Summit County feels impact of government shutdown as national parks close across Colorado
The entrance to the Dillon Ranger District headquarters was locked and the parking lot sat empty during normal business hours on Tuesday. Meanwhile, calls into the office were met with automated voice messages.
“This facility is temporarily closed due to the current federal government shutdown. We apologize for any inconvenience,” a recorded voice said to callers.
Tuesday’s shutdown — a result of the budget confrontations over Obamacare — impacts nationwide services ranging from veteran’s compensation to disease research to small-business loans.
It also caused hundreds of thousands of federal workers to become immediately and indefinitely furloughed without pay.
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U.S. Forest Service employees across the country, including about 26 who work at the Dillon Ranger District’s headquarters in Silverthorne, closed shop on Tuesday after the shutdown suspended pay for employees. Employees not working on “critical” projects were told to pack up and go home on forced leave, though they will be able to apply for unemployment benefits for time missed during the furlough.
“We aren’t really allowed to say much at this point,” said Bill Kight, the public affairs officer with the White River National Forest. He was in the office wrapping up loose ends for a few hours on Tuesday morning before leaving the headquarters, he said.
While visitors and locals seeking information about recreation on Forest Service land in Summit County won’t get any help from personnel, access to most recreational opportunities remain intact.
“People are still going to hike on trails and recreate on the land, but facilities will be closed,” Kight said.
Federally funded campgrounds around the country are closing, and access to national parks is being denied.
Two campgrounds in Summit County were closed Tuesday morning as a result of the furlough. Campers at Blue River and McDonald Flats were given 48 hours notice to leave. No new campers will be allowed at these sites.
Heaton Bay campground off of Dillon Dam Road is still open because it’s maintained and operated by an outside company, Thousand Trails. Other Summit County campgrounds have been closed for the season.
Projects requiring day-to-day oversight from the Forest Service have been suspended, but those that got prior approval on Forest Service Land, such as Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Peak 6 expansion and the Ten Mile Canyon recreation path extension, haven’t been affected by the furlough.
Friends of the Dillon Ranger District nonprofit program manager Sarah Slaton said if the furlough is still in place this weekend, it could prevent her organization from carrying out a “Make a Difference Day Project,” because volunteers wouldn’t be allowed to work on Forest Service land.
Virtual information regarding Forest Service operations has been halted. Social media feeds, such as Twitter and Facebook, from the White River National Forest website and the Dillon Ranger District have been posted informing followers of their closures.
Forest Service websites have been put on hold as well. A message at the top of the White River National Forest website informs visitors of the closure.
“Due to the lapse in federal government funding, the U.S. Forest Service, as with other federal agencies, is closed with the exception of certain essential services. However, we will attempt to make timely updates about public health and safety on these web pages as appropriate.”
Services provided by the Bureau of Land Management also are being suspended, with the exception of law enforcement and emergency response functions, as a result of the government shutdown.
For more information about the impacts of the shutdown, visit http://www.usa.gov/shutdown.shtml or call (800) FED-INFO.
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