By Jesse Wood
Oct. 1, 2013. While national parks across the country are closed because of the government shutdown indefinitely until President Barack Obama and U.S. Congress come to an agreement, the Blue Ridge Parkway – as well as North Carolina State Parks – are open for driving, hiking and outside exploration.
However, the facilities along the Blue Ridge Parkway including welcome centers, bathrooms, museums and other education centers along the parkway will be closed.
Spokesman Charlie Peek of the N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation noted that he has received “a lot of” phone calls on Tuesday from people asking if the state parks were open.
After adding that the state parks aren’t dependent on the federal government, he said that the only “possible operation problem” stemming from the government shutdown was access to Mount Mitchell State Park, which is accessed by the Blue Ridge Parkway. But because the Blue Ridge Parkway is open for through traffic, Mount Mitchell State Park is operating as usual.
This means Grandfather Mountain State Park, Elk Knob State Park, Stone Mountain State Park, Mount Jefferson Natural Area and the New River State Park are operating as usual.
For a listing of all the state parks, recreation areas, lakes, rivers and trails, click here.
High Country Host put together a reference of gas stops along the Blue Ridge Parkway, “where you can fill up, eat up and use the restrooms.”
- US Hwy 21 to Sparta & Elkin: Milepost 229.7, US 21 Crossover. West 7 miles to Sparta, NC. 17 miles west to Independence, VA. East 4 miles to Roaring Gap, NC. 22 miles east to Elkin, NC. Gas is available within 8 miles west of this access point.
- NC Route 18 to Laurel Springs & North Wilkesboro: Milepost 248.1, NC 18 Crossover. 2 miles west to Laurel Springs. 24 miles east to North Wilkesboro, NC. Gas is available within 3 miles west of this access point.
- NC Route 16 to West Jefferson & North Wilkesboro: Milepost 261.2, NC 16 Crossover. West 12 miles to Jefferson, 14 miles to West Jefferson, 26 miles to Grassy Creek. East 20 miles to North Wilkesboro. Gas is available within 12 miles west of this access point.
- US 321/US 221 to Boone & Blowing Rock: Milepost 291.8, US 321/221 Crossover. 7 miles north to Boone. 2 miles south to Blowing Rock. Gas is available within 2 miles north or south of this access point.
- NC Hwy 181 to Pineola & Morganton, NC: Milepost 312, NC 181 Crossover. 2 miles north to Pineola, NC. 32 miles southeast to Morganton, NC. In Pineola, NC 181 changes to NC Hwy. 221. Gas is available within 3 miles north of this access point.
- NC 226 to Spruce Pine, Little Switzerland, & Marion: Milepost 330.9, NC 226 Crossover. 6 miles north to Spruce Pine. 14 miles south to Marion. Gas is available within 3 miles north of this access point.
National Forests in NC
The National Forests in North Carolina, which is a part of the U.S. Forest Service and includes the Pisgah and Nantahala, has on its website this message on Tuesday:
“Due to the lapse in federal government funding, the U.S. Forest Service, as with other federal agencies, is closed with the exception of certain essential services. However, we will attempt to make timely updates about public health and safety on these web pages as appropriate. We sincerely regret this inconvenience. For general information on Forest Service shutdown procedures, please visit USDA’s website.”
Release from U.S. Forest Service
Most facilities in the national forests in North Carolina are closed due to a lapse in federal government funding.
The closure affects offices, many campgrounds, day use areas, bathrooms, shooting ranges, off-highway vehicle trails, fee areas and other facilities managed by U.S. Forest Service in the Nantahala, Pisgah, Uwharrie, and Croatan National Forests.
The following campgrounds, operated by concessionaires, will remain open.
Pisgah National Forest: Black Mountain Campground; Briar Bottom Group Camp; Carolina Hemlocks Recreation; Cove Creek Campground; Davidson River Campground; Kimsey Creek Group Campground; Kuykendall Group Campground; Lake Powhatan Recreation Area; North Mills River Recreation Area; Sunburst Recreation Area; and White Pines Group Campground.
Nantahala National Forest: Cliffside Day Use Area; Van Hook Glade Campground; and Standing Indian/Kimsey Creek/Hurricane Creek Recreation Complex.
Visitors may still hike, fish and use undeveloped recreational areas of the national forests during the closure period. No restrooms or trash collection will be available at trailheads, and visitors are encouraged to practice Leave No Trace ethics. Only essential Forest Service employees, such as firefighters, will continue working during the closure. All volunteer activities are cancelled.
The National Recreation Reservation Service, available through www.recreation.gov, will also be closed.
The National Forests in North Carolina cancelled a Nantahala and Pisgah management plan revision workshop scheduled for Oct. 5 in the N.C. Arboretum in Asheville because of that lapse in government funding. If the federal government resumes its normal operation before Oct. 5, the meeting will still be cancelled.
Government Shutdown Closes National Parks Nationwide
Hurts Local Economies, Planned Family Vacations & America’s National Heritage
“The National Parks Conservation Association is deeply disappointed that Congress and the President have failed to reach agreement on a budget deal that consequently has forced the federal government and our 401 national parks to shut down indefinitely. The closure of America’s crown jewels threatens the livelihood of park businesses and gateway communities; the more than 21,000 National Park Service staff we expect to be furloughed; and countless American families and international visitors who rely on national parks being open for business to enjoy our national heritage.
“The government shutdown has forced the National Park Service to close park entrances, visitor centers, campgrounds, bathrooms, concession stands, and other park facilities. Education programs and special events have been canceled, permits issued for special activities rescinded, hotels and campgrounds emptied and entrances secured. Many national parks have also been forced to close during peak visitation season, including places such as Acadia and the Great Smoky Mountains where people visit to enjoy the fall foliage or Civil War sites that attract school groups. Many people also visit places like the Grand Canyon and Death Valley this time of year to enjoy cooler weather. The loss of more than 750,000 daily visitors from around the world who typically visit national parks in October may cost local communities as much as $30 million each day the national parks are closed.
“Whether it’s a senseless government shutdown or a damaging set of budget cuts, national parks and the people who enjoy and depend on them continue to suffer from a failed budget process. After hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts to the parks the last few years, we have two questions for Washington—when are you going to reopen the parks, and what will you do to repair the damage this budget process has already done? Our national parks should be open, and funding should be restored to provide visitors with safe and inspiring experiences.
“As we approach the centennial of our national parks in 2016, on behalf of our 800,000 members and supporters, and families and businesses throughout the nation, we call on Congress and the President to swiftly re-open our national parks to visitors, and to agree to a budget that ends these indiscriminate cuts to the National Park Service.”