MITCHELL COUNTY, N.C. -- Officials said that budget cuts are forcing the Blue Ridge Parkway to close tourist hotspots along the scenic highway.
Businesses in the area said the closures are hitting home for them. Sheriff Barber said the cuts will shut down a popular destination for campers and tourists.
“Thousands of people every year come to Crabtree Falls to enjoy camping and visiting restaurants and attractions in Spruce Pine,” Barber said. “But Parkway officials were forced to close it because of the high cost of keeping it open.”
John Downey said he drove up from Tampa to enjoy the parkway. He said he is visiting to see waterfalls and was surprised to hear about a sequester cut that will shut down Crabtree Falls Campground.
Besides the campsites themselves, Mitchell County Chamber of Commerce used the former Crabtree Falls restaurant and gift shot as a visitor center, giving brochures to tourists about attractions in Spruce Pine.
Woody’s Chair Shop features craftsmen and women who make hand-built rockers. Managers said losing a place to post flyers advertising their workshop could hurt business.
Park service officials told the Parkway to cut more than three-quarters of a million dollars from its $17 million budget. That will result not only in closures but the layoffs of 40 jobs.
Hiking trails to scenic attractions like Crabtree Falls will remain open. But more than a thousand campsites along the scenic highway will be lost.
The budget cuts also mean other campgrounds and picnic areas won’t be open until May 24th.