With shutdown, national parks visitors are on their own
SHARPSBURG, Md. (AP) — Amir Asghari of Columbia, Md., was excited to bring his friends from Canada to tour Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg this past Wednesday.
Then Asghari read the sign on the locked door of the battlefield’s visitor center, stating it was closed due to a lapse in federal funding. His excitement quickly turned to frustration. The group became more upset when they realized the bathrooms also were closed.
“It’s absolutely not good at all,” Asghari said. ”... We were hoping to watch the movie and have somebody give us a tour of the whole thing.”
Wednesday was the first full business day of the partial government shutdown that has closed down some agencies and departments. The government shut down at midnight on Friday, due to a budgetary stalemate between President Donald Trump and Congress.
Trump said on Tuesday that the government will remained closed until Democrats agree to fund a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump wants Congress to approve $5 billion to build his wall, but Democrats have refused.
As a result, the National Park Service will remain closed until further notice.
At Antietam, a notice was posted at the entrance warning visitors that due to “lack of appropriations,” the park service will not be staffed.
“Park visitors are advised to use extreme caution if choosing to enter a (National Park Service) property, as NPS personnel will not be available to provide guidance, assistance, maintenance, or emergency response,” the sign states. “Any entry onto NPS property during this period of federal government shutdown is at the visitor’s sole risk.
“The NPS will not operate parks during the shutdown period, and no visitor services will be provided.”
Since visitors still can walk the grounds of Antietam, where more than 23,000 men were killed, wounded or missing on Sept. 17, 1862, Asghari and his group headed off to tour the area on their own.
“It’s all very childish,” he said before heading out.
Other national parks that closed during the shutdown in the Tri-State area include Harpers Ferry National Historic Park in West Virginia and the C&O Canal.
At the C&O Canal headquarters in Williamsport, a sign states that it is closed for the winter. On the C&O Canal, visitors still can hike the towpath.
Phones rang unanswered Wednesday at national parks in the Tri-State area.
Meanwhile, confusion was the word at Antietam Wednesday.
A FedEx employee wheeled boxes up to the visitor center door, before turning around when she realized the building was closed.
First-time visitors Sonya Robinson and Marty Bridges traveled from Virginia to tour the battlefield, including the historic Newcomer House.
Realizing the Newcomer House was closed, they peeked in the windows.
“We’d like to see inside,” said Robinson, who did not know the battlefield would be affected by the shutdown. “It’s beautiful here.”
Coincidentally, they made the trip to Sharpsburg because Bridges, who works for the U.S. Coast Guard within the Department of Homeland Security, is furloughed as a result of the shutdown.
“I would be sitting at my desk,” he said.
Visitor Bob Johnson of Brunswick in Frederick County, Md., said he came knowing that the visitor center would be closed.
“I figured it would be closed,” he said. “I’m not (upset).”
Information from: The Herald-Mail of Hagerstown, Md., http://www.herald-mail.com