By Jesse Wood
Oct. 17, 2013. With the ending of the federal government shutdown today, the Blue Ridge Parkway and National Forests in North Carolina, including the Pisgah National Forest, are in the process of opening Thursday.
Stephen Westcott, a spokesman for the National Forests in North Carolina, confirmed this but had little else to say on Thursday morning.
“We are in the process of starting up operations and getting facilities open,” Westcott said, declining to comment further.
As of 10:30 a.m., the National Forests in North Carolina website still noted the government shutdown and that the U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies were closed. While the website for the National Park Service, which includes the Blue Ridge Parkway, wasn’t online this morning until about 10:30 a.m., calls to staff at Price Park Campground and Moses Cone Memorial Park confirmed that the amenities and facilities along the Blue Ridge Parkway were open or in the process of opening Thursday morning.
The Blue Ridge Parkway has been open the past 16 days to vehicular traffic, hikers and explorers, yet its facilities including welcome centers, restrooms, museums and other education centers have been closed for more than two weeks. But that is beginning to change this morning.
Debra Casella, an administrative technician for a Blowing Rock office of the Blue Ridge Parkway, said she was aware that Blue Ridge Parkway was “in the process of opening things up today – visitor’s centers and campgrounds.” However, she said she couldn’t give a timeline or any other details.
Mike Sneads, who works at the Price Park Campground, noted that the picnic grounds and campgrounds were opening this morning, and a woman answering the phones at Flat Top Manor and the Parkway Craft Center at the Moses Cone Memorial Park said Moses Cone Memorial Park is open for the first time since the shutdown began on Oct. 1.
Calls to the Chief Ranger of the Blue Ridge Parkway Steve Stinnett and Blue Ridge Parkway Supt. Mark Woods weren’t immediately returned on Thursday morning.