Beach Access and Park Issues
April 8, 2011

NPS preparing for possible government shutdown that will close seashore


The National Park Service is preparing for a possible shutdown of government services tonight — Friday, April 8, at midnight.

There has been only one brief public comment on the shutdown from the Park Service’s Outer Banks Group, which includes the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the Wright Brothers National Monument, and Fort Raleigh.

"The National Park Service remains hopeful that there will not be a government shutdown," according to a statement released Wednesday afternoon. “However, as President Obama stated, in the unfortunate event there is a shutdown, the National Park System will be closed."

This afternoon, Cyndy Holda, public affairs specialist for the Outer Banks Group, said she had no more information on what exactly will be shut down if Congress does not reach agreement on the current year budget or an extension of the series of continuing resolutions that have kept the government operating for the past six months.

At a minimum, Park Service Visitor Centers would be shut down and any events scheduled in the park would be cancelled. Campgrounds also would close.

Though some Park Service law enforcement rangers are deemed essential personnel and will continue to work, seashore beaches will be officially closed.

During the last government shutdown in 1995, all ramps to the seashore beaches were closed and chained.

That will probably happen tomorrow if there is not an agreement, but pedestrians may still be allowed on the beach.

Also unclear is whether the park’s natural resource staff will continue to monitor nesting piping plovers and other shorebirds.

Holda said that she has had “hundreds” of phone calls from folks wondering if the beaches and park will be open, but had nothing to tell them yet.

A park shutdown – and especially a shutdown of the beaches – could take a toll on Hatteras and Ocracoke island businesses, which gearing up for an influx of tourists for the Easter holidays. And depending on how long the shutdown lasts, it could affect the opening day of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse next Friday, April 15.

On the upper beaches, plans are already being made for events that are scheduled this weekend at the Wright Brothers National Monument.

The Flying Pirate half marathon and First Flight 5 K race are planned for the weekend as a fundraiser for Outer Banks Relief.  Plans have already been made to move the staging area for the 5K on Saturday from Wright Brothers to First Flight High School.  The Sunday half marathon could also be affected.

The Lost Colony folks have spent the day scrambling to find an alternative location for its annual fundraising gala, “Fire and Ice,” scheduled to Saturday night at the First Flight Pavilion.  In case of a shutdown, it will be moved to Pamlico Jack’s, according to Shannon Manno, Lost Colony marketing director.

If the park is closed, The Island Free Press will have coverage all weekend.

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