With only hours to go for Congress to reach an agreement on a continuing resolution to keep the U.S. government operating, a total shutdown of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is looming large.
If there is no agreement by midnight tonight, National Park Service staffers will come to work in the morning to secure and close down all facilities and grounds on the seashore and the other parks in the Outer Banks Group – Wright Brothers National Monument and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site.
When their work is done, 146 employees of the Outer Banks Group will be furloughed, while 13 will continue working to ensure public safety.
“We are still hopeful,” said Darrell Echols, deputy superintendent of the group.
However, a solution to the impasse in Congress is less likely with each passing hour.
Residents and visitors can expect wide-ranging consequences tomorrow if there is a government shutdown.
By 7 a.m. all ramps on the seashore – on the oceanside and the soundside – will be chained.
All visitor centers and maintenance and administrative facilities will be closed.
The road to the Bodie Island Lighthouse will be blocked. The Lighthouse Road in Buxton will be blocked just beyond Flowers Ridge Road.
All ORV permit offices will be closed.
All parking areas on the soundside and the oceanside will be closed and secured – including facilities at Coquina Beach, Ocracoke Day Use Area, Canadian Hole, Kite Point, the Frisco Bathhouse, and Sandy Bay day use area. Also closed and secured will be all parking areas at various oceanside ramps on Hatteras and Ocracoke.
Campers will have 48 hours after Tuesday at 6 p.m. to clear the campgrounds.
Commercial operations within the seashore will also close, including the Avon Pier, Oregon Inlet Fishing Center, and businesses that offer attractions such as horseback riding on the beach. The Fishing Center will have until 6 p.m. Thursday to close down.
The Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, a state-owned facility on park land, will remain open.
The three airstrips in the park area will be closed.
All National Park Service websites will be closed down, and visitors to the sites will get a message about the shutdown.
Although these restrictions will shut down ORV access to the seashore, pedestrian access will be allowed in areas such as the oceanfront and oceanside houses in the villages.
However, access to either the sound or ocean beaches by parking along Highway 12 right-of-way and walking in to kiteboard, surfboard, fish, or surf will also be prohibited.
For all practical purposes, access to the sound and the ocean will be allowed only from private land.
Echols said all of the park must be closed or secured by noon tomorrow.
Thirteen park employees will remain on the job, including nine law enforcement rangers, a public affairs specialist, two water treatment plant operators, and one person who cares for the Ocracoke ponies. Paul Stevens, the chief law enforcement rangers for the Outer Banks Group, will be the incident commander.
In the last government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996, furloughed employees were paid retroactively, but there is no guarantee that Congress will agree to do the same if it happens tomorrow.
If the government shutdown happens in the morning, it’s anyone’s guess how long it will last.