Park closures may hinder tourism dollars
Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are key components of Haywood County’s tourism industry.
Park visitation statistics showed great numbers for the summer and many in the tourism business were hoping to carry that momentum into the leaf season. While July is always the busiest month for the national parks in North Carolina, October is usually the second busiest month at the parks.
Buffy Phillips, executive director of the Downtown Waynesville Association, said she thinks the shutdown of the parks will affect Waynesville’s tourism.
“With the color season and how much we all depend on those numbers in October and even extended into November, I can’t imagine the parkway closing — for locals as well as travelers,” she said. “It’s usually a wonderful couple of months for us.”
Teresa Smith, executive director of the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce, is also concerned about the impact the closures will have on tourism. With a parkway gateway located in Maggie on Soco Road, the closure could mean less traffic through Maggie during a critical tourism month. She hopes the parks will be able to reopen before the peak of the color season.
“It will greatly affect tourism just because of the sheer traffic usually on the parkway,” she said. “We have a gateway right here in Maggie so yes it will impact our tourism.”
Phillips said many people plan their visit around an event going on in the county, but having the parkway available is “icing on the cake.”
“I don’t think (the closure) will keep people away but I think it will affect us,” she said.
Benny Arrington, co-owner of Barber Orchard Fruitstand, said he anticipates the closures to impact his business if the government shutdown continues. The fruit stand is located on Old Balsam Road just a mile or so from the Blue Ridge Parkway and much of its visitors come from the parkway, according to Arrington.
"It being a week day it doesn’t really affect us," he said Tuesday. "The color season is just starting, but if it continues on and the parkway stays closed, it will have an impact on us... October is our peak season, but I don’t expect it to be too long lived."