Cherokee) open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Backcountry Office (near Gatlinburg, Tenn.) open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Big Creek -- April 12
Cataloochee -- March 15
Deep Creek -- April 12
Smokemont -- open year-round (opens May 15 for groups)
Cades Cove -- open year-round (opened March 8 for groups)
Cosby -- April 12
Elkmont -- opened March 8 (opens April 21 for groups)
Anthony Creek, Cataloochee and Round Bottom open April 1
Big Creek opens April 12
Smokemont Riding Stable opens March 23.
Smoky Mountain Riding Stable, Sugarlands Riding Stable and Cades Cove opened late last week.
Cades Cove, Greenbrier, Deep Creek and Metcalf Bottoms open year-round.
Chimneys opens March 15
Collins Creek opens March 29
Big Creek and Cosby areas open shortly after April 12
Twin Creeks pavilion opens April 1