As the government delays in closing its doors, volunteers and non-profit groups continue to intervene to fund and maintain the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Keep Sevier Beautiful organized a volunteers cleanup Thursday morning in order to eliminate waste and debris along the spur linking Gatlinburg to Pigeon Forge, which falls under the park.
The cleaning will begin at 9 am at the Gatlinburg Visitor Center on Banner Road and will continue until noon. Keep Sevier Beautiful provides pickup supplies and safety vests to volunteers.
After funding the Great Smoky Mountains Association, which maintained three of the park's open visitor centers, expired Jan. 1, the park's bathroom maintenance services and other services for visitors were suspended for three days before human dung was found near the toilets at Newfound Gap. and the Cades Cove Visitors Center on January 4th.
The incident prompted the Friends of the Smokies to fund the return of five park employees to work on Jan. 5 at a cost of about $ 18,000, according to Friends of the Smokies President and CEO Jim Hart. This money helped improve the conditions in the park, said Hart.
"They cleaned up the Newfound Gap site and the Visitor Center in Cades Cove," he said. "They are maintained and have been since Saturday, they are presentable and open to the public, and they are monitored daily.It is there that most unsightly and disgusting activities took place."
The money runs out on January 21st
But the funding was to last only about two weeks and will expire on Monday, January 21st. The Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains National Park are looking at different ways to fund park maintenance, Hart said.
"We are proposing to work on something with the Parks Department to allow them to use campground park fees, etc. to help finance the payment of people who clean some of the toilets," Hart said. .
On Wednesday, as the closure was about to reach the 20-day mark, Hart said he hoped the closure would end soon.
"It's the same feeling I had before," he said. "We all hope that this will end soon and that the toilets will be treated permanently and park staff will be able to receive their salary."