NC mountain attractions opening earlier this year

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) - Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway will have a lot more campgrounds and buildings open this spring.

Mandatory federal budget cuts known as the sequester kept many attractions closed last spring, and that hurt a number of businesses.

“Visitors to this region are particularly interested in the Blue Ridge Parkway. It tends to come up as one of the main travel reasons for people to visit this region. And, obviously, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park complements that, as do the national forests in this area,” Marla Tambellini, marketing director for the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce told the Asheville Citizen-Times (http://avlne.ws/1exYUnr).

This year, the Blue Ridge Parkway is set to open earlier, with only the area between Milepost 376 and Mount Mitchell State Park staying closed well into the spring to fix a crack in the road.

All campsites and other attractions in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are open except Look Rock campground, which remains closed because park officials don’t have enough money to fix it.

And visitors will notice a cleaner park. Last year, with the budget cuts, park spokeswoman Dana Soehn said she and other rangers got plenty of complaints about high grass.

“Last year, there were so many impacts, especially with our mowing regime,” Soehn said. “People were noticing that the grass was a little longer, we had to close facilities.”

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Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, http://www.citizen-times.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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