EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


October 1, 2013

Shutdown could put crimp in fall tourism

Though Cape Cod beaches would remain open for those who can get there and through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail might be able to continue their treks through the Berkshires, federal phones would go unanswered and padlocks would greet visitors to national parks throughout Massachusetts if Congress does not pass a spending bill.

“You’ll find padlocks on the doors to the monuments,” Sean Hennessey, public affairs officer for the Boston National Historic Park, said yesterday as a federal government shutdown loomed.

He said the Boston office employs about 100 people and all but about 15 staff, generally law enforcement, would be furloughed in the event of a federal government shutdown.

With a threatened shutdown looming, federal parks throughout the region face the possibility of closing just as the fall tourism season hits a peak.

One of the hardest hit would be Salem, where doors would be locked at the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, which greets 250,000 visitors every October for the Halloween season.

Of immediate concern was the Salem Regional Visitor Center on New Liberty Street, the first stop for many tourists. Last year it handled more than 3,000 visitors a day.

Less clear is what will happen at Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newbury. The Department of the Interior reported that all parks and refuges will be closed, with access to property limited. Calls placed to the refuge headquarters yesterday were not answered or returned. The refuge operates an extensive wildlife sanctuary on Plum Island and in the Great Marsh that draws 250,000 visitors a year, as well as a visitor center on Plum Island Turnpike.

In New Hampshire at the White Mountain National Forest headquarters, employees had been preparing since Friday for a shutdown.

“There remains a lot of uncertainty,” said Tiffany Benna, the public affairs officer for the forest. “We are very concerned about what effects it might have on the public and for the businesses whose livelihood depends on the forest.”

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