Government shutdown affects national parks and local economy

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Visitation to Shenandoah National park has been low recently, and that’s not just because of the cold.

Despite the government shut down, the Shenandoah National Park and its trails are still accessible to the public,  but those who enter are doing so at their own risk.

“We just tell them that there will be no facilities, there will be nobody there to help you if something happens, if your car breaks down, there is no body there to help you and in some of these places there will be no cell phone reception,” Tim Smith of the Front Royal Warren County visitors center said. 

Smith has seen his share of shutdowns, and says when they happen, he first considers what time of year it is.

“If this had happened in the fall it would have been a financial problem for the town, because that’s the peak season, that’s when a lot of businesses, make their money,” Smith said. 

Facilities, including bathrooms, visitor services, trash collection and road maintenance, will not be open during the length of the shutdown. As people continue to enter the park for free, Shenandoah National park is losing money that could go toward maintenance, and that is what worries Smith now.

 “As far as damage to the park, with no one being there, who knows what it’s going to end up being like.” Smith says. 

In Frederick county Virginia officials say they are thankful that government workers make up only a portion of the economy and not the majority, but says if the shutdown drags on it will end up impacting the local community. 

“Federal government works are one of the top paying sectors in this market so if things continue you can see people maybe shrinking back some of their discretionary spending, maybe they don’t go out to eat as much.” Patrick Barker of Frederick County Economic Development authority says. 

“But for now it’s just a watch and see, and see how long it really goes.” he says.

According to the national park service website, Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historic Park in Middletown will remain open during the shutdown, but there will be no services and all public buildings will be closed since the staff has been sent home.

Correction: a previous version of the headline said it affects state parks. This has been changed to national parks. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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