The headquarters of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is shuttered due to the government shutdown Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013, near Gatlinburg, Tenn. (AP Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel, Michael Patrick)
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The closure of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has sparked a call for a protest.
Appalachian artist Jeremiah Spelas told the Associated Press that he is organizing a protest on Saturday at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park entrance sign on Newfound Gap Road. He says its aim is to express discontent about the closure and raise awareness about businesses and residents affected by it.
He stressed that illegal activities, such as trespassing, should not be part of the protest.
"This disagreement in our government should have nothing to do with the parks," said Spelas. "In 1940, President FDR said this land is for us. We were promised to have access to it."
October is one of the busiest times of the year for the park, which was closed during the partial government shutdown.
Park officials say the Smokies average about 1.1 million visitors in October.
"We're all anxious for the park to open as quickly as possible," said Clay Jordan, Smokies chief ranger. "We understand the frustration of those who want to enjoy the park."
He said most of the park remains closed.
"With the cutback staff we have now, our main priority is to provide emergency services to the open areas," Jordan said Tuesday. "We ask that people respect the closure simply because we cannot respond to emergencies in the backcountry."