Money from Tennessee and North Carolina is being contributed to re-open Great Smoky Mountains National Park for at least five days as the federal government shutdown drags on.
Tennessee, on the western edge of the park, is contributing $350,500 and the State of North Carolina, to the park's east, is ponying up $75,000, the governors of the two states said Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
The park will reopen today through Sunday.
Mid-October is peak tourism season for the park and surrounding communities. Great Smoky Mountains is the country's most visited national park with 9.6 million visitors in 2012, the AP says.
North Carolina is contributing money to pay the park's operational costs from money already allocated for tourism advertising. Tennessee is using a tourism grant for about 80 percent of its share and money from Sevier and Blount counties for the rest.
Steve Morse, director of Western Carolina University’s Hospitality and Tourism Program, estimates nearly $1 million in consumer spending is lost in North Carolina each day Great Smoky Mountains National Park is closed, according to the North Carolina governor's statement.
The statement also says the governor is exploring options for opening the eight other national parks in North Carolina during the shutdown.
The National Park Service's Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile road through North Carolina's mountains and into Virginia, is open to traffic, and some privately operated facilities, such as the Pisgah Inn, are open.
The federal government shutdown began at midnight September 30, the end of the fiscal year, after Congress failed to pass a budget or temporary funding legislation. All non-essential services have ceased, and hundreds of thousands of government workers have been furloughed.
Officials with various federal outdoor recreation agencies are spending today telling people that many of their sites are closed because of the federal government shutdown.
However, among the National Forests in North Carolina, several campgrounds in the Nantahala and Pisgah national forests will remain open because they are operated by private concessionaires, a news release advises.
In the Nantahala National Forest, they are: 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.
In the Pisgah National Forest, they are: Cliffside Day Use Area, Van Hook Glade Campground and the Standing Indian / Kimsey Creek / Hurricane Creek Recreation Complex.
Visitors may still use undeveloped recreational areas in the national forests, the news release says. But, no restrooms or trash collection are available. Only essential Forest Service employees will continue working; volunteers are not active.
The Forest Service is canceling Forest Festival Day scheduled for Saturday, October 5, at the Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah Forest and the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forest management plan revision workshop scheduled for October 5 at the N.C. Arboretum in Asheville.
"Because of the federal government shutdown, all national parks are closed [including nine in North Carolina] and National Park Service webpages are not operating. For more information, go to www.doi.gov," is the sole message available at the National Park Service website this afternoon, referring people to the Department of the Interior.
Pages for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reservoirs in North Carolina go to a page that says: "Because of the federal government shutdown, all Corps lakes are closed and Corps Lakes webpages are not operating. For more information, go to http://www.usace.army.mil."
The federal government shut down at midnight September 30, the end of the fiscal year, after Congress failed to pass a budget or temporary funding legislation. All non-essential services have ceased, and hundreds of thousands of government workers have been furloughed without knowing when they will return to work.
Republicans want to strip funding from the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) as part of a funding bill, and Democrats in the Senate have blocked them from doing so.
A study by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder has concluded that a week in the woods can cure your insomnia.
Apparently, staying away from artificial light resets our circadian clocks, the 24-hour biological rhythms that govern our sleep-wake cycle and other important biological functions, says Michale Breus' Insomnia Blog. All the study participants - some night owls and some early risers - saw their sleep patterns align with the natural cycle of day and night by the end of two separate camping trips.
We learned about the Insomnia blog post through the North Carolina State Parks and Recreation Facebook page.
State parks in North Carolina offer camping at 29 parks and recreation areas, including family-friendly campgrounds and backwoods camping.
But there are many, many more camping opportunities on public lands across North Carolina, including hundreds of sites for family and wilderness National Forest camping, as well as camping at:
* Five National Parks
* W. Kerr Scott Dam & Reservoir, a U.S. Corps of Engineers Project
* Seven Department of Defense installations, including Smith Lake at Fort Bragg, which welcomes civilians
* Bladen Lakes State Forest at Elizabethtown
* Apalachia Reservoir in Murphy, a Tennessee Valley Authority site.
In addition to camping opportunities, Carolina Outdoors Guide has information about hiking and other recreational opportunities near your campground so you can get in a day of exercise and fun, which will also help you sleep.
Morrow Mountain State Park, below, is one of 29 N.C. state parks that offer camping. Morrow Mountain also offers opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, fishing, boating and more. Click on the photo for more information about Morrow Mountain.
Carver's Creek State Park, the first state park in the Fayetteville area, opens to the public Monday.
The park will eventually spread across more than 4,000 acres adjacent to Spring Lake and Fort Bragg, but the 1,420-acre Long Valley Farm area of the park will offer hiking, picnicking, fishing and interpretive programs at interim facilities beginning September 9.
