National Parks Could Lose Millions in Shutdown

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April 6, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor

If last-minute budget wrangling falls short and the U.S. government shuts down non-essential operations at midnight this Friday, the impacts on travelers would be widespread — particularly in the Nation's Capital, where an estimated 500,000 visitors could be turned away this weekend alone from the National Zoo and the major Smithsonian museums on the Mall, USA Today reported.

During previous government shutdowns in late 1995 and early 1996, air traffic controllers and other essential workers stayed on the job, as they would this time around. But about 200,000 travelers were left waiting for passports when the State Department stopped processing applications.

The National Park Service shuttered 368 sites, losing 7 million visitors. National monuments and museums were closed to another 2 million.

In Washington, D.C., where visitors on spring break and school trips are flooding the Mall this month, museum goers would probably find the doors locked as of Saturday morning, Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas told the Washington Post. (The paper lists an array of private options, including the Newseum and International Spy Museum.) This weekend's wrap of the National Cherry Blossom Festival could also be affected, since Saturday's parade is a National Park Service event.

And in Charleston, S.C., the budget battle is threatening next week's 150th anniversary of the firing on Fort Sumter, which marked the first battle of the Civil War. The fort in Charleston Harbor, along with the National Park Service's visitors center at nearby Liberty Square, would be closed if Friday's deadline isn't met.

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