Despite Damages, Park Vistors Not Going Anywhere

GSM National Park, Sevier County (WVLT) - National Park officials say not since may of 2003 has storm damage been this bad in the park.

But cleanup crews are working hard and starting to see results.

We have spoken with park officials, Newfound Gap Road is now open to North Carolina and so is part of Cades Cove Loop, all the way up to Sparks Lane, that's the midway point.

But tourists don't seem to mind the delay, many choosing to spend their money at attractions outside the park.

Little River Road opened early Wednesday morning allowing tourist back into the Smokies, but some were quick to find they couldn't always go where they wanted making traffic a little hectic.

"We were planning on seeing deer, and bear, and all that good stuff in Cades Cove on our last day of our vacation. Not going to be able to go. We are so disappointed," says Dan Autry.

Meanwhile, crews are working steadily to clean up roads to Cades Cove.

Officials haven't seen this kind of storm damage since May 2003 but this, they say, is worse for different reasons.

"We have at least four times as many people in the park at this time of year as we would have in the first week in May so there's a while lot more pressure to get things open," says Bob Miller, National Park spokesman.

As roads are cleared, so too are campgrounds getting them ready for visitors.

"Campers who have reservations will be able to go in for those reservations but we won't be taking any new ones because we may not have all the loops open," Miller says.

With all the work in the park, visitors are antsy for things to do.

"Well, it was frustrating because we couldn't go you know but we went up to Pigeon Forge and around and enjoyed that," says Ernest Walker.

So for places like Apple Valley Farms in Townsend, business is booming even in the middle of the day for a late lunch.

And that turns into dollars and cents.

"You know, when the park's closed it's usually good for us because people don't have anything better to do than shop so we are probably going to be very busy this weekend," says Carla Sellers, Apple Valley Farms manager.

Miller expects most of the roads will be open just in time for the weekend, but the big unknown is trails, as they expect there are many trees down on the 800 miles of hiking trails in the park.