The Long Valley Farm tract consists of several buildings from the former James Stillman Rockefeller Estate, which are to be used for educational and historic interpretation of the agricultural and cultural significance of the site. Renovation of the buildings has not been completed.
"Carvers Creek becomes the 42nd state park unit open to the public," the N.C. State Parks blog says. "Those include 36 state parks, four state recreation areas and two publicly available state natural areas (among a total 20 state natural areas).
"Authorized by the legislature in 2005 as part of the division’s New Parks for a New Century initiative, Carvers Creek encompasses 4,332 acres in two principal parcels. It is the eighth state park opened since 2001."
The 2,912-acre Sandhills section of the park will eventually have a visitor center, family campground and other amenities, according to the master plan adopted in 2012. The plan also outlines a Cape Fear River section to eventually provide access to scenic views of Carvers Falls and the river, and canoe/kayak camping.
Much of the property will be preserved in its natural state, the state's blog post says. In addition to stands of longleaf pine, Long Valley Farm is home to federally endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers, fox squirrels and carnivorous pitcher plants.
The state obtained the Long Valley Farm property from the Nature Conservancy in 2010. The Nature Conservancy restored much of the land as longleaf pine habitat after acquiring it in 2004.
The park is located off East Manchester Road, just east of Spring Lake.
The park will be open daily except for Christmas, and hours during the fall are 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Admission is free.
A State Parks photo shows the 100-acre lake that offers opportunities for fishing and viewing wildlife in the Long Valley Farm section of the new Carvers Creek State Park north of Fayetteville in Cumberland County.
The brilliant reds, oranges and yellows of fall leaves create a "rich display [that] often starts at the highest elevation in late September and early October, gradually progressing to the lowest elevation by late October and early November," the Forest Service says.
"Peak season occurs around mid-October," the Forest Service says, and with a rainy summer in the mountains this year, 2013 should be a better than usual year for fall color.
The guide, which has information about the trees at each elevation and the colors they produce, recommends leaf-viewing spots at various elevations. Their online guide doesn't provide links, but we do where we have them on Carolina Outdoors Guide:
High elevation (above 4,500 feet)
Middle elevation (2,500 to 4,500 feet)
* Chunky Gal Mountains from Standing Indian to Shooting Creek along US 64 in Macon and Clay Counties
* Along NC 28 and 143 within Graham County from Fontana Village (see also Fontana Dam) to Stecoah Gap, within the Moses Creek drainage along Forest Service Road 4651 in the Roy A. Taylor forest in Jackson County (see also Wayehutta ATV System)
* Along US 19E in the Poplar area of Yancey County from the Cane River to Spivey Gap
* Along Curtis Creek Road (FSR 482) and US 70 in McDowell County, and the Harper Creek area in Avery County
Low elevation (Below 2,500 feet)
* Joe Brown Highway in Cherokee County
* US 64 in eastern Clay County
* US 441 in southern Macon County
* NC 28 in Swain County near Fontana Lake (see also Fontana Dam)
* US 25-70 in the Hot Springs area
* Along NC 181 and the other forest roads in the Steeles Creek area in Burke and Caldwell counties.
Also in the mountains, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers numerous overlooks, parks, trails and other leaf-viewing opportunities, though fall is its peak - read "most crowded" - season. The Parkway averages about 3,000 feet in elevation north of Asheville, but south of Asheville climbs to elevations over 6,000 feet in the Balsam Mountains before entering Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Cherokee.
The view from Wayah Bald (elev. 5,385 feet), seen below in summer, is one of the prime fall leaf-viewing opportunities in the Nantahala National Forest. Click on the photo for more information about Wayah Bald.
Morrow Mountain State Park will open Monday after being closed for seven weeks while massive storm damaged was repaired.
The park will thank local volunteers and businesses that helped with cleanup work with a "free re-opening" event that suspends fees for swimming in the park's 1930s-era Olympic-size swimming pool and offers one-hour boat rentals for free, according to the State Parks blog.
In addition to the pool and boathouse, the boat ramp, fishing pier, museum, restored Kron House and campsites will be open and operating beginning Monday morning.
Camping areas set to reopen include Loops A and B of the family campground (sites 1 to 68), the organized group camping area (sites 1 to 6), and cabins 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6, according to the park's website. The Quarry, Laurel and Three Rivers trails, and the campground-to-pool access trail will also reopen.
The Morrow Mountain summit overlooks and picnic area; picnic shelter A; bridle trails and the bridle trail parking area; vacation cabin 4; and the Backpack, Fall Mountain, Hattaway Mountain, Morrow Mountain, Mountain Loop, Rocks and Sugarloaf Mountain trails remain closed.
