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Closed National Park Gates Ignored in Day 2 of Shutdown

8:23 AM, Oct 2, 2013   |    comments
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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Groups of morning joggers walked around closed gates and onto the trails at the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park Wednesday, despite signs that stated all national parks are closed for the duration of the government shutdown.

GJ Nelson and his 5-year-old son Guy were among the many Greensboro park-goers who explained to WFMY News 2 that they do not want the government shutdown to interfere with their morning routine and enjoyment of National Military Park.

Nelson said he believes the two non-furloughed employees still on duty at the park this week will be understanding of people's ignoring of the signs. He said he will wave to the park rangers, as usual, and continue with his morning workout.

Another passerby told WFMY News 2, "We're not worried about the government. We're still running." Others explained that they often bypass the park gates before or after hours, so a full temporary park closure will make no difference in their routines.

Nine of National Military Park's 11 employees left work Tuesday after shutting down the park and will not be paid for the duration of the government shutdown. All facilities--including the visitor's center and bathrooms--are closed.

Chief park ranger Kevin Wyrick said, "My boss, the park superintendent, has been furloughed, our administrative officer that handles all of our human resources has been furloughed, our park curator, our education specialist--these are important people that are vital to our day-to-day operations here."

All nine national parks in North Carolina have been shut down.  Only a small fraction of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park's employees will remain on duty during the duration of the shutdown. These employees still working will consist primarily of law enforcement personnel and maintenance workers--tending to resources that directly affect human health safety.

A park ranger from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park explained prior to the shutdown, "We have notified all the park service personnel. As of today, we have 326 employees, and 47 of them will remain on duty throughout the shutdown."

One million visitors, on average, come to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in October--its second-busiest month of the year. Several weddings are scheduled there each October.

The National Parks Service website is not functional, and people who visit the site are redirected to the Web page of the U.S. Department of Interior, where park contingency plans are posted.

Other federally-funded agencies in the Triad remain shut down, in addition to the national parks. But, the Department of Veterans Affairs in Salisbury told WFMY News 2 that the VA medical centers and clinics will not be affected by the government shutdown, because those facilities have funding appropriations through 2014.

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