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Thursday, 03 October 2013 01:24

Repercussions of a government shutdown

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out natcornFreedom may not ring Tuesday.

At least not from the Liberty Bell. I know, I know, the bell doesn’t ring any more, but freedom surely emanates from it — at least if it’s open to the public and the way things were looking as I wrote this column Monday night, it wouldn’t be come Tuesday.

 

While there are plenty of implications and repercussions of a government shutdown, the biggest thing on the minds of locals and tourists in Western North Carolina is what this all means for our beloved outdoor recreation.

It begs the question: “If a leaf turned color on the Blue Ridge Parkway and no one was there to see it, would it still be beautiful?”

While the Parkway and the main road through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park will still be open to traffic, the national parks — along with the other 400 units of the National Park Service nationwide — are in essence closed.

No hiking, no camping, no picnicking, no bathrooms, no visitor centers.

Outlying areas of the Smokies like Cataloochee and Deep Creek will be blocked to the public with locked gates across the road.

Ditto for the 561 national wildlife refuges and the 38 wetland management districts overseen by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. They too will be closed to the public, no fishing, no hiking, no birding, no hunting, no nuthin’. 

Yes, and the Liberty Bell, the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial, Independence Hall, the Smithsonian, the Holocaust Museum, the National Zoo and more.

One may still be able to get outdoors in the national forests. Postings I have seen say that National Forest Recreation Areas that require Forest Service personnel in order to operate will be closed but it appears that trails will still be open in other areas.

Law enforcement rangers will continue to be funded, however.

The economic impact is real. The severity, of course, depends on the length of the shutdown.

Park Service plans call for the furlough of more than 21,000 employees and that means no paycheck ‘til funding is reinstated. If it’s just a short hiatus, there should be little damage, but a prolonged furlough could mean tough times. The last shutdown (1995-1996) lasted 21 days and that can’t be easy on families, even though they eventually were paid retroactively.

But even a week or two can be bad news for many gateway communities and others, say along the Parkway. The National Parks Conservation Association reported that the ‘95-‘96 shutdown cost gateway communities about $14 million daily. NPCA estimates that a shutdown now could cost closer to $30 million a day.

The Parkway got off easy last time as the shutdown occurred in December of ‘95 and January of ‘96, a time when the Parkway was basically closed anyway. But October is the busiest month of the year for the BRP and a closure could cost the region as much as $1.4 million a day.

(Don Hendershot is a writer and naturalist. He can be reached a This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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