A June 14 storm that hit the Stanly County park included a suspected microburst that downed trees, crushed camper shells, damaged park buildings and stranded dozens of visitors, the blog says.
A news release at the time said several hundred trees had fallen in the 4,496-acre park. Nearly 100 state park rangers and maintenance mechanics from other parks across the state, plus volunteers, have been at work on damage since, the blog post says.
Boat rentals will be $3 an hour after the first hour Monday. Swimming, which is free all day Monday, usually costs $4 a day for ages 3 to 12 and $5 a day for older swimmers.
Boat rentals are available 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. The pool will be open from 10 a.m. to 5:45 p.m.
The summit overlook and picnic area at Morrow Mountain State Park, below, and several other areas of the park remain closed because of storm damage, but the swimming pool, boathouse, fishing pier and campsites reopen August 5. Click on either photo for more information about Morrow Mountain State Park.
A 20-mile stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville is closed because of damage to the road from recent rains.
The Parkway's web page has an alert that says the scenic road is closed from Milepost 376 at Ox Creek Road to MP 355 at Mount Mitchell State Park. The popular Craggy Gardens area of the Parkway is at MP 367 on the closed segment.
Steve Stinnett, parkway chief ranger, told the Asheville Citizen-Times that there is "an apparent slope failure below the roadway" one mile north of Ox Creek Road just north of the Tanbark Tunnel.
"There is a 2- to 4-inch-wide, 100-foot-long crack in the road, so we’re concerned about the road failing there," Stinnett told the newspaper. "We’ll have to have it assessed by an engineer before we can reopen."
Stinnett said July is the Parkway's second-busiest month after October.
Work includes building a new access road from behind the shooting line and constructing a new earthen backstop for each shooting line, as well as filling and leveling along the firing line, a news release says.
Moss Knob has four firing lanes or stations on a 150-yard range with frame targets set at 25 and 50 yards.
Moss Knob "is projected to reopen by the end of September, weather permitting," the release says.
We wanted to note a few significant closures in the state parks system, following up on our previous post about Morrow Mountain State Park being closed due to storm damage:
* South Mountains State Park has closed the family campground (drive-to sites) for the 2013 season as work progresses to add a bath house with hot showers and several new campsites. Some sites may be open for Friday and Saturday nights as construction permits.
* The Hickory Nut Falls Trail at Chimney Rock State Park is closed indefinitely as workers deal with a rock slide and significant damage to the trail.
* Lake Norman State Park begins a yearlong project to build a new visitors center July 15 and will close boat rentals at 6 p.m. on the 14th. The visitors center is to be built on the opposite side of the parking area from the Itusi Trailhead (near the boat rental building), and the park will limit or restrict access to nearby shelters, the picnic area and fishing dock, and the Alder Trail.
* Heavy rains have damaged foot bridges on several trails at William B. Umstead State Park and have caused major erosion on the multi-use trail. Bridges are closed but trails remain open, and the park advises visitors to keep a look out for temporary closings and heavy equipment being used for repairs.
DuPont State Recreational Forest reopens the Hooker Falls area on July 1 along with the dedication of a new visitors center and the Hooker Falls pedestrian bridge over the Little River.
The visitors center is a first for the 10,400-acre forest. DuPont State Forest became a "state recreational forest" in 2011 and a new plan to manage natural communities, wildlife habitat and recreation in the forest was created.
DuPont, which straddles the Henderson and Transylvania county border, features four major waterfalls on Little River and five lakes. It has more than 80 miles of roads and trails available for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. Seasonal fishing and hunting are also allowed in the forest.
Hooker Falls and the Hooker Falls Access Area have been closed this month for construction of the trail bridge. The 120-foot bridge will improve safety by allowing visitors to reach Triple Falls without walking along the highway or crossing the highway bridge, the state Forest Service says. There's also a new parking lot near the bridge.
The Aleen Steinberg Welcome Center at the High Falls Access Area will serve as a central location for educating the public about the forest’s history while stressing the need for safety around waterfalls in the forest, the Forest Service says.
Steinberg is a local conservationist who was instrumental in the state obtaining the forest.
Remarks by Agriculture Secretary Steve Troxler and a ribbon-cutting ceremony will precede opening of the pedestrian bridge at 11 a.m. on Monday. At noon, Troxler, Steinberg and L.T. Ward of WNC Communities will speak before a ribbon-cutting that opens the visitors center.
The events are open to the public and will take place rain or shine. The visitors center will be open to the public following its dedication ceremony.
The center will contain educational exhibits and will be staffed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day beginning Tuesday.