With government shutdown looming, a look back at how Asheville fared in 2013


It’s been five years since a federal government shutdown halted operations after Congress failed to agree on a budget to keep government operating. Now that we’re on the brink of another shutdown, here’s a look at what happened back in October 2013.

First, why a potential shutdown now? Friday’s the deadline for Congress to pass a resolution to keep the government funded, but rancor over an immigration deal means lawmakers might not agree on a continuing resolution to keep government funded.

When was the last shutdown? It started on Oct. 1, 2013 and ended on Oct. 16 when the U.S. Senate and U.S. House agreed to extend the debt limit after changes were made to Obamacare. The timing was horrible for Asheville and Western North Carolina. October is the height of tourist season, as visitors flock to the mountains to see the colorful fall leaves. Visitation dropped.

Tourism officials scramble: Government employees and departments deemed “nonessential” were furloughed and closed. National parks closed. Tourism officials scrambled to assure visitors that they could still come and have a good time. Tourists could still drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, but picnic areas, campgrounds, visitor centers and restroom facilities were closed. At the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, visitors could still drive U.S. 441, but parking, picnic areas, campgrounds and visitor centers were closed. Cades Cove and Cataloochee, popular spots for tourists, were closed off. Other attractions on national forest land were closed. That included the Cradle of Forestry and the Carl Sandburg Home. (Note: state park attractions like Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell and the North Carolina Arboretum were not affected.)

The big showdown: There was a showdown at the Pisgah Inn, a private hotel and restaurant that operates as a concessionaire along the Blue Ridge Parkway, that became national news. The inn’s operators didn’t want to close, but park rangers began blocking the inn’s three entrances off the parkway at lunchtime on the Friday of the shutdown’s first day. On Saturday, about 30 protesters, some of them identifying themselves as members of the Tea Party, showed up at the inn to protest its closure. Bruce O’Connell, the managing director of the Pisgah Inn, became an overnight hero for anti-government conservatives and the inn was seen as a symbolic battleground.

U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows steps into the spotlight: A number of observers and news organization credited Meadows with being the architect of the 2013 shutdown. The Tea Party-backed Republican had just been elected in the 2012 elections following redistricting. In the summer leading up to the shutdown, Meadows led an early attempt by House Republicans to use their power over the federal government’s purse strings to try and defund President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform. Meadows said the budget was “the most complete and effectual weapon” they had to derail the healthcare law. For his part, Meadows said that his influence had been “greatly overstated.”