By: Special to the Daily News
October 2, 2013
Because of the shutdown of the federal government caused by the lapse in appropriations, the National Park Service (NPS) has closed all 401 national parks, including Cumberland Gap National Historical Park (NHP). All visitor facilities including the park’s visitor center, the Wilderness Road Campground and roads – except for the Cumberland Gap Highway Tunnel and associated U.S. 25E and County Road 988 (Sugar Run) Road – are closed. The park will remain closed until the government reopens.
Cumberland Gap’s Acting Superintendent Carol Borneman said all park visitors in the Wilderness Road Campground will be given until 6 p.m. EDT today to make travel arrangements and leave the park. In addition, all park programs and special events have been canceled, including Gap Cave and Hensley Settlement tours and school programs.
Cumberland Gap hosts almost 25,000 visitors during the month of October; nationally, more than 715,000 visitors a day frequent the National Park System. Nationwide the NPS stands to lose approximately $450,000 per day in lost revenue from fees collected at entry stations and fees paid for in-park activities such as cave tours, boat rides and camping. Gateway communities across the country see about $76 million per day in total sales from visitor spending that is lost during a government shutdown. Visitors spend about $44,000,000 a year in the communities around Cumberland Gap NHP.
At Cumberland Gap, 52 employees are on furlough because of the shutdown and another 5 employees with non-profit park partners Cumberland Crafts and Eastern National are similarly affected. 6 employees remain on duty, providing security and emergency services.
Nationwide the shutdown has also furloughed more than 20,000 National Park Service employees; approximately 3,000 employees remain on duty to ensure essential health, safety, and security functions at parks and facilities. About 12,000 park concession employees are also affected.
Because it will not be maintained, the National Park Service website will be down for the duration of the shutdown. NPS.gov has more than 750,000 pages and 91 million unique visitors each year.
All 36 Virginia State Parks remain open to the public. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, managers of the park system, have received numerous inquiries from the public concerned that the state parks are being affected by the federal government shutdown. False Cape State Park in southern Virginia Beach is the only Virginia State Park affected. Primary access to the park is through the federal Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which is closed because of the shutdown.
“All Virginia State Parks remain open for business during this prime fall season,” said DCR’s State Parks Director Joe Elton. “Schedules have not changed, reservations are being honored, and all programs remain intact. False Cape remains open, although it can now only be accessed through North Carolina or by boat across Back Bay.”
The Nashville District of the Army Corps of Enginners is in the process of conducting an orderly shutdown because of a lack of appropriations. The district will reduce its manpower over time to essential personnel only. These essential personnel will continue to support critical Corps of Engineers missions such as dam safety, hydropower, and operation of the navigation locks on both the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers. The Corps is funded through multiple-year funding, which is enabling the Nashville District to conduct limited operations and construction through the course of the government shutdown. As the lapse in appropriations continues, we will have more employees furloughed over time, but will maintain our mission essential personnel to ensure the operation and protection of corps facilities and property.
Nashville District recreation areas and campgrounds will remain open, as originally scheduled, using available Fiscal Year 2013 carryover funding. Existing campground and shelter reservations will be honored. The recreation.gov website at www.recreation.gov is shut down and the public can no longer use it to make any new reservations, and call agents at the Recreation Reservation Service call center (877-444-6777) will NOT make any new reservations until Federal funding has been restored. Nashville District’s remaining open campgrounds will continue to make new reservations for onsite registered campers on a first-come, first-serve. Walk-in campers are still welcome, but we ask that customers please contact the campground to check site availability. Camping information for Nashville District is available at http://www.lrn.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation/Camping.aspx.
The public will be informed as additional Nashville District operations and services are affected due to the federal government shutdown.
For updates on the shutdown, visit www.doi.gov/shutdown.