News Column

Nat'l Parks, Monuments Closed Until Further Notice

October 2, 2013

Jannette Pippin, The Daily News

Oct. 02--If you are planning to do a little fishing or hiking during the government shutdown, mark two destinations off your list.

The National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service are among the agencies impacted by the shutdown. The agencies have had to close national parks and forests to the public.

In the Onslow and Carteret area, that meant the closing Tuesday of Cape Lookout National Seashore and Croatan National Forest to visitors until further notice.

Carol Lohr, executive director of the Crystal Coast Tourism Development Authority, said both locations are popular destinations for a variety of activities, such as hiking, camping, birdwatching and fishing.

If the shutdown continues, the impact on local tourism could surge.

"It definitely has an impact on tourism, not just here but the mountains as well, and not just in North Carolina," Lohr said.

Dick Kaverman and Marcia Willinger of Ohio found their vacation plans disrupted.

They were among the roughly half dozen camping families told Tuesday morning they would have to leave the Neuse River Recreation Area on the banks of the Neuse River. They had planned to visit Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the Wright Brothers National Memorial on their way back home, but were unsure what they would do given the closure of national parks.

And they weren't happy with the performance of legislators and the division of Congress.

"If they were working in private industry, they would all be fired for non-performance," Kaverman said. "Last summer, we went to eight parks out west. This is what we do. Their pettiness and shortsightedness is now making our trip more stressful than it needs to be."

With the North Carolina Seafood Festival looming this weekend in Morehead City, Lohr said they see visitors who plan getaways around the festival weekend. They hope to see the seashore and national forest back open, but Lohr said there are many other attractions to enjoy in the area.

"We're hoping this ends soon," Lohr said.

That was the sentiment for many as federal agencies in the area responded to news of the shutdown.

While specific impacts at local National Weather Service forecast offices in Newport and Wilmington were unavailable, warning and forecasting services continued to be provided. Other offices not directly involved in such services, such as the National Climatic Data Center, ceased operations.

Local offices directed media outlets to NOAA representatives in Washington, but those contacts were unavailable.

While many government websites were down Monday, websites for the NWS forecast offices were available. Messages on the sites indicated that they would continue to be maintained and updated because they provide information to protect life and property.

For other agencies, it was a complete closure of facilities as well as online traffic from websites and social networking.

Cape Lookout National Seashore Superintendent Pat Kenney said a minimum staff worked Monday morning to implement the closing process and to ensure all visitors were safely off the islands.

During the shutdown, all park facilities are closed and no visitors are allowed on park property, which includes Core Banks and Shackleford Banks and the mainland property on Harkers Island.

While the summer season and the popular lighthouse climbing period have passed, Kenney said the government shutdown comes as the fall visitation is beginning to peak.

"We're moving into the fall fishing season so we're seeing a lot of surf fishermen," he said.

The Cape and cabin camps on North Core Banks are a popular spot for fishing. Kenney said the cabins are closed and reservations canceled until the park reopens.

The closure also affects park staff.

"We have a minimal staff working to effectively close the park and then we'll be down to the core staff," he said.

Kenney said 41 park employees are being furloughed during the shutdown.

Four employees, three park rangers and a maintenance position will remain working to protect park property and handle any emergencies that may arise.

"We're in the process of shutting down and will remain closed until there is an appropriation passed and the government is funded again," Kenney said.

Kenney said no access to the park is allowed by ferry or by private boat.

For anglers looking for another place to fish, Lohr said the Crystal Coast is fortunate to have other great fishing spots.

"Bogue Banks has great surf fishing locations," she said. "There are piers and public beach accesses and in some places driving on the beach is allowed."

Drew Wilson of the Havelock News contributed to this story. Contact Daily News reporter Jannette Pippin at 910-382-2557 or jannette.pippin@jdnews.com. Visit JDNews.com to comment.

___

(c)2013 The Daily News (Jacksonville, N.C.)

Visit The Daily News (Jacksonville, N.C.) at www.jdnews.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Original headline: Until further notice


For more stories covering politics, please see HispanicBusiness' Politics Channel



Source: (c)2013 The Daily News (Jacksonville, N.C.)


Story Tools